Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made with a corn-based dough mixture that is filled with various meats or beans, and cheese. Tamales are wrapped and cooked in corn husks or banana leaves, but they are removed from the husks before eating. Try them served with Pico de Gallo salsa on top, and a side of guacamole and rice.
While making tamales is a process, it’s really simple, so don’t be intimidated! There are just two main elements: the dough and the filling.
- The dough - called “masa” - is spread on the corn husk. The corn husks do not get eaten, they are just used to envelope the dough and filling of the tamale which gets cooked inside.
- As for the filling, you can fill the tamales with meat or beans and cheese.
For the Masa (Dough):
- 2 cups masa harina (corn masa flour)
- 1/2 cup lard or vegetable shortening
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (warm)
For the Filling:
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken, pork, beef, beans and cheese (your choice)
- 1 cup red or green salsa (salsa verde or salsa roja)
- Dried corn husks, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and drained
- Salsa, for serving (optional)
Prepare the Filling:
- If you're using meat, shred it and mix it with the salsa in a bowl. If you're using cheese, just crumble it and set it aside.
Prepare the Masa Dough:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the masa harina, baking powder and salt.
- In a separate bowl, beat the lard or vegetable shortening until fluffy.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the lard while mixing.
- Slowly add the warm chicken or vegetable broth and continue mixing until you have a smooth, soft, and pliable dough. It should be the consistency of thick cake batter.
Assemble the Tamales:
- Take a soaked corn husk and spread about 2 tablespoons of masa dough onto the center of the husk, leaving a border on all sides.
- Add a spoonful of the meat and/or cheese filling on top of the masa.
Fold and tie the Tamales:
- Carefully fold the sides of the corn husk over the masa and filling, then fold up the bottom of the husk. Secure it with a thin strip of soaked corn husk or kitchen twine. This will create a rectangular-shaped tamale.
Steam the Tamales:
- In a large steamer, stand the tamales upright, with the open end facing up. This will prevent the filling from spilling out.
- Steam the tamales for about 1.5 to 2 hours. You'll know they're done when the masa has a firm, cooked texture and easily pulls away from the husk.
Serve the Tamales:
- Let the tamales cool for a few minutes before serving. You can serve them with additional salsa if you like.
Enjoy your homemade Mexican Tamales! They're perfect for any occasion and can be filled with a variety of ingredients to suit your taste.