Skip to Content

Tamales Recipe

I’ve included some videos below for those who prefer to watch rather than read.


Tamales are a delectable treat that has been enjoyed in Mesoamerican cultures for centuries. These tasty parcels are made from masa dough, typically filled with savory ingredients like meats, cheeses, or vegetables, and then steamed in corn husks, creating a meal that’s both flavorful and traditional.

Discover how you can make authentic tamales at home, from preparing the masa to wrapping them in corn husks and steaming them to perfection. Whether your preference is pork, chicken, or vegetarian fillings, mastering this dish will bring a touch of Mexican heritage to your kitchen.

Get ready to impress your family and friends with your tamale-making skills. With a little effort and some simple ingredients, you can create this delicious, wrapped delight that’s perfect for any occasion.

Exact Ingredients (+ Possible Substitutes)

To make tamales, you’ll need a few specific ingredients, but there are some substitutes you can use if necessary.

Masa Dough:

  • Masa Harina: 2 2/3 cups
    • Substitute: Cornmeal (texture might change)
  • Chicken Stock: 1 1/2 cups
    • Substitute: Vegetable stock


  • Lard: 9 ounces, chilled
    • Substitute: Shortening or butter

Leavening and Flavor:

  • Baking Powder: 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Salt: to taste

Corn Husks:

  • Dried Corn Husks: 6 ounces
    • Substitute: Parchment paper (if corn husks are unavailable)


  • Shredded Chicken, Pork Carnitas, Cheese & Jalapeño:
    • Substitute: Beans, beef, or veggies

Spices and Seasonings for Pork:

  • Kosher Salt: 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Red Chile Sauce: to taste
  • Bay Leaf: 1 leaf

Initial Preparation:

  • Hot Water: for soaking corn husks

To prepare the tamales, you’ll need to soak the corn husks, mix the masa dough, and choose your desired fillings. This recipe is versatile, allowing you to adjust it based on what you have on hand.


To make tamales, start by soaking corn husks in warm water for about 1 hour. This will make them pliable and easy to work with.

In a bowl, mix masa harina, baking powder, salt, and cumin. In a separate bowl, beat lard with a bit of broth until fluffy. Combine the dry ingredients with the lard mixture, adding more broth until the dough has a spreadable consistency.

Prepare your desired fillings (e.g., pork, chicken, cheese, and green chiles).

Take a soaked corn husk and spread a small amount of masa dough in the center. Add about a tablespoon of filling on top of the dough. Fold the sides of the husk in, then fold the bottom up.

Place the prepared tamales upright in a steamer basket inside a large pot with water, ensuring the water doesn’t touch the tamales. Cover and steam for about 1 hour.

When done, the masa should come away from the husk easily and feel firm.

Remove tamales from the husks before serving. You can drizzle them with salsa or sour cream for added flavor. Enjoy your homemade tamales!

Tips, Tricks & Storing

Tips & Tricks for Tamales

Use Fresh Ingredients
Always use the freshest ingredients you can find. Fresh masa and fillings will make your tamales tastier.

Corn Husks
Soak corn husks in warm water for at least 30 minutes. This will make them more flexible and easy to wrap.

Don’t overfill the tamales. About 2 tablespoons of filling is enough. This prevents them from bursting open while cooking.

Storing Cooked Tamales

  1. Cool Down: Let the tamales cool to room temperature before storing.
  2. Wrap: Wrap each tamale individually in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  3. Container: Place the wrapped tamales in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.
  4. Label: Write the date on the container to keep track of freshness.

Storing Uncooked Tamales

  1. Wrap: Wrap each tamale individually in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  2. Freeze: Place wrapped tamales in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze them.
  3. Store: Once frozen, transfer the tamales to a resealable plastic bag or airtight container.

Reheating Tamales


  1. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Place tamales in a steamer basket, making sure water doesn’t touch them.
  3. Cover and steam for 15-20 minutes.


  1. Wrap tamale in a damp paper towel.
  2. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes.

Storing Timeframes

Storage MethodTime to Keep
Refrigerator3-4 days
Freezer (Cooked)Up to 6 months
Freezer (Uncooked)Up to 6 months

Recipe Variations & Serving Suggestions

Tamales come in many flavors and styles. You can fill them with chicken, pork, beef, or vegetarian options like cheese and peppers. For a sweet twist, try sweet corn tamales with a little sugar and cinnamon.

Different regions have their own tamale styles. In some places, you might find tamales wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks. This can give them a unique flavor.

Here are some ideas for sides that go well with tamales:

  • Refried Beans: A classic choice, simple yet delicious.
  • Spanish Rice: Adds a nice texture and flavor.

For something fresh, think about:

  • Guacamole: Creamy and perfect for dipping.
  • Pico de Gallo: A fresh, tangy topping.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try:

  • Fried Avocado: Crunchy outside, soft inside.
  • Elote (Mexican Street Corn): Corn on the cob with cheese, chili, and lime.

Sauces can make a big difference too. Some popular options include:

  • Salsa Verde: A green sauce made with tomatillos.
  • Red Enchilada Sauce: Slightly spicy and rich in flavor.

You can also add a drink to your meal:

  • Horchata: A sweet rice-based drink.
  • Agua Fresca: Flavored water made with fruits.

Enjoy your tamales with these fun and tasty variations!

Benjamin Happy Muncher

Hi, I'm Benjamin. I love cooking, long walks, and my girlfriend! Here you’ll find simple and delicious recipes that you can make in 30 minutes or less.