Tamales Recipe – How to Make Tamales

Tamales What are Tamales?

This is made of masa or dough (starchy, and usually corn-based), that is filled with some meat and wrapped in a corn leaf or banana leaf before steaming or boiling it.

Tamales filling

Tamales filling may include meat such as pork, chicken, beef, or any kind of meat as well as cheeses, fruits, vegetables, chilies, or any preparation according to taste.

Tamales Origin

Tamales originated from Mesoamerica (especially in Mexico and Guatemala to other parts of Latin America); this is a food and not to be confused with Tamale, a town in Ghana. Tamale was coined from the Spanish word “tamal” whose plural form is “tamales”.

In the pre-Columbian era, the Aztecs do make tamales with fillings such as frog, rabbit, eggs, or fish. Some even add honey, beans, or even not adding any filling to the tamales. The Aztec tamales are different from the modern tamales by not having added fat as an ingredient.

Tamales Ingredients

Ingredients for making tamales
Some ingredients for tamale dough recipe together with corn husks used as the wrappers.
  • 3 cups of masa flour (see what masa flour is below).
  • 1 tsp of baking powder (to make the dough fluffy).
  • 1 tsp of cumin.
  • 1 cup of soft lard
  • 1/2 tsp of salt.
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of pork broth.

Ingredients for the pork filling

Tamales filling ingredients

  • 600 grams of shredded pork, beef, or chicken. Some people even use cheese or refried beans.
  • 1 cup of chile sauce
  • 3 minced garlic cloves.
  • 1 medium chopped onion.
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cumin.
  • 1/2 tsp of dried oregano.
  • 1 tsp of beef bouillon powder.
  • 1/2 tsp of black pepper powder.
  • 1 tsp of salt.
  • 2 bay leaves.

What is masa?

In Mexico, tamales recipes are made with corn-based dough processed using a special technique known as nixtamalization. The processed ground corn is called “masa flour” or “masa harina“; this dried masa flour can be mixed with liquid to form a dough called “masa” or “rehydrated masa powder“.

How to make tamales

Making the tamale dough

Making the dough

  • In a mixing bowl combine 1 cup of soft lard and 2 tbsp of chicken broth. Whisk until it is fluffy and lighter.
  • Mix the dried ingredients together – masa flour, cumin, and salt. Stir to combine and then bring the masa flour mixture into the whipped lard mixture and whisk to combine using a hand mixer or a spatula.
  • Add 1 and 1/2 cup of pork broth, a little at a time, and stir as you add until you have a well-combined dough that is soft, fluffy, and a little thick but not firm. Cover and keep aside.

Making the filling

  • Next start making the tamales filling; season and cook the pork for the tamales filling. Season the pork with 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 medium chopped onion, 1/2 tsp of ground cumin, 1/2 tsp of dried oregano, 1 tsp of beef bouillon powder, 1/2 tsp of black pepper powder, 1 tsp of salt, and 2 bay leaves. Add water to cover the pork and cook it until it is soft, tender, and easy to shred. This should take about 45 to 1 hour. (You can cook the pork prior to making the masa dough so that you can use the broth from the cooked pork for making the masa dough).
  • Once the pork is cooked, shred it into tiny pieces and add 1 cup of chile sauce; stir to combine.
  • Spread the corn husk or banana leaves over a flat surface, scoop a tablespoon of masa dough over the wrapper, level the dough, and then scoop 1 or 2 tbsp of the filling over the leveled masa dough. Fold it into a conical shape and also fold the vertex and tie it with strips of the corn husks to prevent it from unfolding. Repeat until you are done with the dough.
Using corn husk for tamales
Spreading the dough and the filling.
  • Arrange the wrapped tamales in a steamer basket and place them over a pot of boiling water so that only the steam cooks the tamales.
  • Cook for 45 minutes and your easy homemade tamales recipe is ready.
Soaking the corn husks in hot water
Soaking the corn husks in hot water to make it easier while folding them.

How to prepare corn husks for tamales

  1. Ensure you use semi-dried corn husks that are broad in width. This makes it easier to fold without tearing and they are wider for wrapping more of the dough and filling.
  2. Peel the broad corn husks
  3. Soak the corn husks in salted water to get rid of any contamination
  4. Drain the water off the husks.
  5. Trim both ends of the corn husks – especially the base. Trimming makes it easier to fold without tearing.
  6. About 30 minutes before using them, soak the corn husks in hot water and cover with a lid. The hot water helps to make them soft and pliable.
  7. Drain from the hot water after 30 minutes and start using your corn husks for making the tamales. Banana leaves can be prepared in the same way as this.

Variations

Mexican Tamales

Tamales are a favorite comfort food in Mexico, that are often eaten as breakfast or dinner especially with hot atole or champurrado and arroz con leche.
In some parts of Mexico such as in Oaxaca and the Yucatán Peninsula, tamales can be large and squared shapes and are known as “pibs” in the Yucatán Peninsula. Another large type of tamale is “zacahuil” especially in the Huasteca region of Mexico.

Tamales are commonly prepared for festivals and celebrations such as Christmas and New Year, holiday celebrations, birthdays, and baptisms.

Homemade Tamales

Tamales Recipe - How to Make Tamales

Bongdap Nansel Nanzip
Tamales are Mesoamerican food made using masa (a nixtamalized corn dough) and some fillings. The dough is spread over banana leaves or corn husks and then topped with the filling after which it is wrapped and steamed. Various kinds of ingredients can be added to the filling such as vegetables, cheese, refried beans, as well as different kinds of meat such as beef, pork, chicken, rabbit, frog, etc. The first time I tasted this dish, I really loved it and I believe you will love it also.
Prep Time 1 hr 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 2 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mesoamerican
Servings 10 pieces
Calories 286 kcal

Ingredients
  

Ingredients for making the dough

  • 3 cups masa flour - masa is a nixtamalized flour made from corn.
  • 1 tsp baking powder - it helps to make the tamale fluffy.
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 cup soft lard
  • ½ tsp salt
  • cup pork broth

Ingredients for making tamale filling

  • 600 grams pork - any type of protein of choice can be used. Refried beans, cheese, rabbit meat, chicken, or beef can be used. Even frog can be used as well.
  • 1 cup chile sauce
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 whole chopped onion
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 2 cubes crushed beef bouillon - or 1 tsp of crushed bouillon cubes.
  • ½ tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 pieces bay leaves

Instructions
 

Making the dough

  • In a mixing bowl combine 1 cup of soft lard and 2 tbsp of chicken broth. Whisk until it is fluffy and lighter.
  • Mix the dried ingredients together - masa flour, cumin, and salt. Stir to combine and then bring the masa flour mixture into the whipped lard mixture and whisk to combine using a hand mixer or a spatula.
  • Add 1½ cup of pork broth, a little at a time, and stir as you add until you have a well-combined dough that is soft, fluffy, and a little thick but not firm. Cover and keep aside.

Making the filling

  • Next start making the tamales filling; season and cook the pork with 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 medium chopped onion, ½ tsp of ground cumin, ½ tsp of dried oregano, 1 tsp of beef bouillon powder, ½ tsp of black pepper powder, 1 tsp of salt, and 2 bay leaves. Add water to cover the pork and cook it until it is soft, tender, and easy to shred. This should take about 45 to 1 hour. (You can cook the pork prior to making the masa dough so that you can use the broth from the cooked pork for making the masa dough).
  • Once the pork is cooked, shred it into tiny pieces and add 1 cup of chile sauce; stir to combine.
  • Spread the corn husk or banana leaves over a flat surface, scoop a tablespoon of masa dough over the wrapper, level the dough, and then scoop 1 or 2 tbsp of the filling over the leveled masa dough. Fold it into a conical shape and also fold the vertex and tie it with strips of the corn husks to prevent it from unfolding. Repeat until you are done with the dough.
  • Arrange the wrapped tamales in a steamer basket and place them over a pot of boiling water so that only the steam cooks the tamales.
  • Cook for 45 minutes and your easy homemade tamales recipe is ready.

Video

Notes

The type of broth is determined by the type of meat used for the filling. When using beef, it is logical to use beef broth so as to have the same flavor of the meat as the broth. The broth can be gotten from cooking the meat used in making the filling. So you should make the filling before making the dough so that you can use the broth in the dough.
Keyword homemade tamale, how to make tamales, tamale, tamale recipe, tamales

Nutrition and Calories

1 piece of tamale has about 286 calories, 34 grams of carbs, 11 grams of fats, 31.6 mg of cholesterol, and 12 grams of protein.

The minerals include sodium of 794.2 mg and potassium of 243.7 mg. Other nutrients include iron, and vitamins such as vitamins C, cobalamin (B12), and B6.

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