Recipe: Makes 12 Tamales 

2 Cups                                     Masa Harina 

1 teaspoon                              Baking Powder

1 teaspoon                              Salt

½ teaspoon                             Cayenne Powder

½ teaspoon                                        Thyme

1 tablespoon                           Oregano

⅓ Cup + 1 Tablespoon              Shortening or Lard 

1 Cup                                                  Broth

Filling ideas: chicken, pork or beef with salsa rojo or salsa verde, roasted poblanos with queso ranchero, calabacitas, beans and cheese, collard greens with onion garlic and mashed sweet potato

Hola Kike!! Today we are making tamales from mexico! This recipe is ancient and dates back to the Aztecs so there are many different ways to make them but this is how I like to do it. Let’s get started!

First we need to soak the corn husks in warm water so they are easy to work with. I rinse mine first, then fully submerge them into a bowl of warm water. You will need something to weigh them down so they don’t float. Then set them aside 

Now we’re going to make our masa, or dough. We’ll need masa harina, which is corn flour from corn that’s been soaked in an alkaline agent. I use blue corn masa harina because it has delicious flavor and beautiful color but you can use white or yellow if that’s what your local store has.

Add 2 cups of masa harina

Then 1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon salt 

I like to add spices to my masa, so i use ½ teaspoon cayenne, ½ teaspoon thyme and 1 tablespoon mexican oregano

In another bowl,  add ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon of vegetable shortening and whip it until it gets a fluffy texture. You can also use manteca, which is pork lard.

Once it is whipped, add ¾ cups of warm veggie broth (you can use pork or chicken broth too!) 

Slowly add in the dry mix until the texture is like wet sand or sugar cookie dough. If it’s too dry, add more broth, if it’s too wet, add more harina. The masa should form together easily when you put it in your hand but should not stick to your fingers. 

Now comes the fun! We are going to assemble the tamales. I make my fillings ahead of time so it is one less step to do. I love to use veggies, especially beans and leafy greens like kale. today i’m using braised collard greens with onions and garlic and some mashed sweet potato. Traditional fillings are usually pork, beef or chicken with salsa roja or salsa verde or calabacitas, which is zucchini & summer squash. 

So first we are going to take a corn husk and lay it with the bigger side on top & the silky side facing up. Take about ¼ cup of the masa and spread it into a rectangle toward the top of your husk making sure it is evenly thick. You can spread with the back of a spoon or masa spreader, you can make it thick or thin, big or small. It is really up to you. These are traditionally made by the dozens for holidays, so I would use a spreader for that and spread them wide and thin to save time. But since we are just making a dozen, I’m doing it with wet hands! After you spread the masa, add your fillings in the middle. Take one side of the husk and fold it over, then take the other side and fold it the other way so you have a nicely wrapped tamal. You can simply fold the bottom up and place it in your pot or you can secure the tamal with a corn husk tie. Rip a small husk into long pieces so you can tie your tamales if you want.  

Repeat this until you have used all of your masa. There are many ways to cook tamales, some people use a rack in the bottom of their pot but I do it the way an abuela mexicana taught me. Take a clean kitchen towel and put it in the bottom of your pot, then add water. You want the water to be about ½ inch up on the bottom of your tamales. 

Add your tamales to the pot, leaning them against eachother so they stand up straight. Once your pot is full, we are going to cover them and turn the heat on. This is another trick i learned from abuela, it’s not necessary but it keeps steam inside and helps the masa to cook evenly throughout. Take a plastic shopping bag and cover the pot by putting the bags’ holes around the handles. You can also use extra corn husks to cover your tamales. Then take a wet kitchen towel and cover the pot before topping it with the lid.

Turn the heat on and bring your water to a simmer. After 30 minutes, I carefully remove the lid and check the water level. If it needs more, I just add hot water from the sink into the pot. Depending on how big you made them and what kind of masa harina you use, the cooking time will be different. Smaller tamales with white corn masa usually only take 30-40 minutes to cook. But blue corn masa takes longer to cook and I made them gordito so these usually take 1.5 – 2 hrs. The best way to check if they are done is by taking one out of the pot and carefully open it. If the masa easily pulls away from the husk and feels firm, it is done. If there are still sticky parts and it feels squishy, it needs more time. 

Once they are done, let them sit for a few minutes because they will be very hot. Or you can be crazy like me and eat them straight out of the pot steaming hot with crema and cilantro! Mmm delicioso! Thanks for cooking tamales mexicanos today with me Kike, ciao!