Traditionally, making tamales is not a solo activity. It is an event. It is a tamalada. Especially around Christmas, family and friends gather to assemble enough tamales for everyone to take some home to enjoy right away or to freeze. Have we mentioned that tamales freeze well?
You don't have to make a gigantic batch to enjoy homemade tamales. We created recipes that make about two dozen tamales each—a batch large enough to be worth the trouble. These recipes can easily be doubled (or tripled, or quadrupled...) if you're fortunate enough to gather a large group to assemble.
For an easier day, we recommend making the fillings and masa dough ahead of time and having all your materials and ingredients out and ready to use, assembly-style.
Our Favorite Tamales Recipes
We have several tamales recipes on The Spruce Eats, but we're especially proud of these four. The pork tamales include a masa from senior editor Adriana Velez's paternal grandmother, who was from Guadalajara, and a filling by Mexico City-based contributor Ubish Yaren. And Atlanta-based chef Maricela Vega created our umami-rich vegan mushroom tamales and our hibiscus jam-filled sweet tamales.
Salsa Roja Pork Tamales: Featuring a lard-based masa dough and pork cooked in a dried guajillo sauce. Swap in any other dried chiles, if you prefer.
Salsa Verde Chicken Tamales: Chicken in a tangy, tomatillo-based salsa.
Vegan Mushroom Tamales: Toothsome mushrooms in a rich, red sauce enveloped in a light, fluffy vegan masa dough.
Tamales Dulces: Brilliant hibiscus jam fills this sweeter take on the tamale. We include other dessert filling options as well.
Supplies for Tamales
You may already have everything you need to make tamales. Check out our list just to be sure you have these items.
- An electric hand mixer for the dough would be handy; a stand mixer will also do the job.
- You'll also need a large steamer; if you don't have one, you can rig one by inserting a steam basket into a large stockpot. Tamales steam best when standing on end, so think vertically.
- Freezer bags will come in handy when you're done. We recommend freezing tamales in dinner-sized batches.
- Ojas, or corn husks, can be found at Latin American Markets or in the international section of many grocery stores.
- This is where you'll also find dried chiles; look for the ones that are a little pliable rather than brittle, and definitely avoid the dusty ones.
- You can pick up Maseca-brand masa harina for your dough at most grocery stores, but we're partial to Masienda and Bob's Red Mill.
- You'll want plenty of table space so you can set out your corn husks, masa dough, and filling in an assembly line. If you can score some Mexican oilcloth to line the tables, even better.
- Some people like using culinary gloves to spread the dough by hand.
- The vegan tamale dough recipes call for vegetable oil; olive oil is also a delicious option.
- And if you're out of vanilla extract for the dessert tamales, we have a list of our favorites.
Salsa and Condiments
Eaten fresh, these tamales require no embellishment. But maybe you're feeling extra? We've got recipes for salsas and other condiments of all kinds. Let your own palate guide you.
- Chunky Homemade
- Salsa Verde
- Guacamole Salsa
- Salsa Macha
- Salsa Ranchera
- What Is Cotija Cheese?
- What Is Queso Blanco?
A Beverage, Perhaps?
We hope the participants at your tamalada span generations, from kids to abuelos. In that case, you'll want a variety of drinks to enjoy with the making and the eating.
- Exactly no one is ever sad to see a row of Jarritos sodas of every flavor.
- Agua fresca is another nonalcoholic option that's always welcome.
- If you're having a tamalada around the holidays, ponche navideño is a lovely treat for the grownups.
- Does a margarita go with tamales? If you think they do, we have a margarita recipe for you.
Order some tacos for a snack break if your tamalada runs through a mealtime. Then, put on your favorite tunes, keep it all informal, and enjoy the day with your favorite people.