The other night I made the molé, and I realized that I needed to make something to go with the molé. I didn’t cook the turkey that same day, because the turkey was still frozen that night. Since I had the Maseca and the corn husks in the cupboard already, I decided to go for it. I used the recipe that Maseca provides, but I cut it down a bit and used my own seasonings.

Start by soaking your corn husks in some warm water until they are flexible. They are super cheap and you can buy them in big bags at Mexican markets. In the southern parts of Mexico they use banana leaves, but in Jalisco they use dried corn husks. If I was being safe, I would say you should use like 20-30 husks, but it really doesn’t matter. They vary in size and some of them will be too small.

3 C. Maseca Corn Masa for tamales

3 C. Chicken Stock

1/2 C. Lard, Vegetable Shortening or Oil

Salt to taste

1/2 Packet Sazon

Cumin to taste

1/4 tsp Baking powder

Basically, you want to mix your dry ingredients in a mixer bowl with the lard or the oil. Then add the liquid hot to make the dough. I let it mix for a few minutes until it was pretty smooth and fluffy. I am still not a pro at this whole tamale making business, so I can’t really give you a guide to what the perfect texture is. It is just sort of something you will have to get used to. That is why this recipe size is great, because If you totally bomb out, you didn’t make 40 tamales that are awful (you will just make a dozen or so terrible tamales). Once your dough is ready, you should plan what you want to put in them.

For this batch, I decided to fill them with a vegetarian mixture of Poblano chiles, Jalapeños, Onions, and Corn off the cob. I know it is ironic, since I made the actual tamales with lard, but it was more of a means of cleaning out my vegetable drawer than an effort to tease my vegetarian friends. You could easily make this whole dish vegan and gluten free if you wanted to by substituting vegetable shortening or oil and using vegetable broth for your tamales. Basically, I just small diced the onions and roasted the other vegetables right over the burner of my stove to give them a nice rustic flavor. If you wanted to be awesome, you could grill everything, but I was more interested in saving time. Then, I cut the corn off the cob, small diced the chiles, then put them in a pot with some of the molé that I had made earlier. If you didn’t have that you could use some canned Chipotles in Adobo, which is the best canned item EVER in my opinion. I usually open a can then put the unused portion (which is usually most of it) into a freezer bag and spread them out, so when I need them next I can just break off what I need and refreeze the rest. Sorry, I can’t help my frugality. Season as needed and keep it warm for the build.

Now you might need to adjust the texture of your dough, but just go for it. Start by taking a corn husk and place it with the widest part on the bottom. Spread a ball of dough that starts out the size of an in-shell-walnut over most of the bottom portion of the corn husk. No need to go all the way to the side edges, and don’t go all the way to the top. If it is crumbly and won’t spread, you can add some more water to the rest of the dough. If it won’t stick to the husk you might have it too wet. EXPERIMENT. Then you will want to add about a Tablespoon of your filling to the middle of the dough. Carefully fold in one side of your tamale into the center where the filling is. Try to get the dough to release from the husk. If it has enough fat, it should do this pretty easily. Then pull back the husk enough so that you can fold the other side in on top of the dough. Then wrap it so both sides are covering the dough again. It should be a rough cylinder with no filling at the top. Now fold the skinny empty part at the top down to close up the bottom. You now have made your first tamal. I apologize for not having pictures for this confusing step. I had them, but I replaced my phone and lost a lot of pictures. If you get confused, YouTube it, and you can find a million videos of this step. 

Now you will want to repeat this process until you run out of dough, filling, husks or patience. Then you will want to place all of them into a stock pot with a steamer basket in the bottom (There are such things as tamale steamers, but they are not super necessary). Put enough water in the pot so that it comes up just below the bottom of the basket. Stack them evenly in the pot with the folded protions at the bottom. The top part will remain open, and it might overflow a little while cooking, so make sure that end is pointing up. Cover the pot. Cook them for about an hour on medium heat or until the tamale pulls away from the husk easily. They sort of get this firm gelatinous texture that you will notice when you see it. This is a picture of my first batch which was sort of dry and thick. On my second batch they were much smoother and more moist. A good tamal is both moist and not too thick.  The best part of the second batch was that I had the Turkey Molé to go with it and in them.

About iliketocookthings

I was born and raised in West Michigan in a small suburban/farming community called Lowell. I grew up cooking. My family has always been centered around the kitchen. Growing up I tended to cook a lot of Italian-American food, seeing as how I am a whopping 25% Sicilian. When I got into high school I got really into Asian cuisine. I went to college at Central Michigan University, and quickly became homesick and insecure about my areas of study (Spanish and Art). I decided to return to the motherland and begin Culinary School after 2.5 years of moderate success in traditional college. Culinary school was a fun experience, and I learned a lot, but I didn't really fit the profile of my fellow classmates. When finished, I moved to Chicago to explore carreer options. My first place of employment outside of Michigan was Green Zebra, where I learned a lot, but quickly learned that I wasn't cut out for the cooks lifestyle. I stuck it out though, and continued working at both of Shawn McClain's restaurants, for about a year and a half. I now work for Whole Foods, and while it is a corporate environment, three of the biggest perks are access to ingredients, the employee discount, and the 8 hour days that allow me time to do what I really want. I am most happy when cooking in my own kitchen for people that I love. I now live in Saint Paul, Minnesota with my husband Eric and my cat child Fergus. View all posts by iliketocookthings

2 responses to “Ta-Ta-Ta-Tamales!

  • Benjamin VanderVeen

    Those look great, Amber. I have a lady who comes around my neighborhood, ‘cold calling’ each house, selling tamales. It’s semi annoying to have her wake me up on the weekends, but I appreciate her gusto, and the tamales she sells (6 for $5) are pretty tasty!


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