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  • Julie Marie

Tamales made E A S Y

This post was originally posted on my older blog back in 2016 and I decided to dust if off, edit it and repost it because its tamale season!!

To me, tamales are comfort food and its tamale season ALL year. But now that the weather is changing and the holidays are coming up, its tamale season for a lot of people.

Making tamales is one of the fondest memories I have of my life – they literally have been a part of EVERY holiday season since I can remember. We were/are the family that has tamales on Halloween, Día de los Muertos, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and sometimes, if we were/are lucky, on Easter.  They were always an “all hands on deck” event.

I am used to cranking out about 150-300 tamales so scaling back to ~60 was mentally harder than I thought; but it made for a tamale making that was SO easy and scalable. I made chicken one day and pork the next.

This post is long, but don’t be discouraged.

Here is what you will need:

Kitchen Necessities:

  1. KitchenAid or other stand mixer, if you have one (unfortunately, in my efforts to pay off my debt, I made the hard decision to sell my KitchenAid stand mixer BUT I'm determined to get myself another one soon!)

  2. Multiple sets of measuring cups/spoons

  3. Multiple mixing bowls, if you have them

  4. Spatula

  5. Deep bowl

  6. Plastic Wrap

  7. Cutting Boards

  8. Cooking oil, I used Olive Oil

  9. Forks

  10. Crockpot, if you have one

  11. Pot

  12. Pan

  13. Blender

  14. Peeler

  15. ~2 large potatoes

  16. Tamalera, if you have one (THANKS GRANDMA!), or a large deep pot with large plate (some people also call it a pasta pot lol)

  17. Bowl of Water

  18. Clean kitchen towel

*If you don’t have something listed above, you can always improvise*


  1. 2 teaspoons of salt

  2. 2 teaspoons of baking powder

  3. 2/3 cup of Lard (trust me, you don't want skip this, it makes the tamales THAT much better)

  4. 3 cups of Maseca

  5. 3-5 cups of fresh chicken broth (which you will make in the first steps below)

  6. Water – lots of water

  7. ~8 lbs of boneless skinless chicken, I prefer using chicken breast  

  8. 4 cloves

  9. 15 large cloves of garlic

  10. 1 tablespoon cumin seeds

  11. 1 pound of serrano peppers

  12. 1 pack of dried corn husks

  13. 1 small bag of dried Chile California

  14. 1 small bag of dried Chile Guajillo

  15. 1 jar of pre-canned tomatillos – my aunt cans tomatillos while they are in season. Maybe the equivalent of 3 lbs of tomatillo.

  16. 1 tablespoon pure cocoa powder

  17. ~10 lb pork butt

  18. More Salt and Pepper, to taste

Ransack your pantry before heading to the store. Some of this stuff you may already have in the pantry. The good thing is that most of this stuff (minus the protein) has a long shelf life.

*If you don’t like something listed above, then improvise! I am not here to tell you to follow this exactly – just use it as a starting guide if you want. You can also make them out of cheese and rajas de chile*

Ok, let’s get started :) 

Chicken Tamales

  1. Open the pack of corn husks and place in deep bowl with plenty of hot water. You need to ensure the husks are hydrated so they do not break while wrapping.

  2. Peel and slice the potatoes into French fries sized slices. Place in bowl of water

Cooking the Chicken – Part 1:

  1. Cut the chicken into strips – don’t worry about the size, it will not matter

  2. Place in pot with 1 garlic clove and 2 cloves and a dash of cumin seeds

  3. Add enough water to cover chicken 2 times – the more the merrier since you will then have more broth

  4. Place on high heat

Masa - Part 1 - wait about 30 minutes before starting to ensure broth has obtained some good flavor:

  1. Add the KitchenAid Flat Whip head to the stand mixer

  2. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 2/3 cup of Lard to mixing bowl that fits the stand mixer, or large bowl if you will mix by hand. Whip until you get a "fluffy" consistency

  3. Measure out 3 cups of Maseca and place in different bowl

  4. Measure out 3-5 cups of hot chicken broth

  5. Place the mixer on a low setting (~3-4)

  6. Add ¼ of the measured Maseca

  7. Add 2/3 cup of broth

  8. Continue until all the Maseca has been used, ending with broth

  9. Whip the masa on medium high (~5-7) for about 2 minutes. Use the spatula to scrape sides of mixer as needed.

  10. Here, you will need to decide if more broth is needed. Turn off the mixer and touch the masa. The masa should be warm, smooth and most importantly, it should not stick to your hand. If more broth is needed, add in slowly, ensuring all the broth is properly mixed before adding more broth. You do not want the masa to be runny.

  11. Once the masa is done, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Making the Green Salsa

  1. Wash the serrano peppers and cut the stems

  2. Add the peppers to a pot with lots of water, ~1 lb of pre-canned tomatillo (using fresh tomatillo may take longer), and 1 clove of garlic

  3. Bring to a boil.

  4. Take the peppers, tomatillo and garlic out of the pot and place in blender

  5. Add 1 cup of the water the items boiled in.

  6. Add a dash of salt and a pinch of cumin seeds

  7. Blend until a smooth consistency.

  8. This may need to be repeated until the desired amount of salsa is obtained.

  9. Place in a glass/ceramic jar/container. (NOTE: Fresh salsa should always be stored in glass rather than plastic, according to my Tia; therefore, I always use glass/ceramic.)

Making the Chicken - Part 2:

  1. Once the chicken has completely boiled, remove from pot and place on cutting board.

  2. Take 2 forks and shred the chicken, removing any pieces of fat that might have slipped by– be careful, it's HOT.

  3. Take a drizzle of Olive Oil and add it to a heated pan.

  4. Add the shredded chicken to the pan with ½ of the green salsa

  5. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth – this will ensure the chicken isn’t dry.

  6. Let that sizzle, stirring occasionally.

  7. Salt to taste.

Masa – Part 2 (if needed):

  1. Remove the masa from the refrigerator.

  2. Touch the masa, again, it should NOT stick to you.

  3. If the masa isn’t smooth and/or sticks, add more broth, ¼ of a cup at a time

Tamale Assembly/Cooking

  1. Take the tamalera and add enough water to fill the pot ~3-4 inches. If you are using a pot, place the plate upside down in the pot then add ~3-4 inches of water. This will ensure the tamales are not too submerged in water and most importantly that they don’t burn.

  2. Arrange your station to ensure everything is within reach. I placed the husks, bowl of water, masa, potatoes and chicken in a semicircle above the cutting board.

  3. Take a good size husk, combining 2 or 3 if needed.

  4. Wet your hands and scoop a ball of masa from the mixing bowl. Wet hands make it easier to work with the masa.

  5. Spread the masa on the husk, allowing ~2-3 inches from the bottom and ~2 inches from the top. If you want a lot of masa in the tamale, add a good amount and make it thick.

  6. Add some chicken to the tamale. I like mine with a lot of filling so I ensured they had plenty.

  7. Add a potato

  8. Fold one side of the tamale towards the other. I fold the left side first. I will use "left" for this side.

  9. Lift the left husk, ensuring the masa stays down.

  10. Take the right side (other side) of the tamale and fold it over the masa you folded down in 8h., husk and all

  11. Take the husk from the left side and wrap it all around the tamale. The tighter the better.

  12. There will be a little tail at the bottom, fold this tail up and back.

  13. Pinch the top to ensure the tamale has closed. Some like to "tie" the tamale on both ends to ensure it doescome undone.

  14. Strategically place the tamale in the tamalera or pot, being cautious that it doesn’t tip over; you want them to "stand.". You may need to wait until you have a couple made first.

  15. Once you run out of masa or chicken, you should have enough to cover a good portion, if not all of the tamalera/pot.

  16. Take the clean kitchen towel and wet it completely. Fold the towel and place it between the tamales and the lid to the tamalera/pot.

  17. Place on medium high for 1 hour

Ensure the pot does not run out of water. You can check by ensuring the towel is never dry. If you have a tamalera, similar to a pasta pot, you can lift the first “strainer” part of the pot and check the water level. Tamales should take ~1-2 hours, depending on heat, pot, and size of the tamales. The thicker the tamales, the longer it will take to cook. To ensure they are cooked thoroughly, take one out and place it on a plate. If you can open the tamale without the masa sticking, congratulate yourself, you just made tamales and timed them perfectly. If there is still some masa, wrap it up and try in ~15 minutes – just be sure to try a different tamale.

Pork Tamales

Red Salsa

  1. De-vain equal amounts of Chile California and Chile Guajillo

  2. Boil the peppers with ~2 cups of pre-canned tomatillos and 2 cloves of garlic

  3. Add to blender

  4. Add 1 cup of the water the items boiled in.

  5. Add a dash of salt and a pinch of cumin seeds

  6. Add 1 tablespoon pure cocoa powder

  7. Blend until a smooth consistency.

  8. This may need to be repeated until the desired amount of salsa is obtained.

  9. Place in a glass/ceramic jar/container.

Cook the Pork – Part 1:

  1. The night before, trim the pork butt of most of the fat.

  2. Add the pork to the crockpot, along with 1 cup of water and top off with red salsa. Be careful to not overflow.

  3. Cook on low. I cook mine from ~10pm the night before until ~5pm the next day; this will ensure the pork is extra tender ​(Next Day)

  4. Remove the pork from the crockpot. It should naturally shred.

  5. Take 2 forks and shred the pork, removing any pieces of fat that might have slipped by– be          careful, it's HOT.

  6. Take a drizzle of Olive Oil and add it to a heated pan.

  7. Add the shredded pork to the pan with remaining red salsa

  8. Add 1 cup of the pork broth – this will ensure the pork isn’t dry.

  9. Let that sizzle, stirring occasionally.

  10. Salt to taste.

 Follow the Masa steps from the chicken tamale recipe above, substituting the chicken broth for the       pork broth that is in the crockpot.

Follow the Tamale Assembly/Cooking steps as indicated above.

You can use the remaining green salsa when serving the tamales to add an additional layer of flavor. Some people also top off tamales with sour cream and lettuce.

I hope you try making them and most importantly that you enjoy it and that they, of course, come out fantastic.


Julie Marie

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