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How To: Make tamales!

Posted by Jeanne on January 12, 2010

I made tamales on new year’s day.  It was fun and not all that difficult – mostly just a lot of assembly.  Also, they are DELICIOUS and now we have 35 tamales in the freezer.

Unfortunately, what we do not have are pictures because I forgot to take any.

Tamales, with huge props to the crock pot lady for figuring out a way to do it without a giant steamer.


4 cups masa mix (if you get the kind labeled “for tamales” follow the instructions on the package – it’ll already have leavening and likely salt)

2 tsp salt

1 TB baking powder

4 cups stock or water, warmed (I used 1 TB beef base plus 4 cups of water – I don’t feel like it added much and will experiment with just using water in the future)

1 cup vegetable shortening


3 to 4 lbs chicken, cooked and shredded (I cooked some leg quarters in the slow cooker in tomatoes and chilies.)

Mole sauce (I used half a jar of prepared mole sauce from the grocery store, thinned out with about 0.75 cup of water.)


3 or 4 dozen corn husks

One large slow cooker, or an extremely large pot with a steamer basket


Soak your corn husks in warm water until pliable – about 15 to 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix masa, salt and baking powder.  Add liquid and stir to combine (mixture will foam a bit and is quite thick).  Add vegetable shortening and mix until completely blended – I used a fork for this step.  Dough will be light and almost spongy in texture.

To assemble, gather dough, chicken, mole, soaked corn husks, and your cooking vessel – I used the slow cooker.

Lay a corn husk flat on the counter.  Take a handful of dough – about the size of a tennis ball, maybe a bit smaller – and spread on just one end of the corn husk.  The dough should be about 1/4 inch thick.  Add about one tablespoon each of chicken and mole sauce.

Fold the edges of the corn husk over so the dough wraps all the way around the filling, and fold up the end (the one without the filling in it!).  It’ll be open on the one end – stand up in the bottom of your cooking vessel on the folded end.

Repeat approximately one billion times (more like 3 or 4 dozen) until all your filling is gone.  For the slow cooker, cook on high for 4 to 6 hours until done.  If you’re using a steamer, cook for about 2 hours.  You can tell they’re done when the corn begins to pull away from the husk.

We served ours with some black beans and rice on the side.  Sooooo good – and there is so.  much.  left.

It made seven servings about this size, plus I have a bag in the freezer with 8 tamales (no rice & beans) left.  We will be eating these for ages.  Thankfully, they are tasty.

Next time I promise to take pictures of the process.


3 Responses to “How To: Make tamales!”

  1. oh yay!! I’m so glad this worked out so well for you!

    xoxo steph

  2. […] dough recipe can be found in this post, along with assembly instructions.  I will repeat most of it here because I actually took some […]

  3. […] after this kid is born – and now I had an excuse to make Curt help!  I’ve made tamales several times, and they are one of my favorite easy dinners.  They freeze and reheat extremely […]

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