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Step into the world of Mexican cuisine with this authentic tamal recipe. Tamales are a beloved traditional dish that has been passed down through generations. These delightful treats consist of masa dough filled with various savory or sweet fillings, wrapped in corn husks, and steamed to perfection. In this blog post, we’ll share a step-by-step guide to making tamales from scratch. Get ready to embark on a culinary journey and savor the rich flavors and cultural significance of this beloved Mexican dish.

Tamales are a traditional Mesoamerican dish with a history that dates back thousands of years. The word “tamale” comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word “tamalli,” which means “wrapped.” Tamales were a staple food for many indigenous peoples in Mexico and Central America and played a significant role in their diets.

The origins of tamales can be traced to pre-Columbian times when they were made by the Aztecs, Mayans, and other indigenous groups. They were a convenient and portable food, which made them ideal for travelers, hunters, and warriors. Tamales were made with a variety of fillings, including meats, vegetables, and beans, wrapped in corn husks or plantain leaves, and steamed or cooked over an open flame.

With the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 16th century, European ingredients like pork, beef, and lard were introduced into tamale recipes, enriching the flavors. Over the centuries, tamales evolved into a diverse and cherished part of Mexican and Central American cuisines. They are often associated with special occasions, holidays, and family gatherings.


Tamales are a cornerstone of Mexican cuisine and hold a special place in the hearts of many. These delicious treats are made with masa dough, which is a traditional corn-based dough, and filled with a variety of flavorful fillings such as meats, cheese, or vegetables. The tamales are then wrapped in corn husks and steamed until tender. The result is a savory, comforting dish with a unique texture and taste. Tamales are often enjoyed during festive occasions, family gatherings, and holidays, making them a symbol of togetherness and celebration. Join us as we dive into the world of tamales and learn how to create these mouthwatering delights in your own kitchen.

Tools and Equipment

Prep Time 45 mins Cook Time 2 hrs Rest Time 30 mins Total Time 3 hrs 15 mins Difficulty: Intermediate Servings: 12 Calories: 206.18 Best Season: Suitable throughout the year


Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Prepare the Corn Husks: Soak the dried corn husks in warm water for about 30 minutes until they become pliable. Pat them dry with a clean towel.

  2. Make the Masa Dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the masa harina, vegetable oil, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the chicken or vegetable broth, mixing until a soft, pliable dough forms. The dough should have the consistency of cookie dough.

  3. Assemble the Tamales: Take one corn husk and spread a small amount of masa dough (about 2-3 tablespoons) onto the center of the husk, leaving about 1 inch of space on each side. Add a spoonful of your chosen filling (shredded meat, cheese, and salsa) on top of the masa.

  4. Fold and Tie: Fold the sides of the corn husk over the masa and filling, then fold up the bottom. Secure the tamal by tying it with kitchen twine. Repeat this process for the remaining tamales.

  5. Steam the Tamales: Place the tamales upright in a steamer, stacking them if necessary. Steam over simmering water for approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the masa is fully cooked and no longer sticky. Be sure to add more water to the steamer as needed.

  6. Serve: Once cooked, carefully unwrap the tamales from their corn husks, top with optional garnishes, and serve warm.

Nutrition Facts

Servings 12

Amount Per Serving
Calories 206.18kcal
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 13.43g21%
Saturated Fat 2.76g14%
Trans Fat 0.06g
Cholesterol 13.64mg5%
Sodium 494.02mg21%
Potassium 133.08mg4%
Total Carbohydrate 17.42g6%
Dietary Fiber 2.34g10%
Sugars 0.91g
Protein 4.93g10%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Please note that the nutritional values provided are approximate and may vary depending on the specific ingredients and portion sizes used. It's always best to double-check with your specific ingredients and measurements for accurate nutritional information.


Tips and Variations:
  • For a vegetarian or vegan version, skip the meat fillings and opt for roasted vegetables or cheese.
  • Experiment with different fillings such as beans, mushrooms, or seafood to create unique flavor combinations.
  • Add spices and herbs to the masa dough for extra flavor. Cumin, chili powder, and cilantro are popular choices.
  • To save time, you can prepare the fillings and masa dough in advance, storing them separately in the refrigerator until ready to assemble and steam.
Serving Suggestions:
  • Serve tamales as the main course of a traditional Mexican meal alongside rice, beans, and a side of salsa or guacamole.
  • Enjoy them for breakfast or brunch with a side of Mexican-style scrambled eggs.
  • Tamales also make a great party or potluck dish. Serve them as part of a buffet or bring them to a gathering to share with friends and family.
Allergen Information:

Tamales can vary in ingredients and fillings, so it's important to be aware of potential allergens. Common allergens in tamale recipes include:

  • Gluten: Traditional tamales are made with masa harina, which is a type of corn flour. They are typically gluten-free, but if you have concerns about cross-contamination, check the packaging and preparation process.

  • Meat and Dairy: Tamales may contain meat, cheese, or other dairy products. If you have lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, look for dairy-free or vegan tamale options.

  • Nuts: Some tamale fillings and sauces may contain nuts, so inquire about the ingredients if you have nut allergies.

  • Spices: Be cautious of spices and seasonings that may cause allergic reactions.

Wine or Drink Pairing:

Pairing beverages with tamales can enhance the dining experience. Here are some suggestions:

  • Mexican Beer: A cold Mexican lager or a beer with a hint of citrus pairs wonderfully with tamales, especially those with spicy or savory fillings.

  • Mexican Soft Drinks: Traditional Mexican sodas like Jarritos (fruit-flavored sodas) or Mexican Coke (sweetened with cane sugar) offer a refreshing contrast to the flavors of tamales.

  • Horchata: This sweet, rice-based drink with cinnamon and vanilla is a soothing accompaniment to tamales, especially for those who prefer non-alcoholic options.

  • Agua Fresca: These fruit-infused waters, like agua de jamaica (hibiscus) or agua de tamarindo (tamarind), provide a burst of fruity flavors that complement tamales.

  • Mexican Wine: If you prefer wine, consider a Mexican white wine, which can offer a crisp contrast to the richness of tamales.

Storage and Leftovers:

Tamales are often made in large batches and are great for leftovers. Here's how to store and reheat them:

  • Refrigeration: Store leftover tamales in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

  • Freezing: Tamales freeze well. Place them in an airtight container or wrap them individually in plastic wrap, then store in a resealable bag. They can be frozen for up to six months.

  • Reheating: To reheat tamales, steam them for about 15-20 minutes if they are frozen or 10-15 minutes if refrigerated. Alternatively, you can reheat them in the microwave, but be sure to wrap them in a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out.

Keywords: Tamal Recipe, Authentic Tamales, Mexican Cuisine, Corn Husks, Masa Dough, Steamed, Traditional Dish, Savory, Fillings, Festive Food, Family Recipe

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