Homemade Tamales

October 27, 2012

Stephanie blogs at  The Leaky Sippy, about her life as a mom to 4 with one being just freshly baked. 🙂 I have known her online forever, I honestly can’t even remember how we met but now we’re Facebook friends and I keep waiting for the day she makes it to a conference so I can squeeze her. Enjoy her amazing homemade tamale recipe.


Last weekend we made tamales. I’m sure you know, if you follow me on twitter, I was pretty excited about it! We all LOVE tamales here! The thing is, since they are pretty time consuming to make, we only do it a couple times a year and just double{or TRIPLE} the recipe. They freeze beautifully and make for quick meals on busy nights. Plus, like I said, I LOVE them! The key to the whole thing is to make it a ‘tamale party’! Invite friends or family to come help roll the tamales. It makes it way more fun & helps spread out the workload of rolling 100+ tamales.

And, if you’re really nice, send some home with the helpers! My husband is the nice one here.

for the meat filling

  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 1/4 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp freshly toasted & ground cumin seed
  • 2 lbs beef chuck roast, untrimmed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 dried New Mexico chile pepper (rehydrate in water)

for the wrappers

  • 4-5 dozen dried corn husks

for the cornmeal dough

  • 2 lbs yellow cornmeal, about 6 cups
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 cup lard
  • 3-4 cups reserved cooking liquid

In a small bowl, combine the chile powder, kosher salt, paprika, smoked paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper & cumin. Divide the mixture in half & reserve 1 half for later.

Cut the chuck roast into 6 even pieces & place in a 6-8 qt saucepan. Add half the spice mixture & enough water to completely cover the meat. Set over high heat, cover & bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low & simmer until the meat is tender & falling apart, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Remove the meat from the cooking liquid to a cutting board. leave the cooking liquid in the pot. both meat & liquid need to cool slightly before making the dough & handling.

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Remove any large pieces of fat & shred the meat into small pieces, pulling apart with your hands or using 2 forks.

Place a saucepan over medium heat & add the vegetable oil. once simmering, add the onion & cook, stirring occasionally until they are semi-translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, chopped pepper and the remaining half of the spice mixture & continue to cook for another minute. Add the meat & cook until heated through about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

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For the wrappers

While the meat is cooking, place the husks in a large bowl and submerge them in hot water. Soak the husks until they are soft & pliable. It takes at least 45 minutes.

For the dough

Place the cornmeal, salt & baking powder in a mixing bowl & combine. Add the lard & using your hands, knead together until the lard is well incorporated in to the dry mixture. gradually add enough of the reserved cooking liquid to create a dough that is thick like mashed potatoes. The dough should be moist but not wet. cover the bowl with a damp towel & set it aside.

To assemble the tamales

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Remove a corn husk from the water & pat dry.

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Spread about 2 tbsp of the dough in an even layer across the wide end of the husk to within 1/2 inch of the edges.

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Spoon about 1 tbsp of the meat in a line down the center of the dough.

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Roll the husk so the dough surrounds the meat, then fold the bottom under to finish creating the tamale.

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Repeat this until all the meat & dough is used.

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Then tie tamales around the center in groups of 5-6 with kitchen twine.

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To cook

Stand the tamales upright on the folded ends, tightly packed together in the same saucepan used to cook the meat. Add the reserved broth from making the dough & any additional water so the liquid comes to 1 in below the tops of the tamales.

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Try not to pour the broth directly into the tops of the tamales. Cover, place over high heat and bring to a boil. Remove the lid, reduce the heat to low, to maintain a low simmer & cook until the dough is firm & pulls away from the husks, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

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To freeze

Leave the husk on and wrap tightly in plastic wrap & then foil.

It takes about 4 hours when all is said and done. but, so VERY worth it! Like I said, make it a party! This isn’t a difficult recipe, it’s just time consuming. And, once you get the hang of rolling the tamales, it’s pretty easy.

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This was our dessert. It’s papaya with a squeeze of lime on top. Let’s just say papaya is an acquired taste.

Stephanie blogs about her life on The Leaky Sippy. You can find recipes, product reviews and everything in between. Catch her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.


  • Katie

    October 27, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Tamales are my hands down favorite Mexican food. This is SO pinned!

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