Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mas Tamales

Hank and I have really gotten bitten by the tamale-making bug this year. We've spread and rolled over 300 (I lost count a while ago) and have been giving them away left and right and also hoarding some for our Christmas Eve party. I thought I'd share ideas and recipes for a few other variations besides the traditional pork.

Chicken Tamales - make these just like Pork Tamales. We cooked 2 whole chickens in the crockpot for about 4 hours, deboned, shredded and seasoned with a puree of ancho and pasilla chiles, garlic, onion, and jalapeños.

Sweet Tamales - I had to try a sweet variety this year. I mixed up a special sweet masa and filled each tamal with plain caramel candies. The candy oozed out a bit but they were still really tasty. Next time I may try a rum-raisin sort of filling. Here's the masa I used if you'd like to try these.

Sweet Masa
(printable recipe)

2 1/2 c masa preparada para tamales*
1/3 c manteca (lard)
1/2 c evaporated milk
1/8 c sugar

*this is a wet dough, usually found in the meat or refrigerated section at Hispanic markets

Whip the lard and gradually add the masa and milk. This may be done in a mixer or the traditional mix-by hand method. Add the sugar and mix well. Taste the masa for sweetness, adding more if necessary.

Spicy Black Bean Tamales - I think I like bean more than pork tamales. Especially if they're bean and cheese. I had a few handfuls of shredded cheddar in our fridge that needed using, and into the tamales it went. Lesson: Anytime you have cheese, add it.

Spicy Black Bean Filling
(printable recipe)

1 lb. dried black beans
1/2 onion, diced
2 jalapeños, minced
1 serrano, minced
1 tbsp comino
salt & pepper to taste

Sort through the beans and place them in a large stockpot. Cover with water (at least 2" over the beans), put the lid on and bring to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes. Carefully drain the water, add fresh water to cover along with a dribble of oil. Cook until tender.
Meanwhile saute the onion, jalapeños, and serrano until cooked through. Spoon the cooked beans into the skillet with the sauteed onion and peppers, mash little by little until all of the beans are incorporated and smooth. Add a little of the cooking liquid if it seems dry. Season with comino, salt, and pepper. Fill tamales, adding cheese if desired.

Chorizo Tamales - I may be in love with these. How can you go wrong with chorizo? And I made use of all that excess grease by adding it to the masa- super tasty. Bonus for being resourceful! The only thing that could possibly be better? Chorizo and bean.

I apologize that these ideas aren't very precise, but tamale making isn't really easy to exact. There's such a large quantity of everything, you really just have to cook and season to taste. It is useful to have a basic masa recipe to expound upon though, just substitute different fat, broth (or water or milk) and spices. Then the filling can be just about anything!

Basic Masa para Tamales
(printable recipe)

5 lb. masa preparada para tamales*
1 1/2 c manteca (lard)
2 c broth
1 tbsp. paprika
3-4 tbsp. chili powder, (try ancho or cascabel)
2-4 tbsp. salt (to taste)

*this is a wet dough, usually found in the meat or refrigerated section at Hispanic markets

Whip the lard and gradually add the masa and 2 c of warm broth. This may be done in a mixer (my KitchenAid will just barely hold it all) or the traditional mix-by hand method. Add the spices and mix well. Taste the masa for seasoning, adding more if necessary.

A lot of our tamale making has been in the evening. By the time we get off of work and get everything ready to roll its already pretty late. Our most recent batch is pictured above, and the aftermath is below.

Beer helps with the cleanup. For serious.

Also, do you see all that leftover masa? It happens. Good news though, it freezes really well. And having it already prepared makes the next batch that much easier.

If you've missed my previous tamale related posts please see below for further info:

Hosting a Tamalada - a few tips and a list of everything you need to have a tamale making party
Pork Tamales - the basics of making tamales, a recipe for traditional pork tamales and visual guide for spreading, filling, and rolling tamales.


  1. I bought makings for tamales and Champurrado tonight, and I blame you. ;-) I wish I'd read your post before I went to the market though. They had fresh Chorizo at the meat counter, and I debated buying a few pounds. I would have if I'd have thought of stuffing tamales with it!

  2. @stonemaven: Darn, the chorizo ended up being my favorite, but the bean were a close second! Hope you had fun making tamales!!