Authentic Mexican Tamales Recipe

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Mexican Tamales



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Mexican cuisine is renowned for its rich flavors, vibrant colors, and diverse culinary traditions. Among the countless dishes that have captivated taste buds worldwide, tamales hold a special place. These delicious bundles of joy are made by filling masa (corn dough) with a variety of mouthwatering fillings, wrapping them in corn husks, and steaming them to perfection. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the art of making authentic Mexican tamales step by step.

Tamales: A Culinary Tradition

Tamales have a history that spans thousands of years, dating back to the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica, including the Aztecs and Maya. These early inhabitants of Mexico are credited with inventing tamales, which were a portable and nutritious food source for warriors and travelers. Today, tamales remain an integral part of Mexican cuisine, especially during special occasions, festivals, and holidays.


To make authentic Mexican tamales, you’ll need the following ingredients:

For the masa (corn dough):

2 cups masa harina (corn flour)
1/2 cup vegetable oil or lard
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (warm)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
For the filling (choose one or more):

Shredded chicken cooked in a red or green salsa.

Pork carnitas cooked in a savory sauce.

Cheese and jalapeño slices for a vegetarian option.

For assembling and wrapping:

Dried corn husks, soaked in warm water for at least 30 minutes.

String or thin strips of soaked corn husks for tying.

Your choice of sauce for serving (salsa verde, salsa roja, or crema).


Before diving into the cooking process, gather the following equipment:

Large mixing bowl
Electric mixer (optional but recommended)
Steamer pot or a large steamer basket
Large saucepan
Large platter or tray
Kitchen twine or strips of corn husks

Now, let’s get started with the step-by-step process of making mouthwatering Mexican tamales.

Step 1: Prepare the Corn Husks

Begin by soaking the dried corn husks in warm water for at least 30 minutes or until they become pliable. This step is essential as it makes it easier to fold and wrap the tamales later.

Step 2: Prepare the Masa

In a large mixing bowl, combine the masa harina, baking powder, and salt.

Gradually add the warm chicken or vegetable broth while mixing to form a smooth dough.

Slowly incorporate the vegetable oil or lard into the masa until it is well combined.

If desired, use an electric mixer on low speed for a few minutes to make the masa extra fluffy.

Step 3: Assemble the Tamales

Take one soaked corn husk and shake off excess water.

Spread about 2-3 tablespoons of masa dough onto the center of the corn husk, leaving some space at the top and sides.

Add a spoonful of your chosen filling (shredded chicken, pork carnitas, or cheese and jalapeño) on top of the masa.

Step 4: Fold and Tie

Carefully fold the sides of the corn husk over the masa and filling to enclose them.

Fold up the bottom of the husk to seal the tamale.

Secure the tamale by tying it with a strip of soaked corn husk or kitchen twine.

Step 5: Steam the Tamales

Fill the bottom of your steamer pot with water, ensuring that it doesn’t touch the tamales when they are placed in the steamer basket.

Stand the tamales upright in the steamer basket, with the open end facing up.

Cover the tamales with a layer of leftover corn husks or a damp kitchen towel to trap steam.

Place a lid on the steamer pot and steam the tamales for about 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the masa is cooked through and no longer sticks to the corn husk.

Step 6: Serve and Enjoy

Carefully remove the tamales from the steamer using tongs and let them cool for a few minutes.

Unwrap the corn husks and serve the tamales with your choice of sauce (salsa verde, salsa roja, or crema).

Garnish with fresh cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, and a squeeze of lime, if desired.

Mastering the art of making authentic Mexican tamales is a rewarding culinary journey that allows you to savor the rich history and flavors of this beloved dish. Whether you choose to fill your tamales with succulent meats or opt for a vegetarian variation, the process is a true labor of love that brings people together to celebrate tradition and delicious food. So, gather your family and friends, roll up your sleeves, and embark on a tamale-making adventure that will leave everyone craving for more.

Variations and Tips

While the recipe provided here offers a classic and delicious approach to making Mexican tamales, there are countless variations and regional specialties to explore:

Sweet Tamales: For a sweet twist, you can make tamales filled with ingredients like chocolate, cinnamon, sugar, and raisins. These sweet tamales are perfect for dessert or breakfast.

Green Corn Tamales: In some regions of Mexico, green corn tamales are a popular delicacy. These tamales are made with fresh corn kernels mixed into the masa, giving them a delightful, natural sweetness.

Vegetarian and Vegan Tamales: You can experiment with various vegetarian and vegan fillings, such as sautéed vegetables, beans, or tofu, to cater to different dietary preferences.

Spicy Tamales: If you love heat, consider adding diced jalapeños, serranos, or habaneros to your masa or filling for an extra kick of spice.

Tamale Wrapping Styles: Different regions in Mexico have unique ways of wrapping tamales. You can explore these styles for an authentic touch, such as the triangular-shaped tamales from Tamaulipas or the banana leaf-wrapped tamales from Oaxaca.

Here are some additional tips to ensure your tamales turn out perfectly:

Consistency: Aim for a masa dough that is moist but not too sticky. Adjust the liquid (broth) as needed to achieve the right consistency.

Uniformity: When assembling tamales, strive for uniformity in size and thickness to ensure even cooking.

Tight Wrapping: Make sure the tamales are tightly wrapped to prevent the filling from leaking during steaming.

Testing Doneness: To check if tamales are done, remove one from the steamer and let it cool for a few minutes. If it easily separates from the husk, it’s ready.

Freezing: Tamales freeze well. Once they have cooled, you can store them in an airtight container in the freezer. To reheat, steam them for about 15-20 minutes.

Serve with Sides: Tamales pair wonderfully with traditional Mexican sides such as rice and beans, guacamole, or a fresh salsa.

Making authentic Mexican tamales is a culinary experience that connects you with centuries of tradition and the vibrant flavors of Mexico. Whether you’re preparing them for a special occasion or simply enjoying a delicious homemade meal, the process of crafting tamales is an art form that brings people together. From choosing the right fillings to perfecting the masa and wrapping technique, every step is an opportunity to create a memorable and satisfying dish. So, gather your ingredients, follow the steps outlined in this guide, and embark on a delightful journey into the heart of Mexican cuisine. Your taste buds will thank you for it, and you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the art of making tamales. ¡Buen provecho y disfruta!


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