Confident Kitchen

“Cooking is 80 percent confidence, a skill best acquired starting from when the apron strings wrap around you twice.”


One branch of my family is Hispanic. Holiday meals always include homemade tortillas, beans, and tamales made by my Grandmother. She recently taught my sister how to make tamales, who then showed me the basics. They are actually pretty easy to make though time consuming, and is a great group activity if you want to host a Tamale Party. Definitely put a batch away for the next day, as these are even better the second time around

Skill: Medium
Prep: 30 minutes
Total: about 4 hours


  • 1lb pork, chicken, or beef (I made one batch with pork, one with elk)
  • 1 med. white onion, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 package dried chilies
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. oregano

Other ingredients:

  • 1 6 oz. pkg. dried corn husks
  • 6 cups masa harina
  • 2 cups oil
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 4-1/2 cups water or more as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place meat and onion in med. baking dish and cover with water. Bake for approx. 1-1/2 hrs. or until meat pulls apart easily. Remove meat from broth. Refrigerate broth. When cool, shred meat with 2 forks or with dough blade of food processor. Strain broth after fat has solidified on surface. (All of this can be done day before.) If the broth doesn’t measure 2 cups, add water to make 2 cups of liquid. Reserve pork and liquid.

In large skillet, heat oil, add minced garlic and pork. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir constantly for about a minute as the flour begins to brown. In a pot, bring bag of chilies to a simmer, then puree the chilies with half a cup of water in a blender.  Add chili mixture, broth and seasonings. Cook over med.-low heat until thickened and almost dry, stirring regularly, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

Prepare corn husks by submerging in bowl or baking pan of hot water for 30 min. Separate husks and rinse them under warm running water to wash away any grit or brown silks. Soak them in warm water until ready to use.

Prepare masa. Measure masa harina in large bowl. Add water, while stirring. Add oil and salt and stir well. Use spoon, powerful mixer, or your hands. When well blended should have the consistency of moist cookie dough. If it begins to dry out, add more water. Cover with damp cloth if necessary.

Assemble tamales. Spread dough on smooth side of husk with back of spoon to about 1/2″ from side edges, 1″ from top edge, and 2″ from bottom edge. Spoon about 2 Tbsp. of filling down center. Roll husk over so that masa covers filling and should come loose from husk. Then roll up husk and fold bottom end under. Repeat until all masa and filling is used. Stand tamales loosely packed in a steamer/blancher/spaghetti cooker, or lay flat in a criss cross pattern so steam can penetrate effectively. Cover pot and steam for about 1 hr. to 1-1/4 hrs or until the masa is firm and pulls away from husk easily.


  1. December 5th, 2007 | 9:41 pm

    […] Recipe […]

  2. December 6th, 2007 | 1:38 pm

    You know, I’ve never had tamales, but I think this might be a fun christmas dinner!

    or something.

  3. Linda
    November 8th, 2008 | 10:48 am

    How big is that package of dried chilies?

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