Humitas are savory steamed fresh corn cakes made from a mixture of freshly ground corn, onion, garlic, cheese, eggs, and cream, which is placed inside corn husks and steamed. Humitas are hard to translate, if you’ve ever had an humita you know what it is, but to describe them to someone who’s never had them before is a little bit complicated. I guess you could compare them to fresh corn and cheese tamales (and explaining the difference between a tamal from Ecuador and tamal from Mexico is a completely different story).
Humitas are made using fresh corn, which is ground with other ingredients and then stuffed in a fresh corn husk and steamed. In Ecuador, humitas are very popular in the Sierra or Highland region, especially in cities like Loja, Cuenca or Quito, and they are typically eaten for breakfast or with the afternoon coffee.
Recipe for Humitas or steamed fresh corn cakes
Recipe for humitas or savory steamed fresh corn cakes made from a mixture of freshly ground corn, onion, garlic, cheese, eggs, and cream, which is placed inside corn husks and steamed.
6-7 fresh ears of corn, with husks
3 cups grated or crumbled cheese, mozzarella or a fresh farmers cheese
1 cup diced white onions, about ½ large onion
1 tsp ground coriander (optional)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
About 1 cup corn meal
¼ cup of heavy cream
1 tsp salt
Aji de tomate de arbol or tree tomato hot sauce
Remove the husks from the corn; try to keep each husk intact, the large ones will be used as wrappers for the humitas and the smaller ones will be broken into long strips to tie around the humitas.
To help make the corn husks more pliable place them in a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes, then drain the water and save the husks until ready to use.
Remove the silky hairs from the corn and use a knife to cut the corn kernels from the cob, if you don’t have a steamer save the cobs to use as a steamer.
Place the corn kernels, 1 cup of cheese, diced onions, crushed garlic, ground coriander, corn meal, cream, eggs, and salt in the food processor, mix until the corn is pureed.
In large deep pot place about 2 ½ cups of water and a steamer, the water should be just below the steamer, if you don’t have a steamer arrange the cobs on the bottom of the pan instead and cover them with some of the leftover husks.
To fill each humita (see detailed instructions on filling above as well as pictures), use 2 of the large corn husks per humita, place them on top of each other, fold the left side of the husks, then fold the top half over the bottom half, this creates a semi-pocket, fill it with a spoonful of the mixture (how much mixture will depend on the size of the husks, the larger the husks the more filling you can add) and stuff some of theremaining cheese in the middle, now fold over the right side of the husk and tighten it up a little bit, use the thin strips to tie around the wrapper and keep it closed.
Place the humitas in the pot on top of the steamer, I like to keep them slightly inclined with the open end on top. Place any leftover husks on top and cover well.
Place the pot on the stove over high heat until you hear the water boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 35-40 minutes, the cooked humitas will be slightly firm to firm when they are done.
Serve warm with aji de tomate de arbol or tree tomato hot sauce.
For the slightly more sophisticated variation of humitas, this version separates the eggs and beats the whites.
Same as the previous humita recipe, with the following changes:
Add 4 tbs butter, elted
Approximately 1 ¼ cups corn meal (instead of 1 cup)
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated (instead of 2 eggs)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbs sugar
½ tsp salt (instead of 1 tsp salt)
Instructions: Same as above, except add only the egg yolks to the food processor mix. Also add the melted butter, baking powder and sugar to the mix in the food processor. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff and incorporate the whites into the corn mix. Follow instructions above to assemble the humitas.
Humita making process: How to fill and close the corn husks
The whole process of filling the humita mixture into the corn husks can be a little bit confusing until you get the hang of it. This is another part that people do differently depending on how they were taught.
Use the corn husk to create a wrapper for the humitas, the larger ones will be used to make the wrapper and you can use pieces of the smaller husks to tie around the wrappers to keep them sealed. The bigger the husks the better, of course you’ll get to a point where the bigger ones are all gone or most of them will be small to start, so in that case I use 2 husks and place them on top of each other oppositely, i.e. top part of second husk should be placed on top the bottom part of the first husk, and not directly on top, on the side, the idea is to create a wrapper so you want to use both husk to overlap to increase the width.
Next you can place a spoonful of the mixture in the wider part of the husks (upper or lower) and some cheese in the middle, and then close it or you can finish or semi-finish the husk wrapper and then stuff it with the corn mixture.
To close the wrapper, fold the left side over the mixture (or where the mixture will be placed), then fold the other half of the husk over – I like to stuff them at this point -, and then fold the right side, if you don’t have any mixture in it you will see that this creates a small pocket that you can then fill with a spoonful of corn mixture, some cheese and some more mixture.