Tamales are a Mexican food favorite that also doubles as a great freezer meal.

Becky Low has simplified this recipe and shares it for the home cook.

Savory Tamales
12-14 corn husks, found in hispanic aisle of grocery store

Filling of your choice (see below)

2⁄3 cup shortening or lard

1 1⁄3 cups beef or chicken broth or juice left over from cooking meat

2 cups masa harina, found in baking or hispanic aisle of store

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon garlic salt, to taste

1 teaspoon chili powder, to taste

sour cream

shredded cheese

salsa or enchilada sauce

Place corn husks in a large bowl or pan and cover with hot water. If needed place a plate on top of husks to keep immersed under the water; soak until husks are soft and pliable, about 30 minutes. Prepare filling and set aside. Beat shortening with 2-3 tablespoons broth or reserved cooking liquid from meat; beat until fluffy. Whisk together masa, baking powder, garlic salt and chili powder; stir into shortening. Add remaining broth and mix well. Dough should be spongy, similar in texture to a soft cookie dough or thick mashed potatoes. Add additional broth or masa to create desired consistency.

Drain husks. Lay one husk lengthwise on a paper towel and pat dry. Place approximately 2-tablespoons masa dough on husk and pat or spread evenly into approximately 3×4 inch rectangle (rectangle should be about 1⁄4-inch from top wide end and 1⁄4-inch from one side of the husk). Place 2-4 tablespoons filling down the middle of the masa rectangle. Roll the husk so masa dough surrounds the filling; roll excess husk around the tamale and fold tail up. HINT: to keep tail in place – tear a strip from the overlapping edge of the husk; fold narrow tail up and tie in place using the strip of husk.

Bring to a boil 1-inch water in a deep pan with a steamer basket or raised rack. Pan should be deep enough to hold about 1-inch simmering water and the tamales standing upright when the lid is on the pan. Use tamale steamer, canning kettle, pasta pot, etc. A steamer may be created using a rack placed on a trivet or jar rings or small empty cans placed on the in the bottom of the pan under the rack. Stand tamales on folded ends in steamer basket (may snugly pack tamales into steamer basket). Bring water to a boil, cover pan, reduce heat to low and maintain a low simmer for 1 to 1 1⁄2 hours or until masa dough is firm and pulls away from corn husks. Watch that pan does not simmer dry; if additional water is needed be careful not to pour water into the tops of the tamales.

Enjoy – best when warm and fresh, remove tamale from corn husk; serve with sour cream topped with shredded cheese and salsa or warm enchilada sauce.

Leftovers – place leftover tamales, still in the husk, in plastic bag or plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 3-4 days or freeze for up to a month. To reheat, remove from bag or plastic wrap and steam 15-20 minutes.


The recipe looks long and involved but it really is a simple finger food worthy to serve at a celebrations and feasts and may be prepared ahead. Consider making a double batch and freeze for later. Recipe makes approximately 12-14 tamales.
Meat and Bean Filling

1 1⁄4-pound ground beef, pork or country sausage; brown with chopped onion and garlic, season with 2-4 tablespoons Taco seasoning mix (follow seasoning mix directions).

3⁄4-pound ground meat; brown with garlic and onion; add 1 can (15-oz) black or pinto beans (undrained), cook until moisture is evaporated. Season to taste.

1 1⁄4- pound roast or ground pork, mix with 4-oz can diced green chilies.

1 1⁄4- pound beef roast, pork loin, chicken; 1 onion cut in half, 2-3 cloves garlic; cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover with a lid and simmer about 2 hours or until pull apart tender; shred and season to taste (also great prepared in a crockpot).

2 to 3 pound roast beef or pork; place in metal pan in oven set at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, turn 2-3 times during browning process; add 1⁄3-cup hot water and 1-envelope beefy onion dry soup mix; reduce heat to 250 degrees; cover and roast 3-5 hours; shred and mix with can of chopped green chilies; spoon part of the cooking liquid over shredded meat to moisten (strain out onions and use remaining cooking liquid as part of the liquid for the tamales). NOTE: not all meat will be used, either increase Masa recipe or set excess aside for other uses.
Sweet Apple Tamale
1 1⁄3 cups milk

1⁄2 cup butter, softened

2 cups masa

1⁄2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 can (22-oz) apple pie filling (or about 2 1⁄2 cups) caramel sauce ice cream

Follow directions for savory tamales. Adjust milk or masa as need to create a spongy dough.

Steam as directed above. Serve warm, drizzled with warm caramel sauce and ice cream.

Add comment