How to Fold Tamales

Step-by-step guide to wrapping your own tamales

Mexican steamed tamales wrapped in dried corn husks, close-up
Harald Sund / Getty Images

Making Tamales is easy once you get the hang of it. Read through this guide to learn how to prepare the corn husks and assemble the tamale. It may take you a little longer to make the first few, but after you learn the ropes, you'll have a whole batch ready in no time.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: one hour

Here's How

  1. Sort the husks
    Go through the corn husks removing any debris. Separate the larger usable pieces from, the smaller bits and pieces. Save the smaller pieces for later.
  2. Soak the husks
    Place the husks into a large bowl. Cover husks with warm water. Set a heavy item (like a heavy bowl or mug) on top of the husks to keep them submerged.
  3. Prepare the husks
    Remove the husks from the water and pat dry. Place into a covered dish or a large plastic bag to prevent from drying out. Use only the larger and medium-sized husks for the tamales. The smaller ones can be used later for ties or patches. When looking at the husk, notice the shape. They have a narrow end, a broad end, and two long sides.
  4. Adding the dough
    Lay a husk on a flat surface. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of dough onto the husk, depending on the size of the husk. Use the back of a metal spoon to spread the dough onto the husk. When spreading the dough, leave a space of about 4 inches from the narrow end of the husk and about 2 inches from the other end. Spread the dough to the edge of one of the long sides and 2 inches away from the other long side. Try to keep the dough approximately 1/4 inch thick.
  1. Filling
    Spread a couple of spoonfuls of filling down the center of the dough, leaving at least one inch of dough around the sides.
  2. Folding
    Locate the long side with a 2-inch space with no masa. Fold that over, slightly overlapping the other side, so the edges of the dough meet. Wrap the extra husk around the back. Then fold the broad end over the top and then the longer narrow end over the broad end.
  3. Tying
    Create strips of husk by cutting or tearing 1/4 inch lengths off of some of the smaller or unusable husks. Use these to tie across the middle of the tamale to hold the flaps down.
  4. Steaming
    Set tamales upright in a steamer. You can buy large steamers made just for this purpose. You may have something else you can use to create the same effect. The key is to have a small amount of boiling water on the bottom of the pot and a colander or mesh of some sort to keep the tamales away from the water.
    Steam for about 90 minutes


  1. Do not let the water boil up completely. Add hot water to the pot as necessary but keep it away from the tamales.
  2. If some of the husks are too small or you have trouble closing them, use extra pieces of husk to wrap around the open areas.
  3. You can also use kitchen twine to tie off the tamales.

What You Need

  • Corn Husks
  • Large bowl or sink for soaking the corn husks
  • Container or plastic bag for keeping the husks from drying out
  • Tamale dough
  • Fillings
  • Steaming bucket or something you can steam them in