Old New World: Aztec tlahtlaōyohs with chile Poblano sauce

tlahtlaōyohs with chile Poblano sauce


Tlahtlaōyohs are still around and kicking! Sort of. They are known today by a version of their Nahuatl name as tlatloyos or tlacoyos and sold as street food in Mexico, though these days they are not usually stuffed but rather topped with ingredients. Stuffed corn tortillas, called memelas, may also be descended from the tlahtlaōyoh, possibly from the kind known as tlascalmimilli described in the Florentine Codex:

"They also ate small rolls which were not round but long which they called Tlascalmimmili; these were long and rounded, about the length of the palm of the hand or a bit less." 

The recipe I was working with assumed the cook would be more experienced than I am in the ways of tlahtlaōyohs and simply called for "medium sized" ones "filled with beans" so I eyeballed this non-vegan recipe from Serious Eats to get an approximation of the ratio of masa to water.


Mayocoba beans after soaking overnight

Mayocoba bean filling

makes about 2 cups

  • 1 cup dried Mayocoba beans, soaked overnight
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

 Drain and rinse your beans. Put in a large pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Add the garlic.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 2 hours. Remove from heat, drain leaving about 2 TBSP of cooking liquid in the pot, and let cool for about half an hour and then mash right in the pot.


  chile poblano sauce

makes about 2 cups

  • 2 Poblano chiles
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic

Blacken the chiles, either on a grill, in the oven or on a burner. Peel, destem, deseed and devein the chiles.  Stem the tomatoes. Mash all ingredients together either in a molcajete or with a food processor.

balls of masa dough


makes 4 servings

  • 1 cup masa harina
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water, more if needed

While the beans are cooling, place the masa harina in a large bowl and stir in the salt. Add water and knead until the dough is firm but pliable. Form 4 balls of dough, cover them in the bowl with a damp  towel and set aside until the beans are mashed.

Press dough balls between wax paper on a tortilla press or roll out into circles. Divide the beans among the rounds and fold them in half, pressing the edges together firmly to seal.

Heat a flat pan over medium heat until drops of water dance and evaporate when flicked, then cook for about 4 minutes on each side.

Serve with the chile Poblano sauce. 


As always, be careful when handling spicy peppers.  I wear gloves even for Poblanos, which are supposed to be mild but can set my hands on fire for days.

Mayocoba beans are heirloom beans from Peru that range in color from ivory to pale lime and are a tasty and mild bean.  Feel free to substitute pinto beans or black beans if you can't find Mayocobas.

You might think these look like empanadas - and you'd be right. The idea of forming them into oval shapes seemed a little overwhelming so I went with what I know. For stuffed doughs like dumplings, empanadas and tlahtlaōyohs, I like to make the "bellies" of the dough balls a little thicker than the edges rather than perfectly round to make sure they don't break open.

I didn't use any oil in cooking these. This isn't because I hate oil but because, according to Sophie Coe, there weren't any Aztec methods used for great quantities of oil extraction or contemporaneous cooking vessels that appeared to be used for oil frying or sautéing. This may or may not be true - cooking vessels can be destroyed or used in an unfamiliar way - but I decided to give it a shot and it worked out just fine.  After all, I don't use oil when cooking tortillas!

Recipes adapted from Serious Eats and Cocina Prehispanica by Ana M. de Benitez.