How to make tamales

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Homemade Tamales are the real deal.   They take some time, but that’s part of what makes them so magical.

Families have gathered for many, many years, often just before the holiday season, and each person would have their own job – working together, laughing, reminiscing, and creating delicious treats for everyone to enjoy whenever anyone wants one during the holiday season.

homemade tamales recipe


Making authentic homemade tamales from scratch is easier than you might think! Watch us show you how to make the best tamales in town!

Soaking the corn husks for a couple hours is important to make them nice and pliable for when you are ready to fill them.  I do this by taking a large roasting pan, placing the husks in the pan, and then filling the pan with water.  I then place something heavy (my Dutch oven lid works perfectly) on top of the husks, and then just let rests for at least 2 hours. Once you are ready to use, pat them off with a kitchen towel, and you’re good to go!. Authentic Tamales recipe The pork filling is so incredible, the peppers give them just a little heat, but not too much.  And there is something about the chicken filling that is just so satisfying.  Let the chicken filling simmer until it has thickened somewhat. Both fillings are amazing in these homemade tamales. Sometimes this may take a little longer than expected, but just be patient, it’s all so very worth it!  Fresh ingredients are always the best!! Homemade tamales being wrapped

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When making the dough, I like to use my hands.  Keep adding stock until you’ve got the consistency of cake batter.  It shouldn’t be runny. You can see here, we’re real close, just a little more chicken stock, and then we’ll be set. Homemade tamales Once you are ready to spread the masa dough onto the husk, you won’t need too much.  Just a thin layer works perfectly.  This is because the dough will expand in size as it is being steamed. And did I mention how delicious using rendered pork lard is in the dough?  I didn’t?  Well, it really, really is.  And…it’s better for you than shortening.  Seriously! Authentic Tamales recipe Fold once side in towards the middle, and then fold in the other side.  It takes just a little bit of practice, you’ll get the hang of it very quickly. It’s almost steam time, which means we’re getting close to HOMEMADE TAMALES TIME!! Authentic Tamales recipe


A trip to a Mexican market may be required to make these truly authentic, but trust me, it’s worth it.   You will not be disappointed. This Authentic Tamales recipe truly delivers.  The only problem is, once you start devouring these gems, it’s hard to stop. They are really amazing with a little Classic Tex-Mex Queso on the side! They are that good!! Want to learn about the amazing (and ancient) history of tamales? Read all about it’s amazing history from homemade tamales recipe

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What is a Tamal?

A tamale or bollo is a delicious traditional Mesoamerican dish made of corn dough (masa) which is filled with seasoned meat (chicken or pork) then steamed or boiled in plantain or banana leaves.

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Tamales have been traced back to the Ancient Maya people, who prepared them for feasts as early as the Preclassic period (1200–250 BC).  Maya people called their corn tortillas and tamales both utah.

Here is a super yummy, easy to follow tamal recipe provided by; Uj Janal Aj Maya a collection of traditional Maya cuisines by Aurora Garcia Saqui.


But first, you’ll need to get two banana leaves! (Most international ethnic stores sell them- and once you wrap the tamale once, foil can seal the deal.)

Recipe makes 12 tamales

Roast the leaves directly over a fire or burner on both sides to soften. Cut each leaf into six pieces, three pieces on each side of the vein. Sponge each piece with a damp cloth and set aside. Save the veins for later.

Making the Col (Red filling):

  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp annatto (red recado)
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 T oil
  • ½ lb masa
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt to taste

In a medium pot, mix the salt, pepper, annatto, bouillon, onion, garlic, and oil. Add the masa and water then bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove when it reaches boiling point and set aside.

Making the Tamal base:

  • 1 ½ lbs masa
  • ¾ cups oil
  • Some water
  • Salt to taste

Mix the masa with the oil, adding water until it is as soft as clay. Form into 12 balls. Place each ball on a piece of banana leaf. Flatten each ball into a tortilla shape.

Add one teaspoon of the col to the center of each open tamal.

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Chicken tamales: Take cooked chicken and add one piece of meat to each tamal.

Vegetarian tamales: Substitute chicken bouillon for vegetable bullion and add cooked greens or heart of palm.

Fold the masa over the filling, one side and then the other like an envelope. Next, fold the banana leaf over the tamal lengthwise and on the ends (If using foil, wrap a sheet of foil tightly to seal the tamal before steaming). Put the banana leaf veins on the bottom of the pot. Place the tamales on the veins, and add water, but do not completely cover the tamales, and boil for one hour.

Once they have steamed the tamales/bollos will be firm. Let them cool a bit then enjoy!

Happy cooking folks!

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