Creating a Mexican Tamale

At Taquerias el Mexicano, we make our tamales from scratch daily for you to enjoy. If you can’t make it down here and aren’t in our Mexican Food Delivery range, you can make your own at home. We won’t promise they’ll be as good as ours, but they will be good!

Tamale Ingredients

For the Masa (corn dough):

4 cups masa harina (corn flour for tamales)
1 ½ cups chicken or vegetable broth (adjust as needed)
1 cup lard or vegetable shortening (can substitute with butter or oil for a vegetarian version)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

For the Filling:

2 cups shredded cooked chicken, pork, or beef (or your choice of protein)
1 cup salsa verde or red salsa (homemade or store-bought)
1 cup of cooked vegetables (optional: bell peppers, onions, corn, etc.)
1 tsp ground cumin (optional)
1 tsp chili powder (optional)
Salt to taste

For Wrapping:

Corn husks (about 30-40 husks)
Warm water for soaking husks


Mixing bowls
Large pot or steamer
Tamale steam basket or a steamable rack
Wooden spoon or spatula

Step-by-Step Process for Making Tamales

  1. Preparing the Corn Husks
    Soak the Corn Husks: Place the corn husks in a large bowl and cover them with warm water. Soak for about 30 minutes to an hour until they become pliable. Drain and pat dry.
  2. Preparing the Masa
    Mix Dry Ingredients: In a large bowl, combine masa harina, baking powder, and salt.
    Cream Lard and Masa: In a separate bowl, beat the lard or shortening until it’s light and fluffy. Gradually mix in the masa harina mixture.
    Add Broth: Slowly add the chicken or vegetable broth to the masa mixture, mixing continuously until the dough is smooth and has a consistency similar to peanut butter. The masa should spread easily but hold its shape.
  3. Preparing the Filling
    Combine Ingredients: In a bowl, mix shredded meat with salsa and any additional seasonings. Add cooked vegetables if desired.
    Adjust Seasoning: Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning with salt, cumin, or chili powder as preferred.
  4. Assembling the Tamales
    Prepare a Work Surface: Lay out a clean surface where you can work on assembling the tamales.
    Spread Masa on Husks: Take a soaked corn husk and spread a small amount of masa dough (about 2-3 tablespoons) evenly in the center, leaving space on the sides and bottom.
    Add Filling: Place a spoonful of the meat mixture on top of the masa.
    Fold the Tamales: Fold the sides of the husk over the masa and filling, then fold up the bottom of the husk to enclose the tamale. You can also tie the tamales with a strip of husk if desired, but it’s optional.
  5. Steaming the Tamales
    Prepare the Steamer: Fill a large pot with water and place a steamer basket or rack inside.
    Arrange Tamales: Stand the tamales upright in the steamer, leaning them against each other if needed. Ensure there’s some space for steam to circulate.
    Steam: Cover the pot with a lid and steam the tamales for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Check occasionally to make sure there’s enough water in the pot.
    Check for Doneness: The tamales are done when the masa easily separates from the husk. If not, continue steaming for a little longer.
  6. Serving the Tamales
    Cool Slightly: Let the tamales cool for a few minutes before serving.
    Serve: Enjoy tamales with salsa, sour cream, or any of your favorite condiments.

Tips for Perfect Tamales

Consistency of Masa: Make sure the masa dough is not too dry or too wet. Adjust with more broth or masa harina as needed.

Flavor Development: For better flavor, let the tamales sit for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to meld together.

Steaming Technique: If you have a large batch, you may need to stack the tamales in layers. Just make sure to add extra water to the pot for even steaming.

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