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do you make tamales?

Does anyone ever make talmales? I just love good homemade ones. Is it really an all day process? I read recipes and it sounds like it is quite involved.

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  1. I always say that the reason I had five children was to have help making tamales, and I am only half joking! It does take all day, but then I always make over a hundred at Xmas. Maybe it takes me so long because I am a Gringo. It helps if you make the filling the day before, and then just assemble them. Make sure you add plenty of stock, either pork or chicken, to the masa for flavor and creamy texture. I purchase masa preparada, which already is mixed with lard, at a Mexican market, but then thin it down with broth.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mothrpoet

      I make them a few times a year. I usually make 4 dozen at a time. I do the meat the day before, usually on Friday night, and soak the hojas overnight as well. Then, in the am, make the masa, and while it rests/soaks, I'll pull the meat off of the bone, and get it ready for filling (pick out fat/sinew/bone.) Then, it's formation time. I use a pastry spatula to spread the masa, then fold, and roll, and bend the bottom, over and over again. I normally do chicken in a spicy green sauce, and also a cinnamon chocolate masa with milk chocolate chunk filling. Tamales are proof of HIS existence.

      1. re: mothrpoet

        I do not know which post came first, but I am looking for the tamale recipe you have from Sunset Magazine 20 years ago. I finally lost my magazine and want the recipe so bad. Can you post or email.
        Thank you

      2. IMO, the preparation of ingredients takes longer than actually making the tamales. Once the ingredients are ready it doesn't take long for me to make several dozen by myself. I admit that I use a prepared massa. I wrap each tamale, fold up the bottom and tie using a strand of the husk with a square knot.

        1. Take a look at the cookbook "Tamales 101" -- I really like it. I've bought the prepared masa w/out lard and I add butter, instead -- really delicious. I have a very hard time using a strand of the hoja to tie it up so I just use kitchen string, instead.

          A favorite one is with goat cheese, drained marinated artichoke hearts, tomatillo sauce and some strips of roasted poblano chile.

          1. Ordinarily, I prefer to take more time and to cook everything from scratch when I’m making tamales. It just seems more satisfying. Two days ago I made a batch of tamales from grilled chicken breasts, green chile sauce, grilled eggplant and cheese. Yum!

            But ... making tamales doesn’t HAVE to be a lengthy process. Azteca Milling, the makers of Maseca Corn Masa Mix, developed a quick, heart-healthy recipe that yields 25 small to medium size tamales in 60 minutes by using some short cuts. The recipe uses already cooked rotisserie chickens, canned chicken broth and canned green chile sauce. Corn or canola oil was used instead of lard. The tamales made from this recipe were good enough to win first place for the "Best Commercial Gourmet Tamale" category at the Indio International Tamale Festival back in 2000. And from my own tasting, they were very good in both taste and texture.

            Here is a link to the recipe:

            1. A neat trick (one I'll credit Mark Miller with) to making the maseca dry masa powder more corn-flavored is to simmer some corn kernels in milk, then whip up the corn and milk in a blender to add to the base masa dough. It's just a bit more trouble added to the whole process, but well worth it.

              1. Tamales are one of my favorite foods. Here is a recipe from Rick Bayless with some great tips you may find useful.


                1. I make my own tamales, and yes it is a day long (or two) process. Might be that because i make both red and green, so I really ask for trouble. Preparing the meat, the broth is lengthy, I start that first. Then to make the sauces using several chiles that require soaking and to puree and tomatillos. Then to mix in the broth from the pork and the chicken, another step.

                  I strain the sauce, not sure if everyone does that but I love the smoothnes of the sauce. I have used a premade masa, but mix in some of the homemade broth with it. The masa has to be light otherwise the dough will be so heavy and unappetizing. Ever had a heavy matzo ball? Exactly. The dough should be tender and flavorful. You don't want them to fall apart, but there is science to making the masa just right.

                  Putting them together, just get yourself organized. Make sure the ohas are soaked, make sure your little ties (I do the method using the torn corn strips and roll). Have everything ready, your pot for steaming and your sauce and meat ready to go.
                  If you can enlist a qualified friend. Meaning NOT too much masa goes on the husk and then fill with a gentle hand. Unless your making the gigantic ones, then piece them together and make the same. Some hundred or so tamales later...

                  Take a long hot bath to soothe your aching back. Believe me, I have a lot of respect for the women that have been making these for years. When I see Bobby Flay make tamales on IC(60 mins) I have to chuckle, they couldn't possible be the quality of a great home made tamale.

                  One tip, wear something either red, or dark and make sure your helper is as committed to the project as you are. Your reward for your efforts is beyond words.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: chef chicklet

                    This lady is from my hometown and I have gone to her tamale demonstrations. I can tell you without a doubt it is as easy as it shows in the video. I have personally used her tamale spreader and it really works. Her recipes are very good.
                    Here is her website: http://www.mex-sales.com/

                    1. re: LatinaMene

                      And that spreader really does work. It is well worth buying. It will save you tons of time. Get several and have a tamale making party.

                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                        I picked up one of those spreaders a few years ago after seeing how easy the video made it look. It never really worked well for me. I much prefer to use a plastic drywall taping knife that I got just for culinary use and mainly for working with dough.

                        1. re: Sam D.

                          ROFL! That's what came to mind IMMEDIATELY upon watching that video.
                          Work at Habitat - learn a few cooking skills :-).

                    2. re: chef chicklet

                      >>Take a long hot bath to soothe your aching back. <<

                      LOL - YES, YES, YES!!!! I know that "standing up too long looking down at the counter" back ache.

                      Also re: walker -
                      I have only bought premade once, (I usually prefer my own) but I also use a combo of butter and lard. The butter is REALLY a nice touch. Gives an extra tenderness IMO.

                      1. re: chef chicklet

                        I, too, do both red and green every year and agree with everything you've said here. However, I buy my masa at La Mascota. So light and fluffy...why fix what isn't broken?

                        The entire process from start to finish takes me three-four days (including the side trip to East Los to fetch the masa). Friends drop in to help, my kids/husband help...I love tamale weekend*.

                        I will never, ever, ever be that woman making them on xmas eve. No way, no how. Usually the weekend before christmas is designated as Tamale Weekend.

                        1. re: jencounter

                          There is one brand that that's premade that I think is as good as homemade, unfortunately guess who snaps it all up before I can to it. Got to get up pretty early in the morning and I don't see it all the time.

                          I complain, but let me tell you I'm not about to stop making them, I love every minute of it. I don't know about that spreader thing, I use a large spoon and I can get the tamales pretty even. Too much masa has never been a problem. Tying the little strings, now that's another thing.

                      2. Yes, it's involved, and I make my the filling, sauce, masa, stuff them, etc. It's an all day affair, but not necessarily all day over the stove. For the meat/filling and sauce, there's plenty of simmering while you do other things, and as others have said, you can always let rest (except the masa) in the fridge overnight.

                        Then set up an assembly line and make a big batch for the freezer. it's worth it.

                        1. I admire everybody's fortitude because this is a cooking task I'd never attack. Instead, I buy a very good local tamale called Pedro's. Well steamed, they are almost as good as homemade.

                          1. If you live near a Tortillaria you can put Tamales together in just a few hours.

                            1. I've made tamales several times. I used the recipe at the following link. The link also has pictures of the tamale making process.