How to Make Tamales

Learn how to make delicious tamales that are so much better than store-bought and even your favorite restaurant with this foolproof recipe and step-by-step tutorial. Bonus: they’re made with oil and zero lard!

This delicious tamale recipe includes a simple step-by-step tutorial and instructional video on how to make the best Mexican tamales at home – and they are so much easier than you think. If you can use a mixer and spread peanut butter onto a slice of bread, you can make tamales!  The fluffy, foolproof masa dough is made with corn oil instead of lard, can be filled with chicken, beef, pork, beans and cheese or vegetables (filling ideas provided), and cooked on the stovetop or in the instant pot.  This tamale recipe is make ahead and freezer friendly for easy weeknight meals or stress-free special occasions. Top your tamales off with some some pico de gallo and serve with Mexican Rice for the perfect meal!

Tamales are a must have Mexican staple along with carne asada, fajitas, enchiladas, carnitas and tres leches cake!

How to Make Tamales Video

 
showing how to serve Mexican tamales by topping with pico de gallo and sour cream

Tamales FAQS

Why are they called tamales?

The word “tamal” comes from the Nahuatl word “tamalli,” meaning “wrapped.” This describes how the tamales are wrapped and cooked in cornhusk or leaves.

How do you pronounce tamales?

tuh-MAH-lee

What is the singular of tamales?

In Spanish, the plural form is tamales, and the singular is tamal, or sometimes written as tomale. However, there is an ongoing debate on the “correct” use of tamal vs. tamale.  This debate references that in Nahuatl, both the singular and the plural form of tamal is tamalli, so using the word tamale honors the origin of the word.  So, many agree there is no “right” or “wrong” usage.

Where are Tamales From?

Tamales have been around since approximately 500 B.C, with origins tracing back to the Mesoamerican cultures in Mexico and Guatemala (the Mayas, Toltec, Olmec and some Aztec afterwards).  The Aztecs made tamales for the festival Atamalcualiztli to celebrate the birth of the corn god and Izcalli to pay respects to the fire god.  The earliest versions of tamales were made with corn, pumpkin, beans, etc. and roasted over a fire.  The fillings become more elaborate when Europeans brought lard, chicken, pork, olives, raisins, and other foods with them to the New World.

When are tamales served?

Tamales are a Christmas menu staple for many families, as well as served at many baptisms, quinceaneras, La Candelaria, Day of the Dead, etc. or simply for breakfast!

What are tamales made of?

There are just two main elements of tamales; the dough, and the filling. The dough is made with masa harina mixed with oil/lard or shortening, baking powder, cumin, salt and broth.  The filling can be made with anything from chicken, to pork, beef, beans, cheese and/or vegetables.

What are tamales called in other regions?

Tamales are made in many different Latin America countries and are known by different names. In fact, there are actually estimated to be more than 500 different regional and cultural variations on the “classic” tamale! Here’s a list of commonly used names by region:

Nicaragua – Nacatamal
Guatemala – Paches and Chuchitos
Bolivia and Ecuador – Humita
Columbia – Bollo
Cuba, Mexico, South and Central America – Tamal
Michoacan, Mexico – Corunda
Veracruz, Mexico – Zacahuil
Venezuela – Hallaca
Aztec – Tamalli

Can I Freeze the Masa Dough? 

I do not recommend freezing the masa dough. The freezing process breaks down some of the structure of the dough, making it crumblier and more difficult to handle and spread.

Can I use corn meal instead of masa harina to make tamales?

Masa harina, which translates in Spanish to “corn flour,” is not to be confused with cornmeal or American corn flour – they are NOT interchangeable in tamale making. Masa harina is essentially dehydrated, powdered corn dough that just needs water to reconstitute into a pliable dough again. Corn flour or cornmeal, on the other hand, are just plain, untreated ground corn that will not rehydrate into a dough.

top view of tamales recipe on a plate showing how to tie them

Masa for Tamales 

This easy to make masa for tamales recipe is the starting point to making the best homemade tamales!  The light, tender and flavorful tamale dough is made by mixing masa harina with a broth, corn oil instead of lard or shortening, baking powder, cumin, and salt until it forms as a soft dough.

Here’s what you’ll need to make masa for tamales (full measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Masa harina: This is the magical must-have ingredient in Mexican tamales as well as in sopes, gorditas, corn tortillas, etc.  Stick with white masa harina because it has more moisture than yellow or blue, to create a softer texture. Maseca is the most popular brand and is what I use and recommend.  You can find it in most grocery stores or here’s where you can order it online.  (Don’t grab the brown bag that says “for tamales,” or any that say “masa preparada,” – stick with the white bag.  These other doughs contain lard and baking powder which would alter the recipe.)
  • Oil:  The oil flavors the dough and keeps the masa from becoming too dry and pasty. While many recipes use lard or shortening, this recipe calls for corn oil, which is healthier and better tasting, in my opinion. You could also use another neutral oil such as canola or avocado oil. However, avoid any highly flavored oils such as olive oil which will alter the flavor too much.   
  • Baking powder: This is a leavening agent that helps create the fluffy dough and prevents it from becoming too dense as it steams.
  • Broth: Use chicken broth (or stock) to make this recipe.  You can also use vegetable broth if required to keep it vegetarian, otherwise, stick with chicken broth because it is more flavorful.  
  • Spices: The corn dough is simply flavored with ground cumin and salt. They enhance the gorgeous corn flavor of the dough and ensure it’s not bland. 
showing how to make Mexican Tamales recipe with masa harina by scooping masa harina in a measuring cup

Dried corn husks

Dried corn husks are crucial in making homemade tamales. The husks are soaked until soft and pliable, stuffed with filling, folded and steamed. The wrapper is not eaten but imparts a certain flavor to the tamales.

If you’re lucky enough to live near a specialty Mexican grocery store, you can likely find dried corn husks there, or sometimes they are available in the Mexican or produce section of your grocery store. Otherwise, Amazon is going to be the easiest place to source them. I used THESE ONES from Amazon.  

In general, you want to look for husks that are wide instead of narrow, which makes them easier to wrap around the filling.  If your husks happen to be fairly narrow, you can overlap two on top of each other to create one wide husk.

I also shred a few husks to create lots of long skinny pieces of “string” to tie the tamales together, or use kitchen or baking twine.

showing how to make tamales by adding to a plate

Filling Ideas for Tamales 

You can fill your homemade tamales with ANYTHING you want!  Most tamales are filled with slow-cooked seasoned, shredded meats (usually chicken or pork), or make them vegetarian with beans and cheese or your choice of vegetables such as sweet potatoes, corn, peppers, or carrots.  Here are some filling suggestions for this tamale recipe, my favorite being the Honey Lime Salsa Verde Chicken:

Chicken Tamales

  • 10 Minute Salsa Verde Chicken:  Combine 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken with one 16 ounce can salsa verde (I like Herdez brand).
  • Quick Mexican Chicken: This shortcut Mexican chicken is done in 10 minutes! It seasons rotisserie chicken with robust spices, fire roasted tomatoes, tomato paste and green chilies.
  • Quick Red Chili Chicken:  Combine 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken with my homemade enchilada sauce – SO good.   
  • Shredded Mexican Chicken (Crockpot): This is one of my most popular recipes!  Chicken simmered with Mexican spices, salsa and green chilies for amazingly flavorful chicken that’s dripping with flavor and SO tender.   
  • Honey Lime Salsa Verde Chicken (Crockpot): This is another all-time reader’s favorite. It’s bright, tangy, zesty with just the right amount of kick all balanced by a hint of honey.  It’s my favorite for Mexican tamales!
  • Chicken Mole: Shredded chicken is combined with rich, velvety Mole Poblano, layered with earthy, tangy-sweet, spicy, smoky, fruity, notes.  This Mexican staple is complex yet seamlessly balanced, made by toasting dried chili peppers, spices, nuts and sesame seeds, then pureeing with tomatoes, tomatillos, and chocolate. 
  • Chicken Adobo: Use the chicken portion of my Chicken Birria Tacos. The chicken is braised with homemade adobo sauce made with dried chilies, onions, garlic, tomatoes and toasted spices for complex, rich flavor that is out of this world.
  • Chicken Tinga: This option is super quick and easy made with shredded rotisserie chicken tossed in a saucy, smoky, spicy tomato chipotle sauce.

Pork Tamales

  • Carnitas (Crockpot): Juicy pork smothered in a dynamic fiesta spice rub then slow cooked with orange juice and lime juice all finished in the oven to create glorious caramelized crispy burnt ends. 
  • Chipotle Sweet Pulled Pork: A Café Rio Copycat that’s juicy, tender, melt-in-your-mouth with the perfect balance of saucy sweet heat.
  • Salsa Verde Pork (Crockpot):  This recipe is inspired by the aforementioned chicken but in a juicier pork version. It is tangy, flavorful with just the right amount of kick all balanced by a hint of honey. 

beef Tamales

  • Mexican Shredded Beef: This beef is juicy, spoon tender and so easy to make in the slow cooker, stove or oven with a caravan of rich, earthy, fiesta seasonings, punchy salsa, tangy green chilies, savory beef broth and smoky liquid smoke until fall apart tender.  
  • Beef Barbacoa (Crockpot): Crazy juicy beef slow cooked until melt-in-your-mouth tender infused with a tangy, chipotle sauce. Barbacoa Beef is known for its intense flavor and perfect balance of chipotle peppers, cumin, oregano and lime juice.
  • Beef Birria: This viral beef boasts an explosion of complex earthy, smoky, savory, slightly spicy, juiciness in each and every saucy bite. The beef is stewed until fall-apart juicy tender in a from scratch adobo sauce made from chilies, onions, garlic, tomatoes and toasted spices including peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, bay leaves and cinnamon.

vegetarian Tamales

  • Veggies: Use 3 cups of any combo of your favorite veggies (measure after cooked) such as cooked sweet potatoes, black beans, zucchini and/or corn. Sauté them with taco seasonings. You can add a some quinoa and/or a little enchilada sauce or salsa.
  • Beans: Use refried beans, black beans, pinto beans or chickpeas on their own, or mix with any of your favorite cooked veggies, rice or quinoa.  You can also add some cheese – yum!
  • Tofu: Use extra firm tofu that is well drained; you will need 3 cups. To drain tofu, place it in a pie plate, top with a heavy plate and weigh down with 2 heavy cans (to release water). Set aside for 10 minutes then sauté with the taco seasonings while crumbling. You can add a little enchilada sauce, salsa, or salsa verde.
  • Cheese: Cheese can be used on its own or pair it with any other fillings (particularly tasty with beans!). I recommend Oaxaca cheese (easy to find with the specialty cheeses) but any cheese will work.

HOW TO MAKE Tamales

Making Mexican tamales from scratch requires some time and patience, but the actual process is not difficult at all!  You also don’t have to make every element of this recipe on the same day. The filling can be made a day or two in advance (it actually is easier to work with cold), and the masa can be made 24 hours in advance.

Here’s step-by-step tutorial on how to make tamales (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post: 

Step 1:  Make the Filling

  • Choose any tamale filling you’d like from the list I shared above. You will need about 2 ½ cups.  I like to make the filling a day ahead of time if making in the slow cooker, otherwise, there are some great 10-minute options like mixing shredded chicken with a jar of salsa verde.

Step 2: Soak the corn husks

Soaking makes the husks pliable enough to wrap around the stuffed tamales without tearing

  • Add the husks.  Place the corn husks in a large stockpot and top with warm water until they are submerged. 
  • Weigh down the husks.  The husks will float to the top, so you’ll need to weight them down. I place a bowl on top of the husks, then add a heavy object like a large can inside of the bowl.  Cover the husks, then soak for about 40 minutes. 
showing how to make tamales by soaking corn husks in a pot with warm water

Step 3: Make the masa (Corn Dough)

You can make the masa with 1) a stand mixer which creates the fluffiest filling and is the quickest and easiest, 2) with a hand mixer which is a little messier and not quite as fluffy or 3) by hand which requires a lot of elbow grease and won’t be nearly as fluffy.  

  • Combine ingredients. Whisk together the masa harina, salt, cumin and baking powder in a mixing bowl.   Beat in the oil until combined, then gradually add the broth until combined. 
  • Beat until fluffy.  Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until very fluffy, about 5 minutes.  
  • Check consistency.  The dough should be soft and spreadable like thick hummus. If the dough is too dry, add more broth. If it’s too wet, add more masa harina.  
  • Use now or later.  At this point, you can use the dough immediately, or cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate until ready to use.
a collage showing how to make tamales by 1) whisking together masa harina and oil, then mixing until fluffy

Step 4: Assemble the tamales

  • Add the dough.  Lay one corn husk on a cutting board, with the wide end towards you (makes it easier to work with). Add roughly ¼ cup of corn dough to the center of the bottom half of the husk.  (I use a large cookie scoop because it’s so much easier).  
  • Spread the masa.  Spread the masa out into a square, keeping it on the bottom half of the corn husk, leaving about ½-1 inch boarder around the side edges.  This will make sure filling doesn’t ooze out the sides. You can use wet fingers to spread the dough, a spatula, butter knife, offset spatula, or even a putty knife – whatever works for you!
  • Add the filling.  Tamales need a surprisingly little filling!  Add about 2 tablespoons of filling to the center of the masa square and keep it shaped in a rectangle, don’t spread it out.
a collage showing how to make tamales by adding masa to the corn husk, spreading into a square, then adding the chicken or pork filling

Step 5: how to fold tamales

  • Fold the corn husk vertically.  First, fold one long side in towards the center, so the edge covers the filling.  Next, fold the other long side in (like folding a brochure), overlapping the first.   
  • Fold in half.  Fold the bottom of the husk up, so that it’s now folded in half.  
  • Tying the tamales is optional.  You don’t have to tie the tamales together if using a small enough pot to steam them, they will stay together without it!  However, tying is helpful if your pot is wider and it makes a cute presentation. It can also help distinguish if you are making multiple fillings. 
  • How to tie tamales: You can tear a long strip from the edge of a soaked corn husk to create a skinny strip, or use baking string/kitchen twine to wrap around the center of the tamale and tie it in a knot. 
a collage showing how to make tamales by folding in 4 steps: 1) fold one side over to the middle, 2) fold the other side to the middle, 3) fold the corn husk in half, 4) tie with a string of the corn husk

Step 6: Steam the tamales

  • Add water.  Fill the very bottom of a stock pot or instant pot with water.
  • Add tamales. Place the prepared tamales upright (with their open end up) into a steamer basket (for stock pot), or instant pot. 
  • Steamer:  Cover, bring the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and steam for about 45 minutes.  You’ll know they’re done when the masa separates easily from the corn husks.
  • Instant Pot: Cook on Manual/High Pressure for 25 minutes. Allow pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, and then quick release.
showing how to make tamales by steaming in a pot
  • Chipotle Sauce: A drizzle of explosively flavorful, creamy, spicy, smoky, and zesty chipotle sauce will elevate your tamales to next level!  The sauce is made with chipotle peppers in adobo, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, ground cumin, smoked paprika, sour cream and mayonnaise (or sub-Greek yogurt). 
  • Sour cream, Greek yogurt or Mexican crema: Their refreshing, bright, silky creaminess compliment and cut through the richness. You can also spice up your sour cream with salsa verde, cayenne pepper, hot sauce or chipotle pepper.
  • Avocados: Go as simple as chopped or sliced avocados, or creamy, tangy, salty guacamole (my guacamole recipe is amazing or use store-bought) or avocado crema which is a sensational blend of avocados, sour cream or Greek yogurt, lime juice, salt, cumin and garlic powder.  
  • Pico de gallo:  This fresh tomato salsa is a popular topping for Mexican tamales with its vibrant, punchy freshness.  You can use my homemade pico de gallo recipe or store bought. You can make the pico de gallo ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Cilantro:  If you skip the pico de gallo, load on fresh cilantro and tomatoes instead for a fresh, zesty flair.
  • Other salsa options:  Go with traditional restaurant style salsa, or salsa verde or chunky salsas with  varying textures and flavors like black bean corn salsaavocado corn salsacharred corn salsapineapple salsa, or mango salsa– all SO good!
  • Jalapenos: Fresh jalapenos or pickled jalapenos for their fabulous pickled tang are both great options.   I particularly love these sweet and spicy pickled jalapeños from Trader Joes.  They are similar to candied jalapenos but a little less sweet, AKA perfection.
  • Cotija cheese:  Consider a showering of Cotija for a salty finish.  Cotija is known as “Mexican Parmesan” because it is wonderfully salty, hard, and crumbly. It is traditionally found with the specialty cheeses and should be readily available.  You may also use queso fresco.
  • Hot Sauce: Pass around the hot sauce for an easy, delicious way to customize heat.
showing how to make Tamales by tying tamales and stacking
  • Make the filling first.   You should always make the filling before you plan to assemble the tamales. It’s a lot easier to work with a cold filling because it holds its shape and won’t run out the ends of the tamal.
  • Don’t skimp on the salt in the filling.  No matter what type of filling you make, make sure it is generously salted and seasoned so it doesn’t get lost with the dough. 
  • Use a cookie scoop or ice cream scoop. A large cookie scoop or ice cream scoop makes measuring your masa super quick and easy (releases like a charm) and helps make uniform tamales.
  • Instant Masa vs “instant masa harina.” All packages of masa harina are instant! It simply means when you mix the masa harina with water, it will makes masa dough instantly.
  • Measure the masa harina correctly.  If you own a food scale, it’s best to weigh the masa harina versus using a measuring cup to ensure the most accurate amount. Using measuring cups can compact the masa harina significantly.  If you don’t own a food scale, then stir the masa harina around, spoon it into your measuring cup, and level it off with the back of a knife.  Do not scoop it out of the container directly with the measuring cup.
  • Mix the dough until it’s light and airy.  A fluffy filling will fluff up while cooking.  A stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment is very best to create the lightest filling.  Make sure mix the dough until it’s fluffy, light and airy – your really can’t overmix it! 
  • Check the consistency of the dough.  Due to elevation and humidity (and if you didn’t weigh your masa harina), be prepared to adjust your dough.  After mixing, the dough should be soft and spreadable like thick hummus. If the dough is too dry, add more broth. If it’s too wet, add more masa harina.
  • Chill the dough until ready to use. If your filling isn’t quite ready to go yet, cover the corn dough with a damp kitchen towel and pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. 
  • Don’t overfill the tamales. Tamales are fairly large in size, but they only require about 2 tablespoons of filling. Don’t be tempted to overfill them, otherwise the tamales will be difficult to fold and the filling will ooze out. 
  • Be flexible.  If your corn husks happen to be extra-large, then you add additional masa and filling.  If they are narrow, add less masa and filling. 
  • Drain wet filling.  If the filling is overly wet, it can make the dough soggy and will run out of the assembled tamales.  If working with a wet filling, like one that has been braised and shredded in the crockpot, place the filling in a strainer and drain off most of the excess liquid. You want the filling saucy enough to coat the protein, but not juicy/watery.
  • Test the tamales for doneness.  Test a tamale after it has been steaming for 45 minutes.  We want the dough to be cooked through, but not overly cooked or it becomes dry.  To test, remove one tamal and try to pull the husk off. If the husk pulls away cleanly, they’re done. If the dough is still sticky or wet looking, continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes, then test again.
top view of serving Mexican tamale with pico de gallo
a plate of Mexican tamales with chicken served with salsa
up close of eating tamale recipe with chicken

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Mexican Tamales

This delicious tamale recipe includes a simple step-by-step tutorial and instructional video on how to make the best Mexican tamales at home – and they are so much easier than you think. If you can use a mixer and spread peanut butter onto a slice of bread, you can make tamales!  The fluffy, foolproof masa dough is made with corn oil instead of lard, can be filled with chicken, beef, pork, beans and cheese or vegetables (filling ideas provided), and cooked on the stovetop or in the instant pot.  This tamale recipe is make ahead and freezer friendly for easy weeknight meals or stress-free special occasions. Top your tamales off with some some pico de gallo and serve with Mexican Rice for the perfect meal!
Servings: 18 tamales
Total Time: 2 hrs 15 mins
Prep Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time: 45 mins

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Ingredients

Masa

  • 18-20 dried corn husks
  • 4 cups (388 grams) white masa harina (spoon then measure)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup corn oil (may sub avocado or canola oil, NOT olive oil)
  • 2 2/3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups filling (see ideas below)

Filling Ideas (pick one – or more!)

Topping Ideas (pick your favs)

Instructions

  • Make the tamale filling. Choose from any of the filling options listed above (see descriptions in the recipe post). You will need about 2 ½ -3 cups. I like to make the filling a day ahead of time if making in the slow cooker, otherwise, there are some great 10-minute options like mixing shredded chicken with a jar of salsa verde. If the filling is extra juicy/saucy, strain before using.
  • Soak the corn husks. Place the corn husks in a large stockpot/Dutch oven and cover completely with warm water. The husks will float, so weigh them down with something heavy, then cover with the lid. Soak for 40 minutes or until soft and pliable.
  • Mix the masa (corn dough). Meanwhile, add the masa marina, cumin, baking powder, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine. Add the oil, then beat on low speed with the paddle attachment until combined. With the mixer on low, gradually add the broth and beat until combined.
  • Beat until fluffy. Once combined, increase the speed to medium-high, and beat for 5-7 minutes, until fluffy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed. The dough should be soft and spreadable like thick hummus. If the dough is too dry, add more broth. If it's too wet, add more masa harina (will depend on elevation, humidity, and accurate measuring).
  • If you're not using immediately, cover the mixing bowl with a damp paper towel to keep the dough from drying out and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  • Add masa to husks. Lay one corn husk on a cutting board, with the wide end towards you. Add roughly ¼ cup of corn dough to the center of the bottom half of the husk. I suggest using a large cookie scoop because it’s SO much easier. (See pictures in post or watch video for demonstration.)
  • Spread the masa. Spread the masa out into a square, keeping it on the bottom half of the corn husk, leaving about 1/2-1-inch border around the side edges. This will make sure filling doesn’t ooze out the sides. You can use wet fingers to spread the dough, a spatula, butter knife, offset spatula, or even a putty knife – whatever works for you!
  • Add the filling. Add about 2 tablespoons of filling to the center of the masa square and shape it into a rectangular log down the center.
  • Fold tamales. First, fold one long side in towards the center, so the edge covers the filling. Next, fold the other long side in (like folding a brochure), to overlap the first. Fold the bottom of the husk up, so that it’s now folded in half.
  • Tie the tamale together. You can tear a long strip from the edge of a soaked corn husk to create a skinny strip, or use baking string/kitchen twine to wrap around the tamale and tie it around the center of each tamal.
  • To steam tamales (recommended): Add water to the bottom of a stockpot with a steamer basket —(don’t fill above the steamer rack.) Add a steamer basket, fill it with the tamales standing upright so the openings are at the top. Cover, and bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes. Check periodically and add additional water if needed.
  • Test the tamales for doneness at 45 minutes: To test, remove one tamal and try to pull the husk off. If the husk pulls away cleanly, they're done. If the dough is still sticky, cook them for an additional 5 minutes and test again.
  • To make tamales in the instant pot: Cook on Manual/High Pressure for 25 minutes. Allow pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, and then quick release.
  • Serve tamales: Remove tamales from husks and enjoy with desired toppings.

Video

Notes

Tips and Tricks

  • Make the filling first.  You should always make the filling before you plan to assemble the tamales. It’s a lot easier to work with a cold filling because it holds its shape and won’t run out the ends of the tamal.
  • Drain wet filling. If the filling is overly wet, it can make the dough soggy and will run out of the assembled tamales.  If working with a wet filling, like one that has been braised and shredded in the crockpot, place the filling in a strainer and drain off most of the excess liquid. You want the filling saucy enough to coat the protein, but not juicy/watery.
  • Masa harina: Maseca is the most popular brand and is what I use and recommend.  You can find it in most grocery stores or here’s where you can order it online. (Don’t grab the brown bag that says “for tamales,” or any that say “masa preparada,” – stick with the white bag.  These other doughs contain lard and baking powder which would alter the recipe.)
  • Measure the masa harina correctly.  If you own a food scale,it’s best to weigh the masa harina versus using a measuring cup to ensure the most accurate amount. Using measuring cups can compact the masa harina significantly.  If you don’t own a food scale, then stir the masa harina around, spoon it into your measuring cup, and level it off with the back of a knife.  Do not scoop it out of the container directly with the measuring cup.
  • Storage: Leftovers will last up to five days in the fridge, depending on the freshness of your ingredients. After that, they’ll need to be frozen.
  • To freeze: Let the steamed tamales cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container.  Freeze for up to 3 months.  When ready to eat, thaw overnight in the fridge or reheat from frozen per instructions below.

How to Reheat Tamales

  • Microwave: Cover one or two tamales (husk and all) with a damp paper towel and cook for 1 minute, then at 15-second intervals until warmed through.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes if frozen, or until warmed through.
  • Steamer: Re-steam the tamales in the steamer basket for 15 minutes or until warmed through.  They will require longer if frozen.
  • Oven: Wrap the tamales in foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes if thawed and 20-25 minutes if frozen, or until warmed through.

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2 Comments

  1. Elva Villalva Duenas says

    This recipe looks delicious, unfortunately in my country, we do not have MASECA, can I replace it with regular corn flour? Please let me know, the rest of the ingredients we do have.

    • Jen says

      Hi Elva, you can use any brand masa harina, but make sure it is truly corn flour, and not American-style corn flour. Masa harina is essentially dehydrated, powdered corn dough that just needs water to reconstitute into a pliable dough again. Corn flour or cornmeal, on the other hand, are just plain, untreated ground corn that will not rehydrate into a dough. You can check the ingredients to make sure. The ingredient label should always include both corn (maíz) and hydrated lime, meaning it’s made with nixtamalized corn. You can also look for the words “nixtamel” or “nixtamalized” on the package.

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