How to Make Tamales

A traditional party type food for festivals and weddings in Mexico is tamales. They’re also served as part of the everyday meal. Like any other meal they’re prepared differently from region to region and from cook to cook. In some cases they are the main dish, and other times they are an appetizer. Here’s a simple recipe for a delicious meal that your family will love to eat!

Standard ingredients:

  • 1 16 oz. bag dried corn husks
  • 1 doz. peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 cups corn oil
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 quarts broth
  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbs. chili powder
  • 3 tbs. garlic powder
  • 3 tbs. paprika
  • 4 lbs. bag Masa harina (corn tortilla flour)
  • 4 to 5 lbs. boneless meat, fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • Water


1. Cover the dry corn husks in hot water; soak thoroughly for approximately 30 minutes

2. Prepare the dough using your hands. Start with the dry ingredients including 1/2 the bag of flour, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, and salt. Once they’re mixed together add all the corn oil at once and continue working in thoroughly with your hands.

3. Take the softened husks from the water, drain, and dry carefully. Add 2 tbs. of dough to each husk, and spread into a rectangle that runs along one side.

4. Add 1 tbsp. of filling down the center of the dough. Fillings can be sweet corn, fruit, slow-cooked beef, pulled pork, or anything else you desire. Cook your filling using the remaining ingredients listed above, or a variation of your own.

5. To wrap the tamales, fold the husk’s long end so it overlaps the dough a little. Then, roll the rest of the husk so the dough and filling are completely covered.

6. Tie each cornhusk using small strips of soaked cornhusk or cotton string.

7. Cook them in a steamer in one single layer. Do not pack them in the steamer too tightly. Keep checking on them, but this should take between 15 to 20 minutes.

This dish can be made ahead of time, and steamed later. You can easily freeze them for later use. Thaw them in your refrigerator the night before you are ready to steam them. Once the tamales are completely thawed out place them in the steamer until they are heated all the way through. As with fresh tamales keep checking there is enough water, the steaming process could take between 15 and 20 minutes.

Tamales have a rich history, they are very popular, and are very nutritious.