Christmas tamales

For the past several years Brandon and I have created our own tradition of making tamales on (or around) Christmas. Making tamales requires just a little bit of pre-planning (supply buying and day-of timing) and are fairly easy.

We use this recipe from Pepper Fool, of course with our own tweaks:

For the tamales:

  • 1/2 eight-ounce package dried corn husks
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) vegetable shortening
  • 1 pound (2 cups) fresh masa
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 oz purchased salsa verde (We use the LaVictoria Thick’n Chunky Salsa Verde)
  • Shredded chicken from a rotisserie chicken (about 2-3 cups)


  • Cilantro
  • Cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Onions
  • Whatever else you want!

Prepare corn husks:

Soak the husks in water till pliable. Make sure they are fully submerged. If using room temperature water, they made need to soak for a few hours.  To speed this up, you can put them in simmering water for 10 minutes and then let them continue soaking while the water cools. 

To make the dough:

Beat the vegetable shortening in a mixer until very light, for about a minute. Add 1/2 pound (1 cup) fresh masa to shortening. Beat until well blended. Continue beating, adding alternately the remaining 1/2 pound masa and the broth, adding only enough broth to give consistency of medium thick cake batter. Then sprinkle in the baking powder and salt. Beat 1 minute more.

To form the tamales:

Remove husks from water when they have softened. Pat husks dry. Tear extra husks into 1/4 inch wide, 7 inch long strips one for each tamale. Take one that is at least 6 inches across on wider end and 6-7 inches long. Lay out this corn husk with tapering end toward you.

Tamale making begins

Tamale making begins

Spread a couple of tablespoons of dough mixture into a square, leaving at least a 1.5 inch border on side toward you and 3/4 inch border along other sides. Add chicken, cheese and salsa. (Along with whatever else you decide to add!)

Filling the tamales

Filling the tamales

Pick up two long sides of corn husk and bring them together, overlapping one over the other.

Fold up the bottom section of husk tightly right up to the filling line. Leave top open. Secure it in place by loosely tying one of strips of husk (or some baking twine) around tamale base.

Wrap up the tamales

Wrap up the tamales

Repeat with remaining husks and dough mixture.

Stand tamales on the folded bottom in prepared steamer, being sure they are not packed too closely in steamer they need to expand.

Cover with layer of leftover husks. Check carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away, adding boiling water when necessary. Cover with lid and steam for 1 hour.

Unwrap the tamales, discard the husks and serve with additional salsa on the side.

Our tamale feast

Our tamale feast

Yield: 4-6 servings