How to Make Tamales

Steps for making authentic Mexican tamales


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If you are new to the art of making tamales, you may wonder how to get started. First, you need to make sure you have all of the ingredients and tools and then you can learn how to wrap and steam them. They are delicious any time of year, but since people tend to make them in huge batches, they are primarily made during the winter holidays. Making a batch of tamales is a great excuse to gather in the kitchen with friends and family for a day of cooking.

How Long Does It Take to Make Tamales?

Making tamales is not difficult, but it is a very time-consuming process. It can take a whole day to prepare a large batch of tamales from start to finish, so clear your calendar if that is your plan. Different steps take time. These include making the masa (dough) and making the filling, which often includes cooked meat and/or vegetables, and then steaming the tamales. A further step is to package them for freezing for future enjoyment. To break up the task, you can prepare the dough and fillings on one day and wrap and steam them on the next.

Assemble the Ingredients and Equipment

It is important to make sure you have or can get all of the ingredients you will need to make tamales. You don't want to get started on this process and then have to run to the store or specialty market. This is even more of a challenge if you've included tamale-making as part of your holiday celebration and stores are closed.

First, read through the recipe for dough for tamales and make a list of what you will need to get. Typically, this includes masa harina and pork lard, which may be items that can be harder to find, especially if they are sold out during the tamale-making holiday season.

Then, choose a filling and add those ingredients to your list along with corn husks to steam them in. Typical fillings include shredded beef, shredded or cubed chicken, beans, Mexican cheese, and chiles. You'll want to ensure you can get the types of chiles desired.

You will also need a large steamer in which to cook the tamales. This can be a special tamale steamer or an extra-large pot with a steaming basket in the bottom. Once you have the steamer and the ingredients ready you can begin making the tamales.

Make and Steam Your Tamales

  1. Start by preparing the dough.
  2. Next, prepare the tamale fillings that you are going to use.
  3. Then, prepare the corn husks and wrap the tamales, which can be a fun activity for your family and guests.
  4. Steam them in a large steamer for 90 minutes.

Storing Your Tamales

Unless you have a very large gathering, it's likely that you plan to store some of your tamales to enjoy later. They will keep well in the refrigerator for a few days or you can freeze them for up to three months in an airtight container

How to Serve Tamales

Traditionally, a tamale is served plain, as is. Just pull off the corn husk and enjoy. Or you can place them on a plate and top them with a sauce. For example, green chile sauce for pork or chicken, or a red chile sauce for beef. Sometimes tamales are served in the corn husks, and sometimes they are opened and removed for you.