Homemade Tamales

Joyce Lowery


Tamales can be considered the mexican version of a sandwich and are open to many interpretations. I spent several Saturdays with my friend, Lucy, making tamales by her mother's recipe. This is not the original recipe, because it was so special to her, but they are similar and taste good. Lucy was really happy to teach this "cracker" friend how to make masa. These tamales can also be made by using browned hamburger meat instead of the boiled chicken.


★★★★★ 1 vote

A lot of people
24 Hr
45 Min
Stove Top


  • 3 lb
    chicken thighs and legs, with bones
  • 2 tsp
  • 1 tsp
    black pepper
  • 1
    onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp
    baking powder
  • 20
    dried guajillo peppers
  • 1 c
    whole cumino (cumin), crushed
  • 1/4 c
    whole peppercorns, crushed
  • 8 clove
    garlic, minced
  • 1 pkg
    dried corn husks
  • 4.4 lb
    maseca for tamales
  • 1 lb
  • 3 oz
    chili powder (gebhardt if available)
  • 2 Tbsp
  • 12 c
    warm chicken broth

How to Make Homemade Tamales


  1. Fill the sink with warm water and soak corn husks until tender. Put something heavy on them to make sure they are submerged in water.
  2. Meat: Boil the chicken with the salt, black pepper, and onion until tender. Debone and skin the chicken. Shred it with forks; then chop with knife. Place in a large saucepan.
  3. Peppers: Place the guajillo peppers in saucepan. Cover with water and boil until soft. Blend the peppers and a small amount of the water they were boiled in the blender or food processor and add to the chicken.
  4. Paste: Mash the whole cumin and black peppercorns until powdery in a molcejete. Combine with garlic cloves in the blender until it is a paste-like consistency. Add to saucepot with chicken, and peppers. Add 2 tablespoons salt and 8 cups warm chicken broth. Cook while making the masa. Taste for seasoning and then turn off heat. Keep warm.
  5. Masa: Combine maseca, chili powder, baking powder, and salt to taste (about 2 tablespoons). Drop lard into bowl. Add 5 cups warm chicken broth. Knead dough until it is the consistency of cookie dough. Roll the masa into balls. For light and fluffy tamale dough, whip the lard and salt with electric mixer for a few minutes before adding to maseca. Once maseca is added, continue to whip, adding broth until mixture is the consistency of cookie dough. Test it by dropping a small ball of dough into a glass of water. If dough sinks, it needs more liquid whipped into it. If it floats, it is ready.
  6. At this point, it is okay to refrigerate until ready to use. Add more chicken broth if masa becomes too thick. According to Lucy, never ever throw the chicken broth out. She doesn't know what to think about "you white people throwing chicken broth out".
  7. To prepare the press: Cut a gallon zip lock bag down two sides and place on the press. Place moist husk on the bag with pointed side pointed to the left. Place ball on husk and press. Spoon desired amount of chicken mixture on pressed masa. Roll the tamale up left to right. Continue until all ingredients are used.
  8. Place a vegetable steamer into a large stock pot. Put the water up to edges (water should not touch the tamales). Put a quarter in the water. As long as the quarter is rattling there is enough water in the pan. Place tamales in the pot. Place first layer in a line; then crosswise. Alternate until all are used. cover with the leftover husks. Then cover with at least three moist towels. Place top on pot. Steam exactly 45 minutes and then enjoy some authentic mexican tamales.
  9. The authentic mexican tamale recipe is done when husk pulls away easily from the masa.
  10. After cooking tamales, cool completely. Wrap in aluminum foil; place in ziplock bag. Freeze up to 3 months. You can steam them right out of freezer for about 20 - 30 minutes.

Printable Recipe Card

About Homemade Tamales

Course/Dish: Beef
Main Ingredient: Beef
Regional Style: Mexican

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