Recipes to Rival: Tamales!


These tamales were delicious! I love tamales, but I don’t usually order them when we go to restaurants. Why? because restaurant tamales usually suck. They are dry and taste like cardboard. The best tamales I’ve had were homemade ones; the kind someone’s mom or grandma made. And growing up in California, I didn’t have a shortage of friends with tamale making moms and grandmas. I always knew what I was going to get for a gift on the holidays 🙂 So if the only tamales you’ve tasted is from a restaurant and you’ve sworn to not like them, I suggest making these and maybe you’ll change your mind.

This month’s challenge for Recipes to Rival is Tamales! and it is being hosted by The Healthy Vegan Kitchen. Since the ‘meateatarians’ I live with will mutiny if I took meat out of their tamales, I diverged from the vegan filling and went with our favorite, pork! I also halved the proportions for the masa as the original makes a huge amount that even my freezer probably can’t accommodate. Even with the half portion, I still ended up with quite a number of tamales. enough to feed our 5 hungry mouths with leftovers to freeze. However, if you have an army to feed, then the original proportions will be perfect for you. It will probably make an easy hundred tamales 🙂

I didn’t get to take as many photos of the process as I planned. Sorry 🙂

Basic Tamale Recipe by Chef Jason Wyrick of The Vegan Culinary Experience – Education, Inspiration, Quality *
Type: Main Dish Serves: 24 Time to Prepare: 1hour

12 cups of masa harina flour
10 cups of water or veggie stock (see below for some tasty stock options, this amount may also vary depending on the type of masa you use)
1 tbsp. of salt
3 cups of vegetable shortening (Option: 2 cups of oil or margarine instead of the shortening)
24 dried corn husks
Water to soak the husks
Option: 1 tbsp. of baking powder

1. Warm the stock. Combine the masa harina flour with the salt (and optional baking powder.) Stir the vegetable shortening rapidly until it is creamy.
2. Pour the stock into the masa mix and stir until it is thoroughly combined. Beat the moist masa mix into the shortening until you have a paste that will spread with a knife without breaking apart. You should end up with a semi-thick paste. If you do not have this, you can add more stock in ¼ cup amounts to the mix until you have the right consistency.
3. To check the consistency, spread the masa on a corn husk and if it spreads easily while staying together, you have the right consistency.

Option: If you use oil instead of the shortening, add it to the dry masa and then add the stock to the masa.

4. Soak the corn husks for at least 2 minutes. (Some husks may still have the silks in them, make sure you remove them before using)
5. Spread masa paste over the top half of a corn husk (the top half is the wide half.) Spoon a line of your filling of choice in a line on one side of the masa paste. Roll the tamale from the filling side to the other side. You will end up with one half of the roll that has masa paste and one that does not. Fold the half that does not have the masa paste against the tamale, folding it in towards the flap of the roll.


6. Repeat this process with the rest of the ingredients.
7. Steam the tamales for 45 minutes. If you have a lot of tamales and a tall steamer, you can place the tamales vertically in the steamer.

Note: I didn’t have a deep steamer basket (I used the steamer trays that came with my rice cooker) to be able to steam the tamales upright so I layed them down on the trays. I also had some help wrapping up the tamales so some of them were wrapped up like little gifts and some were wrapped like candy. Regardless of how they were wrapped, they were delicious!

Tamale SteamingStock Options
– Boil 2 dates & a pinch of salt with each cup of water for 10 minutes & then remove the
– Simmer one dried ancho, chipotle, or other chile of your choice per 3 cups of water for 10
minutes and then remove the chile (use the rehydrated chile in your filling.)
– Use veggie stock instead of water.
– Simmer 6 cloves of garlic per cup of water for 15 minutes, removing the garlic when you are finished.
– Simmer 1 tbsp. of peppercorns and 1 cinnamon stick per 2 cups of water for 10 minutes,
straining the stock when you are done.
– Whichever stock you use, allow it to cool down to a warm temperature before you use it or else the heat will cook the masa.

Low-fat Version: Tamales obviously have quite a bit of fat in them, even with the large amount of carbohydrate heavy masa. You can cut the fat content down by about ¼ by adding in about half the amount of stock as removed fat. Thus, if you remove 1 cup of fat, add in ½ cup of stock. Play with this until you get the smooth paste consistency. Keep in mind that the fat binds the masa together, so you may find that your tamales fall apart more often without the traditional amount of fat.

My concoction for the Pork Filling:

Pork Filling

2-3 lb. Pork shoulder roast
1 medium Onion, sliced
3 cloves Garlic, peeled but left whole
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cumin
½ teaspoon dried Pepper Flakes
½ teaspoon ground Black Pepper
4 cups Water, add more as needed

Place all the ingredients above in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook until the roast is fork tender, about 2 hours.

When the pork is tender, remove from the pot to cool before shredding. In the meantime, prepare the chili sauce:
3-4 dried Guajillo Peppers, seeded
3 Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 cup broth

Soak the guajillo peppers in hot water to soften, about 15 minutes. Place the peppers and 1 cup of the cooking broth from the pork in a blender or food processor and process until you have a smooth paste.

Pour the paste over the shredded pork, adding a little more broth as needed if the filling looks too dry.

These really do taste as good as they look!

Print Friendly
15 comments on “Recipes to Rival: Tamales!
  1. Mark says:

    They look truly scrumptious Thanks for sharing!

  2. canarygirl says:

    Oh wow! Your tamales look incredible! I love that you can see the husk marks on them. 🙂 And not liking Mexican food? I didn’t even think that was possible. lol

  3. jen says:

    They look great! Weren’t they so fun? I agree nothing better than everything homemade!

  4. Robyn says:

    Your tamales sound great! I’m late on making mine this month, but I hope mine turn out so good.

  5. ces says:

    J! pa-tikim naman ng tamales mo!:) i haven’t had home-made ones… only had those in the street vendors in Queens:)

  6. oggi says:

    Good looking tamales you have there and sound delicious too.

  7. Tom Aarons says:

    These look amazing and delicious! That little bit of cumin in the filling would have really made my day!

  8. Debyi says:

    Your tamales look awesome! Great job. I agree that restaurant tamales are never as good as homemade. I’m so glad you liked them.

  9. Lauren says:

    they look amazing! great job! I’m glad you could convince your husband that tamales are a good thing.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think it so sad when someone has a bad expreience and then swears it off for a lifetime. My husband had bad Mexican food when he was young. TOld me that he didnt like it. He loves it now. Can you see my chest puffing out this very moment (swelling with pride).

  11. kat says:

    your tamales look wonderful. It was a pretty fun challenge wasn’t it.

  12. anya says:

    hello jmom, i have an award for you, hope you can pick it up at my blog. have a nice day!

Leave a Reply