Easy, Homemade Tamales Recipe on Food52 (2024)

Make Ahead

by: fraîchement



2 Ratings

  • Makes about 20 tamales
Author Notes

This is my second time making tamales. The first time, I called my grandmother to tell her and she was actually worried about my livelihood. Why? Tamales are a big deal. They aren’t just something one puts together like a burrito or a sandwich. Real tamales take all day to make and are shared amongst the entire family. However, this is different. This is the amateur’s guide to easy tamales— tamales that don’t take all day—tamales that are meant to just be shared between two people over a handful of days.

What You'll Need

  • Easy, Homemade Tamales
  • about 20 dried corn husks
  • 5-6 dried California chili pods, seeded with the ends cut off
  • 1.5 c ground beef
  • 1 c mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1/2-1 poblano pepper, diced
  • 1/2-1 medium sized onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 packet Goya seasoning with onion and garlic
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • Tamale masa mix (adapted from recipe on Maseca’s Instant Corn Masa Mix)
  • 2 c Maseca Instant Corn Masa Mix
  • 2 c warm water
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Easy, Homemade Tamales
  2. In a large bowl, allow corn husks to soak in hot water. In a large saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Remove any string-like particles from the chili pods. Add them to the boiling water along with half of a packet of Goya seasoning. Cover and let boil for about 20 minutes.
  3. Afterwards, place chili pods with 2 cups of the stock in a blender to coalesce. Drain the saucepan of the remaining stock and place back on the stove top. Return the heat to medium, and add olive oil once the remaining stock evaporates.
  4. Add onion and beef, and immediately begin to break apart the beef. Add 1 packet of Goya seasoning and chili powder, and allow to cook for 5 minutes. Add the chili sauce and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add garlic and 2 teaspoon salt. I added the poblano pepper at this point, but I should have added it with the beef and onion.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for one hour. For the last twenty minutes, partially cover the pan in order to slightly reduce. Most of the liquid should be reduced and thickened.
  6. What’s surprisingly tricky is assembling the tamales. The best technique I’ve found is to thinly spread the tamale masa mix starting from the right-hand side of the corn husks, and leaving about 2 inches on the left-hand side of the husk. When rolling the tamale together, take the right-hand side and fold it onto the rest of the corn husk covered with tamale masa mix. The 1-2 inches left over should roll perfectly over the actual tamale. Don’t overstuff the tamales! I’d say 2 tablespoon of meat mixture and just a sparse amount of cheese.
  7. To cook, you should have a double boiler. If you don’t, like me, then use a metal colander and place it in a large pot. Place the tamales in the colander (or double boiler) where they are not squished, nor are they loose enough to unravel themselves. While doing this, boil 2 cups of water in the pot— or what equates to 1 inch in height of the water.
  8. Once water comes to a boil, reduce heat and add the tamales. Place a towel between the colander and lid, and cook for 30 minutes.
  1. Tamale masa mix (adapted from recipe on Maseca’s Instant Corn Masa Mix)
  2. In a large bowl, add instant corn masa mix, water, baking powder, salt, and olive oil to create corn masa mix. The mixture should be spongy.


  • Mexican
  • Beef
  • Poblano
  • Masa
  • Make Ahead
  • Serves a Crowd
  • Appetizer
  • Entree
  • Side
  • Snack
Contest Entries
  • Your Best Corn Recipe

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • cheese1227

  • gabrielaskitchen

  • lapadia

  • fraîchement

6 Reviews

cheese1227 August 17, 2010

I"ve had corn husks in my cupboard for 6 months waiting for the right time to make my very first tamales. This recipe just might help me find the right time! Thanks.

fraîchement August 17, 2010

Let me know how it goes!

gabrielaskitchen August 17, 2010

Glad to see someone else taking on the grueling but REWARDING task of making tamales! I'm sure you made your grandma proud!

We made some with our friend Rebecca (of Food52 French Onion Soup winner and Working Class Foodies fame).

Try using vegetable broth or chicken stock instead of water in your masa, you'll notice a huge difference!

See a video of us making tamales here:

fraîchement August 17, 2010

Thanks Gabriela! I will definitely try the vegetable or chicken broth in the masa next time around. If an Oxbow reunion ever happens, we need to cook for everyone.

lapadia August 17, 2010

Love your "grandmother" story, I have made tamales with family and it is all day fun, like your easy version and picture!

fraîchement August 17, 2010

Thanks, lapadia! My Grandmother makes the best pasteles. When I go back home for Christmas I am going to learn them from her and pass it along...

Easy, Homemade Tamales Recipe on Food52 (2024)


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