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Healthy Hot Holiday Tamales

Hot Fresh TamaleWhile some cultures definitely associate tamales with Christmas and holiday time, tamale-eating doesn’t have to be limited to special times of year.  In fact, we like them so much that it feels like a celebration every time we eat them.

This version is vegan, natch, and they freeze well (assuming there are any left). The assembly process is easy though a bit time-consuming but well worth the trouble. Be creative on fillings – these are black bean and sweet potato but you can use virtually any filling you like. Enjoyed hot and steamy with some fermented hot sauce and fresh salsa, delish!

Pot of TamalesYes, you could do your own nixtamilization but let’s face it, it’s not an everyday thing. Still, rather than the standard commercial brand of masa, we use organic masa from Goldmine Foods, purveyors of excellent product for many years. Goldmine has organic blue, yellow and white corn so go wild. Their masa not only tastes great, we know it’s not genetically modified (maybe GMO is fine but we prefer our corn less tampered with).

This recipe makes enough dough for roughly two dozen good-size tamales. That’s generally the minimum I make at a time. If you want to make fewer, you can easily adjust this recipe. The key is to make a dough that’s not too wet or too dry. Unlike tortillas or pupusas, the dough is pretty forgiving so don’t fret too much about getting it perfect.


3 ½ Cups Masa (preferably organic)

Goldmine-Masa1Tsp. Mexican Oregano

1Tsp. Ground Cumin

1Tsp. Chili Powder

1Tsp. Thyme

01-08-16 Open Hot Tamale2 Tsp. Salt (or to taste – less if using salted broth)

1 Tsp. Baking Powder

¼ Cup coconut oil or organic vegetable shortening (optional – see below)

¼ Cup Olive Oil

2 ½ to 3 ½ Cups warm water or veggie broth, as needed

Stuffing for Tamale20-30 Dried Corn Husks (buy in Mexican store or online)

Vegetable fillings such as cooked carrots, refried beans, sweet potato, roasted peppers, chunky salsa or anything else you’d like to bite into.  You can even add some vegan cheese if that’s your thing.


Step One: Soak the dried corn husks over night or cover with boiling water and soak at least one hour to soften.

Open Tamale PrepStep Two: Mix together the masa and dry seasonings as well as the baking powder in a large bowl. You can adjust the flavor to your taste, adding more or less seasoning. We’ve had them with just light salt and they were quite tasty so your choice.

Step Three: Using a pastry cutter, cut in the coconut oil or shortening into the masa until it forms small crumbs. If you don’t have a pastry cutter, you can use a fork, two knives or even do this is a food processor.  Note that if you really don’t like solid fats, you can omit this ingredient and either use more olive oil or substitute for broth. The solid fat makes the finished tamale a little more tender but they still come out fine without it.

Step Four: Add the warm water or broth to the masa and stir. Keep adding until the mixture forms a soft dough. As the amount of liquid depends on lots of things, like the air humidity, etc, it’s not an exact science.  Think play-dough and you’re there.  Once you’ve mixed it to the right consistency, cover with a towel and let sit 15 minutes or so.

Step Five: Break off a 2-3 inch piece of dough and spread it on the drained corn husk. Make sure it’s evenly spread and leave room for 01-08-16-Pot-of-Tamalesrolling the tamale up. Spread 2 tablespoons of filling in the middle.

Step Six: To fold, bring long ends together first then fold bottom and top.  Tie loosely with a strip of husk if necessary to secure. Don’t worry too much if they need extra securing and you even need to tie like party favors at each end – they will still be super yummy.  If the husks are small, you can overlap two to wrap. As you practice, your tamale-assembly skills will improve.

Step Seven: Line a large steamer pot with corn husks and place tamales upright. Be sure there is a lot of water because the tamales take time to cook. Steam covered for 1 hour, checking that they water doesn’t run dry.

Step Eight: Carefully remove the tamales from the steamer.  Unwrap and enjoy hot with salsa, salad, sliced avocado, hot sauce and your Fresh Tamale Servingfavorite cold beverage.

Start the year off right and enjoy a healthy hot tamale holiday anytime!