Tamale Thursday, let’s make this a thing shall we? Because now that I have a handle on how to make tamales, there’s no slowing down. Also, the corn husks I bought came in a pack of 100 so I have no choice;)
That being said, I am definitely not a tamale master. I didn’t grow up making them, or even eating them. But when Jake and I road tripped to LA 3 summers ago, we had tamales at his family’s favorite LA restaurant and I was blown away. How had I never tried these? The savory almost sweet combination of warm masa, and soft filling all steamed inside of a dried corn husk. Besides being the coolest idea ever, the simple combination somehow tastes incredible. I’ve taken every opportunity since to eat tamales and just fall more and more in love. Our go-to move is to pick up Trader Joe’s frozen tamales for a quick weeknight meal (try them if you haven’t), and with those in mind I decided to take a stab at my own.
Tamales are a traditional Mexican/South American meal made with masa cooked in dried corn husks. The filling can be meats, cheeses, beans, and spices. Once cooked they become soft, delectable perfection. So for this I decided to start simple, with beans and cheese as the filling, so I could focus on getting the masa just right. I order corn husks and masa flour on Amazon, and started experimenting.
It turns out that it was much easier than I expected, and I’ll walk you through step by step (also watch the video at the end!)
- Soak your corn husks in water for at least 15 minutes, this helps get any dirt/silks off of them, in addition to softening them for rolling. Make sure to trim the corn husks so the long end (it’s triangular-ish) is about 5 inches long (we’ll use the trimmings later)
- Prepare you masa dough. This is the cornerstone of your tamales! Combine masa flour with vegetable broth and oil until a dough ball forms. You don’t want it to be sticky! Let it sit for about 15 minutes.
- Next up, the filling! This is totally up to you – prepare any protein, veggies, cheeses you like, just don’t overstuff them. I went with cooked black beans mixed with tomatillo salsa. Keep the filling cold as it’s easier to fill that way
- Now it’s time to fill! Each corn husk gets spread with a few tablespoons of masa so it covers most of the surface area on the wide end (see video). Top that with a few tablespoons of filling and a sprinkling of cheese right in the center.
- To roll: fold the left side to the center, then fold the right side to overlap it, like a package. Now fold narrow pointed end over top, and flip seam side down so tail is tucked. Set aside and continue until all husks are filled and folded.
- Line the bottom of a pot with discarded husk trimmings and place a ball of foil in the middle. Arrange tamales seam side in and tail side down so they form a tee-pee around the foil ball. Cover with about an inch of vegetable broth and cook 40 minutes over medium-high heat. Periodically check that the broth does not run out or they will burn.
- To check if they are done, let cool about three minutes, and make sure masa easily comes away from husk (you don’t want them to stick), and that’s it! Enjoy!
- 10 dried corn husks
- Masa Dough
- 1 cup corn masa
- ½ cup vegetable broth, plus extra for the bottom of the pot
- ¼ cup oil (I used sunflower oil, but use what you have on hand, or even melted butter)
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- 1 Tbsp tomatillo salsa
- 1 can black beans, drained/rinsed
- ¼ cup tomatillo salsa (store boughtor homemade)
- Cheese of choice
- Soak corn husks in water for 15 minutes to remove dirt and soften. Make sure the long end is about 5" long. If not, trim them to size (we will use the scraps later). Once soft, give a final rinse and dry well.
- Mix masa ingredients to form a dough ball and knead gently. Set aside for 15 minutes.
- Mix black beans and tomatillo salsa in a small bowl and set aside.
- Time to fill! Spread 2 Tbsp masa dough over each corn husk (except for 4" of short end so you can fold). Top with 2 Tbsp bean mixture in the center.
- Fold left side to center, then cover with right side to close. Flip over seam side down and fold the small end so it tucks under. Set aside and continue until all husks are filled.
- Line the bottom of a medium-large pot with husk scraps and place a foil ball in the center. Add tamales seam side inward and tailside down to form a ring around the ball of foil. Pour broth to cover about an inch of the bottom (to prevent burning). Cover the pot.
- Boil over high heat, then reduce medium low, and let simmer for 40 minutes total.
- Remove 1 tamale and let it cool. Open up and if it doesn’t stick to the husk then they’re ready. If it still sticks, cook 5 more minutes and check again.
- Let cool 10 minutes, then serve warm.
Tamales keep great in the freezer, just wrap in wet paper towel and microwave in 1 minute intervals until warmed.