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Fiambre is a Guatemalan dish prepared once a year on November 1st for the Day of the Dead or Día de Los Muertos. Fiambre is a traditional Guatemalan food made from loads of veggies, cold cuts, cheeses, and a delicious caldillo rolled up into an elegant cold salad. Since it is a challenging recipe that may include more than 50 ingredients, you must start prepping at least one day in advance. But don’t worry! Follow my easy step-by-step fiambre recipe, and I promise you won’t regret all the hard work!
Fiambre: A Traditional Guatemalan Recipe
On November 1st, for All Saints Day, people typically visit the cemetery bringing flowers, incense, and fiambre to their dead. However, this dish is mainly shared nowadays at home in a more private celebration with family and close friends. Each family has its own recipe for fiambre, passed on from one generation to the next.
There are various kinds of fiambre: white, red, and divorciado, in which all the ingredients are left separated, and each person picks what they want. Fiambre must be prepared at least one day before serving and marinated in a sauce which consists of a blend of vinegar and other ingredients called the caldillo. This recipe is of fiambre rojo, which gets its red color from beets, and it is remarkably similar to the one my grandmother used to make.
Many Guatemalans add fish, anchovies, and even shrimp, but I prefer fiambre without fish. Although we always have the red variety in my family, the white fiambre is really good too and usually sweeter. I will try and find a good recipe for it and share that with you soon.
Learn more about the origins of fiambre on my article: Fiambre for El Dia de los Muertos.
How to make Guatemalan Fiambre
When I was a kid, I loved putting the fiambre together in layers and decorating the top, making faces and fun designs with chiles, radish roses, baby corn, and long slices of cheeses. You will need to prepare this recipe 2-3 days ahead of time. For best results, enlist family members in the process. There is a lot of cutting and slicing, so make the preparation and the meal a family event.
Feel free to add or leave out any ingredients you do not care for. Still, my advice is to leave everything in because once mixed, even the things you wouldn’t normally eat by themselves give the dish the overall flavor (like cecina or cow’s tongue), so try to be a little adventurous here!
- ½ lb. asparagus
- 6 beets, sliced or julienned
- 6 carrots, sliced or julienned
- 4 cups green beans
- 1 cauliflower, cut in sections
- 1 cabbage, cut in fine long pieces
- 1 lb. Brussels sprout
- 2 cups corn (shelled)
- 25 pacayas (found fresh in Latino markets, or use canned)
- 1 jar heart of palm
- 1 jar of pickled baby corn
- 1 jar of pickled baby onions
- ½ lb. red beans (canned)
- ½ lb. white beans (canned)
- 1 can chickpeas
- 4 cups green peas
- 1 lb. fava beans (fresh)
- ¼ lb. capers
- ¼ lb. green olives
- ¼ lb. black olives
- 1 can of pimentos
- 1-2 heads of lettuce
- Radish roses for garnish
- ½ lb. butifarra (sausage made with anis and other spices)
- ½ lb. cecina (dried smoked and salted beef)
- 1 lb. chicken (cooked, removed from the bone, cut in long strips)
- 1 lb. chorizo Colorado (red chorizo sausage, sliced)
- 1 lb. black chorizo sausage, sliced
- 1 lb. yellow chorizo sausage, sliced
- ½ lb. hot dog, cooked and sliced
- 1 lb. ham, cut in long strips
- ½ lb. longaniza (sausage with mint and chile, can use Italian sausage)
- 1 lb. mortadella, cut in large cubes
- 1 lb. salami, cut into large cubes
- 1 lb. hot dog, cut lengthwise
- ½ lb. salted cow tongue
Eggs and Dairy
- 2 eggs (hard-boiled)
- ½ lb. yellow or American cheese (cut into strips)
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- Queso fresco (1 small)
- ½ lb. Zacapa cheese (can use good parmesan)
Dressing or caldillo
- 1 bunch of parsley
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 sprig of oregano
- 1 quart of vinegar
- 1 pint of olive oil
- 6 tablespoons mustard (I like using dark, grainy mustard)
- 1 teaspoon of pepper
- Salt to taste
- 5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon nutmeg
Two Days Before Serving
You will need to cook each vegetable group separately; don’t try to save time by mixing them. First, boil the beets until just cooked but still firm. Then, boil carrots and green beans together until just done. Next, boil cauliflower and cabbage. Finally, boil peas, fava beans, and corn.
Boil the chicken and parsley, adding salt and pepper to taste. Skim off the fat once it has cooled. To save time, you can buy cooked chicken and use store-bought broth. Then, shred the cooked chicken and store it.
Mix the broth in a blender with vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste, Worcestershire, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, nutmeg. Simmer for ten minutes, then chill overnight.
The Day Before
Boil the chorizos with butifarras the day before you will be serving the fiambre. And chop all of your meats so that they are ready to for the day you will be assembling your fiambre.
Combine all veggies and pour the chicken broth mixture over it. Let it sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Early in the Day
The day you wish to serve the fiambre, place a lettuce leaf on a plate, arrange a layer of the veggie mixture and then add a layer of the meats and cheeses. Repeat at least once and decorate with pimientos, sliced cheese, asparagus, baby corn, radishes, olives, and boiled eggs. Serve chilled.
Make sure you use care in handling and storing all these ingredients. I find it easier to cut everything up and store it separately in Ziplock bags. Refrigerate washed and cut-up vegetables together, but meats and cheeses should be kept separate.
Serves: A small army
Calories: Calculating that would take more than it takes to prepare it
Estimated prep time: Days (if you take into account shopping for ingredients more like a week)
With all that said, I hope not everyone is scared off because of the amount of ingredients and time it takes to prepare this delicious Guatemalan dish. But, BELIEVE ME, THIS FIAMBRE RECIPE IS WORTH IT!
Other Traditional Guatemalan Recipes
- Guatemalan Enchiladas or Jardineras Recipe: A traditional Guatemalan dish, an easy recipe made with a toasted tortilla topped with a vegetable mixture or escabeche, ground beef, and tomato sauce.
- Pollo en Jocón (Tomatillo Chicken Stew) Recipe from Guatemala: This easy and healthy recipe for Pollo en Jocón, tomatillo, and cilantro chicken stew, is a traditional dish from Guatemala.
- My Grandma’s Slow Cooker Guatemalan Cocido: This slow cooker version of my grandma’s traditional Guatemalan cocido recipe is an easy-to-make vegetable and beef stew. It sure will become your new favorite cold-weather comfort food!
- Guatemalan Pepián De Pollo: This Guatemalan chicken stew is rich in flavors and filled with roasted spices. You can make Pepián with chicken, beef, or pork and then stew it in a tomato-based sauce flavored with roasted seeds and peppers.
- Torrejas, Guatemala’s French Toasts: A sweet bread or brioche dunked in an egg mixture, fried, and bathe in a sweet syrup, it is a traditional dish very popular during Christmas, Lent, and Day of the Dead celebrations.
- Jocotes en Miel: It is a traditional Guatemalan food commonly served around the Day of the Dead celebrations. These juicy jocotes (hog plums) are cooked in a bubbling sweet syrup and heavenly spices.
Check out more Día de los Muertos posts on my Pinterest board below.