Quick and Easy Cheese Tamales


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  • Total: 85 mins
  • Prep: 45 mins
  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Yield: 16 tamales (16 servings)

Tamales can be labor-intensive to prepare, but most of the work goes into the filling. These cheese tamales are made with salsa and grated cheese, so all you have to make is the corn masa or dough. Then it's just a matter of assembling the tamales and steaming them.

Tamales are perfect for breakfast or lunch—they can be reheated quickly in the microwave. Fill them with whatever takes your fancy—BBQ, chicken salad, leftover roast chicken—anything at all. You can even make little appetizer-size tamales.


  • 4 cups masa harina cornmeal (for tamales)
  • 1 cup chili con queso (homemade or jarred)
  • 2 to 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 ounces cream cheese (softened)
  • 6 tablespoons lard (or vegetable shortening)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 1 cup pepper jack cheese (grated)
  • 1 1/2 cups black bean, corn, and roasted pepper salsa (jarred or homemade or salsa of your choice)
  • Dash salt (to taste)
  • Dash pepper (to taste)
  • 1 package/6 ounces dried corn husks (or frozen banana leaves)

Steps to Make It

  1. Thaw the banana leaves. If using corn husks, soak them in very hot water for an hour to soften them.

  2. Make the masa: in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the lard or vegetable shortening, cream cheese, and chili con queso until light and fluffy.  

  3. In a separate bowl, mix the masa harina with 2 cups of chicken stock.  

  4. Add half of the masa harina to the mixer and beat well.

  5. Add the remaining masa along with additional chicken stock as needed, beating well, until mixture resembles a thick cake batter.  

  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

  7. For the filling, stir together the grated cheeses with the black bean salsa.

  8. Rinse and dry the banana leaves, and cut them into rectangles about 8 x 10 inches in size (for medium tamales).

  9. Lay a banana leaf rectangle or corn husk on a flat surface.

  10. Place about 1/4 cup of the masa in the middle, and spread into a rectangle about 2 inches by 4 inches. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of the rectangle. 

  11. Fold the sides of the banana leaf (or corn husk) in over the filling, closing the masa over the cheese filling, fold up the bottom half over the filling, then fold the top half down and roll tamale until well wrapped.

  12. Tie tamale with a piece of kitchen string or a strip of banana leaf to secure it. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

  13. Steam the tamales: Bring 1-2 inches of water to boil in a steamer pot, or in a large pot with a colander or steaming basket set into it.

  14. Fill the colander or basket with one layer of tamales (you may have to steam them in batches). The tamales should be above the water; they are cooked by the steam only.

  15. Cover the tamales with a dish towel and the pot lid and steam them for 30-40 minutes, being careful to add water to the pot when necessary.

  16. Remove tamales and serve warm. Tamales can be reheated in the microwave. They can also be frozen—reheat them by steaming them for 15-20 minutes, or by heating them in the oven, wrapped in foil.