Introduction: Tamales

Okay, I looked around and haven't seen a tamale instructable up here so I thought I would put mine up. You should all feel pretty lucky, this is a secret family recipe for tamales.......not my family, but somebody's.
Anyway, I figure the instructable community is small enough so only a few people will see it.

Step 1: Ingredients and Supplies

Here is a list of ingredients and supplies needed to make tamales. I've added links to some things so you can see what they are but I don't ever buy any of this online.

-Masa - Tamale Dough (I use the maseca brand for tamales) Note: Masa flour is not the same as cornmeal.

I also use the recipe that is on the maseca bag, which is:
-2 cups masa flour
-2 cups warm water or broth (I use the water I cooked the meat in)
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-2/3 cups lard or shortening ( I recommend lard)

This recipe makes about 16 tamales. I triple this recipe for the meat and cheese tamales.

If you cannot find Maseca brand masa, just make sure its masa for tamales. Some Mexican grocery stores have premade masa you can purchase.

-You will need a very large bowl for the tamale dough, if you triple the recipe.

-You will need corn husks. Have a couple packs of husks. At least 16oz. Its better to have more than not enough.

-You're also going to need a tamale steamer It doesn't have to be a large steamer like this. Anything that steams will work. A pasta pot, bamboo steamer, etc... A large pot with a wire rack raised at the bottom will also work.

These are the ingredients for each of the 3 types of tamale I make.

Meat Filling:
-3lbs of beef, chicken, or pork
-8 Chile California
-3 garlic cloves
-1 tsp cumin
-1 thick slice of an onion
-10 medium tomatoes (i use roma, but any will do)

Cheese Filling:
Sliced Pickled jalapenos (26oz)
Monterey Jack cheese

Sweet tamales:
1lb can crushed pineapple with juice
red food coloring

Step 2: Before You Start

Take your corn husks and soak then in warm water to soften. They are going to float so I weigh them down with something.

Any husks you don't use can be dried and used another time. Dry them in a warm oven, don't let them stay wet too long, they will mold.

Step 3: Cooking the Meat.

Start with 3lbs of beef, chicken, or pork. I usually use pork but have also done chicken. Cut the meat into several large chunks.

Add the meat to a pot and cover with water. Add a few tablespoons of salt and 3-5 cloves of garlic to the water. Boil the meat until falling apart, about an hour.

Step 4: Making the Sauce.

While the meat is boiling, start the sauce.

In a large frying pan, saute 1 thick slice of an onion in a little oil until brown. Add about 10 medium tomatoes cut into large chunks and let them simmer until everything has dissolved into a sauce. About 30 minutes.

While the tomatoes simmer,  boil the 8 chile Californias until soft. This wont take very long.
Cut open the chiles and remove the seeds from the inside.
Put the chiles into a blender with 3 cloves of garlic and 1tsp. cumin.
Blend until liquid, this is going to be thick. Add water until you get a nice sauce. Set aside.
If you like a little spice in your food, boil a couple dry chiles (spicy ones) with the chile California's

When the tomato and onions have dissolved, add the blended chile sauce from the blender to the tomato and add salt to taste. Let the chile sauce boil until thick, but not too thick. Don't worry, you can always add more water.

Step 5: Meat Filling

To check if the meat is done just pull out a piece, (careful, its HOT) If the meat just falls apart, you're done.


Shred the meat. I use 2 forks and just pull it apart.

Add the shredded meat to the chile sauce from the last step. Mix well.
Put the meat filling in a bowl, cover, and set aside.

Step 6: Preparing the Masa

Use the recipe from the bag.

-2 cups masa
-2 cups warm water or broth (I use the water I cooked the meat in)
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-2/3 cups lard or shortening ( I recommend lard)

I triple this recipe.
-6 cups masa
-6 cups warm broth
-3 tsp baking powder
-1 1/2 tsp salt
-2 cups lard

I don't quite follow the mixing recipe on the bag. I mix the masa with the baking powder and salt. Then I add the hot broth and mix until combined. I heat up the lard in the microwave till soft but not completely melted. Add lard to masa and mix well. I test the consistency of the masa by sticking 2 fingers in it. The masa should not stick to your fingers.
Taste the masa too. Add salt until it's almost too salty. The steaming process will strip a lot of the salt away at the end.
You are now ready to fill the tamales.

Step 7: Filling the Tamales

You remembered to soak the corn husks right? Go get those corn husks.

Start with the larger husks. Put a layer of masa to one side of the husk. Not too thick, remember the thickness of the masa will be double after you fold them.
Add a strip of filling to the edge of the masa.
Fold the tamale so the two edges of masa meet.
Now fold  the excess corn husk around the tamale again.
Next, find the bottom of the tamale and fold the bottom part of the husk up.
Pinch the bottom edge of the tamale and set aside.
If you find that you're running out  of large husks, you can double up 2 smaller husks, just make sure that the tamale is sufficiently wrapped.

Make sure you store the tamales upright so the filling doesn't fall out.

There are other ways to wrap tamales. You can tie them with strips of husk or fold them at both ends, but this way is simple and efficient.

Step 8: Cheese Tamales

For the cheese tamales, add a layer of masa in a husk like the meat ones.

Lay a slice of pickled jalapeno and a slice of monterey jack cheese. Wrap as usual.

Are jalapenos too hot for you? Try a poblano pepper. Slice it up length wise and saute it in oil with a little salt and garlic until its soft. Use as you would the jalapeno.

Step 9: Sweet Tamales

You've probably never heard of a dessert tamale. I never had, but they are quite tasty.

For the sweet tamales, make a fresh, single batch of masa dough. The salt has been omitted and you use water instead of the meat broth.

-2 cups masa flour
-2 cups warm water
-1 tsp baking powder
-2/3 cups lard or shortening

Mix the masa and begin adding sugar, 1/4 cup at a time until its a good sweetness to you. Yes, its okay to taste it. When it is sweet enough, add some more sugar. You want the masa to be a little too sweet because the steaming process will wash out some of the sugar.

Add a few drop of red food coloring until the masa turns pink. This is totally optional but it will help distinguish between the other tamales once they are filled.

Add 1lb can of crushed pineapple with juice to the masa, mix
Add a handful of raisins, as many as you want, or omit altogether.

This masa is now ready to be filled into corn husks.

Since all the filling is in the dough, you will add more to the husk.

Because the filling is not as thick as the other tamales, it tends to sink to the bottom of the husk. A couple ways to keep this from happening is to tie the husk so it can't expand. You can also wedge them together in the pot so there's no room to move.

Step 10: Steaming the Tamales

Your newly made tamales now need to be steamed. If you have a large steamer, you can steam them all at once. If not, you can steam them in groups.
Start by placing the meat and cheese tamales at the bottom. Make sure they are standing up. Start by lining them up around the edge of the pot. Angle them so they wont fall over.
If you are steaming sweet tamales as well, make sure that they are on top of the meat and cheese ones, otherwise you will get meat and cheese dripping into them. Its okay to stack them in layers.
Remember, If you don't have a steamer you can improvise by using a large pot with a wire rack raised at the bottom.

Cover the pot and steam the tamales for 2 hours.
Make sure the water at the bottom of the pot doesn't dry out. If it does, the bottom will start to burn and you will know.

Step 11: The Finished Product

Enjoy your tamales. Be careful, they are hot right out of the steamer.

Tamales freeze very well. To reheat, you can throw it on a frying pan, steam again, or just microwave.