recipe

Tamales: an easy recipe for a popular, mouthwatering Mexican dish

Total time: 45 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 10 people
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Ingredients
for the dough
Masa harina
4 cups
Broth
3 cups
Baking powder
2 tsp
salt
1 tsp
Cumin
1 tsp
Lard
1 1/3 cups
dried corn husks
1 8-ounce package
filling of your choice
salsa chicken verde
beans
Cheese
red chili
Pork
Beef

Tamales are a classic Mexican dish that's incredibly easy to make. This delicious recipe is incredibly versatile – you can make your tamales with any type of filling you like, whether you're in the mood for beef, chicken, pork or prefer vegetarian tamales. Bonus? They're naturally gluten-free!

Whether you make your homemade tamales in an Instant Pot or on the stovetop, they're light and moist, with a tasty, savory corn dough that's hard to resist. You'll love how simple it is to make traditional tamales at home. Here's everything you need to know.

What is a Tamale?

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish is made from various fillings encased in a savory dough made from ingredients like lard, corn flour (masa harina), and broth. The dough is spread over the inside of a corn husk, then the filling is added, and the tamale is wrapped up and steamed. The corn husk is not eaten but can be used instead of a plate.

You can make tamales in different ways, on the stovetop, or in the Instant Pot. Any cooking method you choose, you will enjoy light, moist tamales.

The word tamale comes from the Spanish word tamal, which is in turn derived from the Nahuatl word tamalli. Homemade tamales are delicious and simple to make – you can even customize them however you like!

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Homemade Tamale Ingredients

To make the tamale dough, you'll need masa harina, a corn flour made from nixtamalized corn, lard, broth, and spices.

You'll also need corn husks for steaming the tamales.

Use your favorite filling ingredients such as bean and cheese, beef, green chili, chicken mole, or pork.

How to Assemble Tamales Step-by-Step

Never made tamales before? No sweat! We'll take you through each step of how to make tamales. Start by soaking the corn husks in hot water for about half an hour, or until they soften. Prepare your tamale filling, then set it aside.

Mix the masa, baking powder, salt, and cumin in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the lard with two tablespoons of broth with a handheld electric mixer until it's light and fluffy. Add the masa mixture to the lard mixture, and beat until smooth. Slowly beat in the broth, then keep beating the dough until it's creamy and soft. Cover it with a damp cloth. This will keep it from drying out and make sure that it's easy to work with.

Arrange the corn husks with the shiny side up. Place ¼ cup of dough on the center of the top half of each corn husk. Put a piece of cling film over the dough and spread it over the top half of the corn husk into a thin layer ¼-inch thick. Dollop 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling down the center of the dough. Grab the long side of the corn husk and fold it over the filling. Fold the opposite side, so it overlaps the first side. Fold the bottom side up.

How to Make Tamales on the Stovetop

To make tamales on the stovetop, pour a few cups of water into a steamer. Arrange extra corn husks on the bottom of the steamer. This will prevent the tamales from getting wet. Stand the tamales vertically in the steamer, with the open end up. Place a wet towel over the tops of the husks. Put the lid on the pot.

Let the water come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The tamales have finished cooking when the husk pulls away easily and cleanly from the tamale. It may take a little longer than 45 minutes to an hour – this is perfectly normal. Just keep checking them every 5 to 10 minutes or so.

How to Make Tamales in the Instant Pot

To make Instant Pot tamales, pour 1 cup of water into your Instant Pot, then secure the lid and cook on high for 25 minutes, followed by a 10-minute natural release.

How to Eat Tamales

Ready to eat your homemade tamales? Carefully remove the corn husk – it'll be hot so watch out! Add any sauces or garnishes like cilantro, cheese, salsa, or pico de gallo, then eat the tamale either with a fork or with your hands.

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What to Serve with Tamales

Serve your tamales with a side of Mexican rice, beans (either black or refried), cilantro-lime rice, cornbread, pico de gallo, Mexican street corn, avocado salad, or slaw.

Tips for the Best Traditional Tamales

Tamales are naturally gluten-free thanks to the fact the dough is made from corn.

You can use either beef, chicken, or vegetable broth depending on your preferences.

If you like, you can tie the tops of the tamales with corn husk string. This is optional.

To bake your tamales, preheat your oven to 425F. Wrap each tamale in 2 to 3 layers of foil, then bake them for 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through.

To make vegetarian or vegan-friendly tamales, swap out the lard for vegetable shortening.

How to Store Tamales

Place tamales in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 days to a week.

Can You Freeze Homemade Tamales?

You can definitely freeze tamales. Keep them in an airtight container or sealable bag and freeze them for up to 6 months.

How to Make Tamales

Soak the corn husks in hot water for 30 minutes, or until they soften.

Make your tamale filling, then set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the masa, baking powder, salt, and cumin to combine.

In a second bowl, whisk the lard with 2 tablespoons of broth with a handheld electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the masa mixture to the lard, and beat until thoroughly combined.

Gradually beat in the broth. Continue to beat the dough for several minutes, until it takes a soft, creamy texture. Cover the dough with a damp towel.

Arrange the corn husks with the shiny side up. Place ¼ cup of dough on the center of each corn husk. Place a piece of cling film over the dough and spread it over the top half of the corn husk into a thin layer ¼-inch thick.

Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling down the center of the dough.

Take the long side of the corn husk and fold it over the filling. Fold the opposite side, so it overlaps the first side. Fold the bottom side up.

Place a few cups of water into a steamer. Arrange extra corn husks on the bottom of the steamer.

Arrange the tamales so they're standing vertically in the steamer, with the open end up. Place a wet towel over the tops of the open corn husks. Put the lid on the pot.

Let the water come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

The tamales are done when the husk pulls away easily and cleanly from the tamale.

Notes

Check the tamales after 45 minutes, they may need longer. If they do, cook them for another 5 to 10 minutes, and check again.

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