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How to Make Tamales

Wondering how to make tamales? We’ve got the details!

Have you ever tried tamales? They’re an ancient tradition popular in several countries.

Mexican tamales consist of seasoned meat wrapped in dough (masa in Spanish) and steamed in corn husks. You can make them with pork, chicken or beef.

And you can even make vegetarian tamales! Think beans, cheese or veggies.

Tamales Photo

How to Prepare Corn Husks for Tamales

You’ll need to purchase corn husks at a Mexican grocery store or online.

The husks are dry, so you’ll need to soak them before using them to make tamales. Place your corn husks in a large bowl of water and place a pan on top of the husks to weigh them down.

Soak the husks for at least 30 minutes, but you can even soak them overnight.

Tamales Picture

How to Make Masa for Tamales

The masa is made from corn flour, called masa harina. The dough also includes fat, typically lard, but you can use cooking oil instead.

The masa also contains stock traditionally made from cooking the meat for the filling, but you can buy chicken, beef or vegetable stock for a short cut.

Make the masa dough  by mixing masa harina with baking powder, salt and oil/lard. You can use a stand mixer for convenience.

Then, add your stock to the bowl and blend. The dough will have the consistency of peanut butter.

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How to Make Filling for Tamales

You can use this Shredded Pork with Green Chile Slaw for the tamales, or just use pulled pork or shredded chicken mixed with salsa or enchilada sauce.

How to Assemble Tamales

  1. Drain a soaked corn husk and pat it dry.
  2. Lay the husk down on a cutting board or plate.
  3. Spread on some masa in a square shape along the widest part of the husk.
  4. Add one or two tablespoons of filling to the center of the masa.
  5. With the tamale positioned vertically, fold over the right side halfway. Fold over the left side halfway, so the filling is covered.
  6. Fold the top of the tamale over toward the seam.
Tamales Pic

How to Steam Tamales

  1. Place the tamales, seam side down, in the basket of a steamer.
  2. Place the steamer basket over a pot filled with about two cups of water.
  3. Heat the pot on high heat until the water is boiling.
  4. Lower the heat so the pot is simmering, and steam the tamales for 40 minutes, or until done.
  5. Check if the tamales are done by letting one cool for 3 minutes before seeing if the husk can be pulled without sticking to the masa. If it’s sticking, wrap the tamale again and steam it for another five minutes. Then test it again.
  6. Let the tamales rest for 10 minutes, then serve with salsa.

You can also cook tamales in the oven.

How to Store Tamales

Refrigerate leftover tamales for up to three days or freeze them for up to three months.

Lean more about how to eat tamales, as well as what to serve with them.

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