These days, it's so easy to get frozen tamales from grocery stores or restaurants, but where's the fun in that? If you're a fan of this delicious dish, why not make your own? I’m not gonna lie--it is time-consuming. But it also extremely rewarding!
Tamales need a lot of time (and hands) to make, so turn this into a family affair by asking people to lend a hand. You’ll be able to make dozens of tamales faster, not to mention have loads of fun!
This recipe will yield about 30-40 tamales. You can always adjust the recipe if you want to serve less, but I strongly suggest that you make these in bulk. Tamales freeze well—simply place the ones you’re not using in the freezer bag and reheat them anytime.
What You'll Need
- A large pot (check out this list of stainless cookware if you’re planning on buying)
- A large steamer basket (that will fit in the pot)
- An electric mixer
- Dried corn husks, 40 pieces Note: you can get packed husks in frozen sections in supermarkets, Latin groceries, or online
- Masa harina, 3 cups
- Lard, 8oz
- Salt, 1 1/2 teaspoon
- Baking powder, 2 teaspoons
- Pork or chicken stock, 1 1/2 cups
For this recipe, I will be concentrating on how to make the masa and how to assemble the tamales. There’s a wide array of tamale fillings to choose from, so it’s really up to you what type you like best.
My personal favorites are the classics--pork and chicken. You can also go meatless with ingredients like cheese and veggies! If you’re undecided, this is a good place to start.
1. Make The Dough.
Before you start making your tamales, make sure that all of your ingredients are ready! These are easy to make but could get time-consuming if you’re to prepare a big batch.
To make the dough, mix the lard, salt, baking powder, and pork/chicken stock in the electric mixer, then slowly add in the masa. Don’t dump all of the masa—it’s best if you pour them in batches.
Pro tip: Before I made my first masa, I learned through research that resting it for about 45 minutes to an hour in the refrigerator will make the tamales nice and light.
2. Prepare The Husks.
Before you start putting the dough in the masa, make sure that the husks are clean. To do this, simply fill a big pot or bowl with warm water and put the husks in. Swirl the husks in the water to get rid of dirt, and then let them sit in there a little longer (about 20-30 minutes).
After about 10 minutes, drain and rinse them in warm water one last time, and then get rid of excess water. At this point, the husks should be soft so it’ll be easy to do the next step: trimming. Simply trim the big husks to about 5” to 6” wide. Set aside.
3. Spoon The Masa Into The Husks.
Using a spoon or a medium-sized ice cream scoop, add 2 tablespoons of masa in the center of the husk. Then, using a small spatula or a butter knife, spread the masa thinly on each husk.
The part that you want to cover is the width of the husk. The area that you should fill in is the wide part (the husk will be wider on one end and get smaller on the other).
4. Add The Meat.
Time to work on the meat! Add the pork filling in the center of the masa—log shaped, lengthwise.
Pro tip: Chill your filling before you add it on the masa. This way, it will be easier for you to form the log shape on each tamale, and it will not run on its ends during assembly..
5. Close The Tamales.
With the tamale positioned with the wider end closest to you, fold both sides of the husks over the meat filling (in such a way that they overlap).
As a result of folding the two sides of the husk, the tamale will now have a narrow tail. Simply fold this part (until the other side of the masa starts) and tuck this tail under the tamale. Do the same with all tamales and set aside.
6. Steam The Tamales
Fill the large stockpot with about two inches of water. place tamales upright in the steamer insert, seam side up, in such a way that they’re leaning against one another. Don’t make the space too tight, but don’t make it loose either.
Bring the broth to a boil on medium-low heat. Cover and simmer it for about 45-50 minutes.
If this is your first time making tamales, knowing when they’re ready could be tricky. Here’s my suggestion: once you reach the 40-minute mark, take one tamale and let it cool for 3-4 minutes while the others continue cooking.
Once cooled (but still warm), pull the husk. One trick to knowing that it’s done is if the masa doesn’t stick to the husks! If it does, it’s best to put it back to the pot and steam it for a few more minutes, and then try again.
Serve warm with some salsa, mole, and lime. Enjoy!
There You Have It!
I hope you enjoyed making the tamales! It does take plenty of time to prepare, but once you have all the ingredients down, the assembly is very easy—even the young ones can help in!
Making these with family or friends is extremely fun, so invite people if you can! When I do this with family, I have so much fun making and eating them! Don’t worry about leftovers—you can easily pop them in the freezer and keep it there for months!
Good luck! Let me know what you think in the comments below. I would also love to get tips from those of you who have tried making these prior to trying out this recipe. Until next time
Vivian has a huge passion for cooking. That's why she created "Cookingispassio.com" to share her great love with other people. She believes that fine food is not only the key to promoting family cohesion, but it also helps make every member become closer.