If you have a few friends, a bottle of wine, and a Sunday afternoon to spare, might I suggest trying your hand at tamale making? This is not a week night endeavor by any stretch, but if you have the time and inclination it is really fun and rewarding, and you end up with dozens of delicious tamales to eat for weeks! Tamales freeze really well, too, just wrap them individually and then thaw them before re-heating.

To make tamales you need a few dozen corn husks, filling of some kind, masa dough (recipe below), and a way to steam the little pockets of yum. I think the best way to do this is to set up an assembly line in your kitchen and get a helper, but yesterday I made these by myself and took photos of the process (mind you, it took three hours, but I still had fun).

1. Soak your corn husks in a large rimmed pan with hot water to make them pliable and take a few of the husks and tear them into strips for tying off the ends of your tamales. Like so:


2. Put your bowl of masa dough next to the husks and keep a wet rag handy to cover your dough when you aren’t using it. Check out my masa recipe below, or use Google to find one, it’s seriously easy stuff to make. Don’t be scared.

3. Put your bowl of filling (I like to mix my tempeh chorizo and some sofrito, or use my sweet potato black bean taco filling – that was a lot of self promotion in one sentence) next to the bowl of dough.

4. Set up your method for steaming these babies on your stove top at the end of the line up. Most proper tamale makers have a huge tamale pot and sit like 50 down in there at one time on top of a steam basket. I have no such thing, and thus just use a big dutch oven with about 5 inches of water in it at a soft boil, and a cheap-o, multi-level steamer basket from the local Asian grocery store. It isn’t perfect, but I get to eat tamales at the end of the night. Here’s my MacGyver set up:


So, to make your tamales, you 1. Take a soaked husk in your hot little hands.
2. Spread about 2 tablespoons of masa dough in the center of the husk with a spatula (or your wet fingers, which I totally do) until it’s spread even and thin.
3. Take a heaping Tablespoon of filling, plop it in the middle, and then fold your husk in half, connecting the two side of the dough.
4. Roll the husk shut over the closed dough and tie it on both ends.
5. Put those cuties in your steamer basket seam-side-up (helps stop leak-age).
6. Steam for 60-90 minutes until the dough is set (stiff to the touch and not mushy anymore). Be sure to check there’s water in the pot from time to time!

masa dough for tamales
  • 2 cups masa harina
  • ⅔ cup vegan shortening at room temperature
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ t garlic powder
  • ½ t onion powder
  • 2 cups warm veggie broth
  1. In a stand mixer, put in everything except for the veggie broth and mix on medium speed until the masa is the consistency of sand.
  2. Add in veggie broth ½ cup at a time until the dough comes together, but is till moist and spreadable. You should be able to roll it in a ball between your fingers and it won’t stick, but it’s still moist like nice mashed potatoes.

Serve these up with some nice seasoned beans, a Mexican slaw, some fresh guacamole, some chipotle cashew cream, or all of that.