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Traditional Venezuelan Hallacas
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Traditional Venezuelan Hallacas Recipe

Learn how to make Traditional Venezuelan Hallacas with this easy recipe and step-by-step tutorial. Their taste will make you feel you’re back at home, no matter where you are! 
Course Main Course
Cuisine Venezuelan
Keyword appetizer
Prep Time 5 hours
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 9 hours
Servings 40 hallacas
Calories 520kcal

Ingredients

Banana Leaves – Hojas

  • 5 kg banana leaves, smoked (I used 10 packs (500 gr each) of frozen leaves)

Achiote Oil

  • 4 cups vegetable oil
  • 200 gr onoto annatto, achiote seeds

Broth - Caldo

  • 7 liters (30 cups) water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 beef bouillons
  • 2 leeks, dark green leaves only (the top part)
  • 4 green onions, dark green leaves only (the top part)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 6 sweet peppers, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 ½ kg beef (see notes in the recipe card)
  • 1 ½ kg pork (see notes in the recipe card)
  • 1 ½ kg chicken breast (see notes in the recipe card)

Meat Filling – Guiso

  • Beef, diced
  • Pork, diced
  • Chicken, diced
  • 2-3 liters broth
  • 1 - 2 cups achiote oil
  • 4 yellow onions, chopped (I chopped it in a food processor to save time)
  • 2 leeks, sliced (the light green part only)
  • 4 green onions, sliced (the light green part only)
  • 7 oz (200 gr) garlic cloves, peeled (I chopped it in a food processor to save time)
  • 2 bell green peppers, deseeded and chopped (I chopped it in a food processor to save time)
  • 10 -12 sweet peppers, deseeded and chopped (I chopped it in a food processor to save time)
  • 3 oz (80 gr) capers, drain, rinse and finely chopped (I chopped it in a food processor to save time)
  • 2 cups red sweet wine (see notes)
  • 3/4 cups Harina P.A.N

Dough – Masa

  • 16 cups 4 liters broth
  • 1 - 2 cups achiote oil
  • 2 kg (2 packs 1kg each) of Harina P.A.N

Toppings – Adornos

  • Yellow onions, cut into rings
  • Red bell peppers, cut in thin strips
  • Black raisins
  • Green Olives (see notes)
  • 16 oz (450 gr) Italian Mix Giardiniera pickles (encurtidos), finely chopped (I chopped it in a food processor to save time)
  • 6 Potatoes, cook and cut into slices
  • Chicken breast, cut in thin strips

Instructions

Banana Leaves – Hojas

  • Clean the banana leaves well with a damp cloth and then dry them with a dry one.
  • Remove the center stem (la vena) from the leaves, to make the folding process easier. When cutting the stem with scissors be careful not to break the leaf.
  • Divide the leaves into three types:
  • The main one (the biggest one) which is where you have to place the dough and hallaca filling, approximately 12 x 12 inches or 30 x 30 cm squares.
  • The second leaf (smaller than the main one) that covers, encloses and protects the hallaca while it is cooking. approximately 10 x 8 inches or 25 x 20 cm rectangles.
  • The third (faja) that hold in the hallacas, and all those previous leaves, together right before it is ties up with the Cooking Twine. approximately 10 x 4 inches or 25 x 10 cm rectangles.
  • Please, keep in mind that the measurements of the leaves are approximate, so you have an idea of how to cut them, but they do not have to be exactly those measures.
    How to cut the banana leaves to make hallacas

Achiote Oil

  • Add oil to a medium saucepan at medium heat, when the oil is hot add achiote seeds. Let achiote seeds to render its color for 3-4 minutes. Don't let the oil boil or the achiote oil will the bitter. Remove from the stove and let cool.
  • In a large container, strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Reserve the colored oil for later use.

Broth – Caldo

  • Add water into a large pot. Add salt, black pepper, beef bouillons, leeks leaves, green onions leaves, garlic cloves, onions, bell pepper and sweet peppers. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • When boiling add the beef and pork; cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add the chicken breast and keep cooking for 20 more minutes. Then turn off the heat.
  • Remove the meats from the broth and place them on a large plate. Reserve the broth.
  • Let the meat cool enough to handle. Then cut the beef, pork, and 4 chicken breasts (the other 2 breasts will be used as a topping) into small pieces. Make sure to remove any extra fat that the meat might have. Reserve.
  • When the broth is cool strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Reserve ALL the broth and discard the veggies.

Meat Filling – Guiso

  • Add the cut meats and enough broth to cover the meats (I added 8 cups) into a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. When boiling, reduce heat to medium low.
  • Add 1 cup of achiote oil into a large skillet. When hot, add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, make sure the oil is not too hot that is going to toast the onion. Then add the leeks and green onion; continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic; mix to combine and cook until fragrant and soft, about 3 minutes. Finally, add the bell pepper and sweet peppers and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the sautéed veggies (sofrito) to the pot with the meat and broth. Mix well and let it cook for 5 – 8 minutes. Add capers, mix and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the sweet wine and Harina P.A.N. Mix vigorously to prevent lumps from forming.
  • Add the wine mixture to the meats. You need to add the wine mixture and mix vigorously at the same time to prevent lumps from forming. Taste and add more salt if needed. If the guiso is too pale you can add more achiote oil to add more color. Let the guiso cook for 5 – 8 more minutes. The guiso must be thick, not runny so if needed you can dissolve more Harina P.A.N in water or broth and add it to the guiso to thicken.
  • Turn off the heat and let the guiso cool.

Dough – Masa

  • Add 4 liters of broth to a large mixing bowl. Mix in 2 cups of achiote oil; mix well. Slowly add the Harina P.A.N. Mix with your hands, making circular movements and breaking with your fingers the lumps that may form. Continue mixing until all the oil has been incorporated. Taste and add more salt if needed. If the dough is too pale you can add more achiote oil to add more color.
  • Let rest 5 minutes to thicken.
  • This dough should have a smooth and spreadable texture since you going to spread it onto the banana leaf with a spoon. If it is too soft add a little more of Harina P.A.N; if too hard add a little more water or broth.
  • Set aside.

Assemble Hallacas

  • Place a main banana leaf over a flat surface. Make sure the leaf vein is horizontal to make the folding process easier.
  • Spread, in the middle of the leaf, with a spoon ½ cup of dough until it is of a 1/6 of an inch or 4 mm thick.
    how to ASSEMBLE Venezuelan Guiso for Hallacas Step by Step 2
  • Add, in the middle of the dough, 1/3 cup of guiso (meat filling).
  • Then start adding the toppings of your choice. This is what I did: I sprinkled ¼ teaspoon of chopped Italian Mix Giardiniera pickles over the guiso. Then, added a ring of onion, one strip of red pepper, a potato slice, 2 green olives, 5-6 raisins, and one strip of chicken breast.
    how to ASSEMBLE Venezuelan Guiso for Hallacas Step by Step 8
  • Close the hallacas: Take the top and bottom edges of the leaf and attach them upward, make sure the top and bottom edges of the dough join together. Then create a fold until it is completely sealed. Fold the other two ends towards the inside.
    how to ASSEMBLE Venezuelan Guiso for Hallacas Step by Step 9
  • Then place the fold perpendicularly on the second sheet and wrap it. Fold the ends towards the inside.
    how to ASSEMBLE Venezuelan Guiso for Hallacas Step by Step 10
  • Finally, wrap around the fold the third leaf (faja) just to help everything together.
    how to ASSEMBLE Venezuelan Guiso for Hallacas Step by Step 14
  • Tie the hallacas with cooking twine. Cross them three times in each direction (horizontal and vertical) and close with a knot or bow, almost as you would with a gift.
    how to ASSEMBLE Venezuelan Guiso for Hallacas Step by Step 15

Cook Hallacas

  • Fill 3/4 of a large pot with water (I used a 24-qt pot). Add 2-3 tablespoons of salt. NOTE: Depending on the capacity of your pot you might need to add more or less salt. The water is supposed to taste salty, so add the salt, mix, taste and adjust if necessary. Bring to a boil.
  • When the salty water is boiling, add as many hallacas as you can fit, they must all be completely submerged in the water, and cook for 40 minutes.
  • Remove and drain them, preferably in the vertical position. I like to place them side by side in the sink.
  • Repeat the process with the other hallacas.
  • Let them cool completely before refrigerating.

Notes

 
BEEF: In Venezuela, the most popular cut used to make hallacas are ganzo or pulpa negra. In USA you can use Round Tip Roast or Round Tip Steak or Bottom Round Roast, Sirloin Tip Roast.
PORK: I usually use Rib End Boneless Pork Roast or a Boneless Loin.
CHICKEN: To make my life easier I like to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts but feel free you use bone-in chicken if you like.
RED SWEET WINE: The traditional wine to make hallacas is Sagrada Familia. Unfortunately, this wine is very difficult to find in other countries, so I found out that the sweet marsala wine or sweet Porto wine are a good substitute.
OLIVES: I used whole green olives because that is what my mom uses but manzanilla olives stuffed with minced pimiento will work fine too, just make sure to rinse them before using to reduce the amount of vinegar.
ONIONS: to maximize the use of the onions, I like to cut the onions into rings, then I pick the rings that I will use as a topping and the remaining onions I use them for the meat filling/guiso.
STORING HALLACAS
Store cooked hallacas in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
HOW TO FREEZE HALLACAS:
The best way to freeze hallacas is before you cook them. To freeze hallacas you have to assemble and wrap them as instructed. Then lay them flat in a freezer plastic bag and freeze for up to 6 months. When ready to eat, cooked them frozen in a pot with salty water for 60 minutes.
REHEATING HALLACAS
  • Add water and salt to a pot; bring to a boil over high heat. Add the hallacas you wish to reheat (make sure the water is covering them). Lower the heat to medium and cook, partially cover the pot with the lid, for 20 -25 minutes. Remove the hallacas from the pot. Drain the hallacas, cut the cooking twine, remove the leaf and enjoy!
I want to give a trick, even though I am risking that my mom will disinherit me.
If you are short of time, you can reheat them in the microwave. Just place the Hallaca on a plate, reheat for 1 minute, then flip and reheat for 30-45 more sec. This works best for one hallaca at the time.
 
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Please note that nutritional information is a rough estimate and it can vary depending on the products used.

Nutrition

Calories: 520kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 78mg | Sodium: 1094mg | Potassium: 750mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1090IU | Vitamin C: 39mg | Calcium: 124mg | Iron: 4mg