Make the Tamales


Tamale Recipe

Tamale History

Why Make Tamales

The Tamale Queen

Serving Tamales




Tamales Recipe

(III) Make the Tamales

Hot Tamale Ingredients | Cook Tamale Meat | Make Tamales

OK, you gathered the equipment, you went shopping with the My Hot Tamale shopping list, you cooked the meat, and you saved the broth.  You are now ready to become part of an elite group of cooks who have the knowledge, the tools, and the talent to make tamales.

Now, for those of you who did not follow the part II instructions which clearly said to save the meat broth (you know who you are). . . your tamales are not going to taste as good as the people who did follow the instructions, and did save the broth.  You will see that the instructions were clearly marked In Color to help you remember.  Now, I know you are out there, you people who did not save the broth.  There is not much I can do for you at this point.  OK, if you forgot to save the broth, you can use canned chicken broth in the recipe below, but next time Please Save the Broth! You will be glad you did.

OK, enough of the chit chat.  This is where we get down to serious cooking. Today is Tamale Day!

A) Make the Masa Dough Mix:

Masa Flour Start with  2 lbs. of the Masa flour. It comes in a 4 lb bag, use half of it. Now, skim the fat off the broth that you saved from the Pork and Chicken we made earlier.  Throw the fat away, and save the broth. Warm the broth from the pork and chicken up.  Don't get it hot, just nice and warm.

Now put the 2 lbs. of Masa in a large bowl.  Add the following dry spices to the Masa:

3 Tablespoons paprika
3 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
3 Tablespoons Gibhardts Chili Powder
3 Tablespoons garlic powder

Mix the spices above into the Masa until it is completely incorporated. Mix well, as you don't want a clump of spices in a tamale.

Now add:

 2 cups of Corn Oil

to the Masa and Spice mixture. After adding the oil,  begin to slowly work in 2 quarts of the warm chicken/pork broth, about a cup at a time. Work the mixture with your hands to make dough. Slowly add the warm broth one cup at a time as you continue to work the mixture with your hands.  If it is too dry, add enough warm water to get it right for spreading. It should be about like thick peanut butter. If it is too thin add more Masa, if it is too thick, add more broth or warm water. Thick peanut butter is the consistency you are trying for. 

B) Prepare the Corn Shucks

Soak the shucks in a sink full of warm water for about 2 hours. You will need to carefully separate them when they get soft.  Try to not tear or damage the corn shucks.  It is easier to make the tamales if the shucks are in one piece.

C) Build the Tamales

After the corn shucks are soft, take some of them out of the water, shake the water off, lay them on the counter on a towel. For clarity now, we will present a series of pictures with the instructions so you can see just how the tamale is built (Click on Picture Thumbnails for an enlarged View):

Pick up a shuck,  lay it across the palm of your hand with the small end toward your fingers. scoop up about 1/2 c of the Masa dough with a spatula,  and then smear it on the shuck.

Cover about left 2/3 of the shuck with Masa, leave 1/3 on the right uncovered. Similarly, cover the bottom 2/3 of the shuck, and leave the top 1/3 uncovered.  The picture will help you see what we are trying for here.  You need to leave the top and side uncovered so you can fold it up later. Now, go to the next shuck and do the same, laying them out on the counter as you put the masa on them. I like to do 5 or ten at a time like this. 

When you have covered 5 to 10 of the shucks with Masa, it is time to add the meat. Take about 1 tablespoon of meat, and lay it on the masa about 1 in. from the left edge.

Starting on the left side (the side where the Masa dough goes all the way to the edge), roll the tamale all the way to the right edge. Now, fold the top of the shuck over like an envelope and lay tamale on the counter with the fold on the under side. Roll the next one the same until all your shucks with masa on them are rolled.

Now, get more shucks and put masa on them the same way. Then roll the meat in them. Keep doing this until all the tamales are built. You will have about 4 dozen or more.

D) Cook the Tamales

To cook the tamales, You need a very large pot that has something in the bottom to keep the tamales out of the water while they steam (the steamer we use is pictured on the tamale ingredients page) . Add about 3 pints of water to the pot, then start stacking the tamales upright until full. The envelope end of the tamale will be on the bottom, the open end of the tamale should be on top, as pictured at left.  Continue to fill the pot.  The tamales need to pack tight enough that they do not fall over and begin to unfold.

Cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low and cook for at least 2 hours. Check water several times and add more if it is getting low, you DONíT want to boil it dry. Please note . . . those of you who forgot to save the chicken broth will probably be the ones to boil the tamales dry.  My Hot TamaleI think you know who you are. Anyway, for the rest of you,  Add more water as you need to. When done, take one tamale out and leave it on the counter for about 5 minutes to test. Unwrap it and it should be firm, with no raw masa. When done, remove all the tamales and let them cool on the counter, then put in bags for the freezer, 6 to a bag. If you have one of those Vacuum sealers, those are ideal.  You can save the tamales in the freezer indefinitely if they are vacuum sealed.  If you use zip lock bags, they will stay for up to a year in the freezer.

Congratulations! You are now part of the few, the proud, the tamale cooks.  You will notice that your life will be instantly different.  You will be popular.  People will invite you over.  As you walk up to a crowd of people, you will hear someone say, "Isn't that the Tamale cook?" Yes folks, your simple life will never be the same.  You have arrived.  Please remember to be kind to the little people.





This site is dedicated to the Loving Memory of Goya Pina, who taught me how to cook tamales, and many other delicious Mexican Food dishes.  She died in 1998 at the age of 78.

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