Humita is a Native American dish from pre-Hispanic times, and a traditional food in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. It consists of masa harina and corn, slowly steamed or boiled in a pot of water. In Brazil it is known as pamonha.
Humitas are common in various countries in Latin America, although their origin is unclear. The noun “humita” derives from the word humint’a in Quechua, the most widely spoken indigenous language of the Andes, spoken in Ecuador, southern Colombia, the highlands of Peru and Bolivia, and northwestern Argentina. In Venezuela, they are known as hallaquitas, in Chile and Peru as humitas, in Bolivia as humintas.
In Argentina, humitas are prepared with fresh corn, sautéed onions and some spices, depending on the region or taste. The dough is wrapped in corn husks and boiled. It is also common to add some diced cheese to the dough, typically goat cheese.
In Argentina, the term humita also refers to the creamy-corn filling of an empanada (in Spanish, empanada de humita.)
Humitas in Chile are prepared with fresh corn, onion, basil, and butter or lard. They are wrapped in corn husks and baked or boiled. They may contain ají verde (green chilli pepper). The humitas are kept together during cooking with thread or twine.
They can be made savoury, sweet, or sweet and sour, served with added sugar, chilli pepper, salt, tomato, olive and paprika etc.
In Ecuador humitas are prepared with fresh ground corn with onions, eggs and spices that vary from region to region, and also by each family’s tradition. The dough is wrapped in a corn husk, but is steamed rather than baked or boiled. Ecuadorian humitas may also contain cheese. This dish is so traditional in Ecuador that they have developed special pots just for cooking humitas. Ecuadorian humitas can be salty or sweet.
In Peru, mainly in the central Andes region, humitas are prepared with fresh corn combined with lard and salt and queso fresco for a savoury dish or with fresh corn with lard, sugar, cinnamon and raisins for a sweet dish. Savoury humitas may also be prepared with anise. These are typically very rare in other parts of South America.
These humitas are prepared with corn wrapped in corn husks and can be cooked in boiling water, placed in a pachamanca oven, or steamed. They can be wrapped in several ways.
- 8 ears of corn (a starchy white variety with big kernels if you can find it)
- ¼ cup lard or vegetable shortening
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon aji amarillo paste
- 3 tablespoons lard or vegetable shortening
- 115 g cream cheese
- Cut the ends off of the ears of corn, and then carefully remove the layers of husk, trying to preserve big pieces of the husk.
- Scrape the corn kernels off the cob into a bowl.
- Cover the bottom of a large pot with some of the corn cobs. They will serve as the "steamer rack" for the humitas. Place about 2½ cm of water in the pot.
- Place the corn kernels in a blender or food processor with the salt, and process until smooth. If the corn is too dry and won't blend well, you can add a little bit (1-2 tablespoons) of milk. The corn mixture should not be too liquid - you should be able to form a mound with it, without it losing its form.
- Melt the lard or vegetable shortening in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the chopped onion in the vegetable oil until soft and fragrant. Add the cumin and aji paste and sauté a few minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir the corn mixture in with sautéed onions and cook mixture for 2-3 minutes more.
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly, then stir in the cream cheese. (This mixture can be refrigerated at this point for up to 24 hours).
- Bring the pot of water and corn cobs to a gentle boil. Place the corn husks in boiling water for a couple of minutes to soften them.
- Take one husk, or two small husks overlapped, and lay them flat, with the wider cut edges lined up together. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the corn mixture onto the wide end of the husk.
- Fold one side of the husk over the corn mixture. Fold the pointy end of the husks down and tuck in while you fold the other side over.
- Place husks, seam side down, in the pot of boiling water, on top of the cobs. Layer the humitas in a criss cross fashion over the corn cobs. The humitas should not touch the boiling water.
- Cover the humitas with some of the unused husks, then cover with the lid of the pot.
- Steam for 20 -30 minutes, adding a little water if necessary to prevent the pot from boiling dry.
- Remove from heat. Let cool slightly and serve.