How To Make Tamales

Well, this is embarrassing. It seems that all of the lovely chatter that normally constitutes the video introduction was somehow lost to the netherworlds of technology. It’s probably hanging out down there somewhere with old friends Betamax and Calculator Wristwatch.

So this episode starts out kind of abruptly and for that, I apologize, but there is really nothing I can do about it, short of a Christmas Miracle. I will try to give you the gist of it here, though.

I’m pretty sure I said something about how, in Texas, tamales are a Christmas Eve tradition. Probably blabbed on about how tamales are really much easier than people make them out to be. Then I might have talked a little bit of shit about recipes I’ve seen for tamales that use cornmeal or eggs or other inappropriate ingredients in the masa. There may or may not have been a cry of Feliz Navidad towards the end. I can’t really remember. Too many eggnogs have been had between then and now.

Or…I don’t know — do you think 24 eggnogs in 24 hours is too many?

Tamales in Corn Husks

Tamales in Corn Husks

For the masa

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Tamales Ready-To-Eat!

Tamales Ready-To-Eat!

Filling ideas: Make sure to taste the filling before making tamales. It should be well-seasoned because the masa itself is very mildly flavored.

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These are AMAZING if served covered in queso, like we do.

Comments

  1. Steve Singler says:

    Beautiful! I just spent a day making 14 dz. with my mother, Of course we were supposed to have more help, but the christmas party the night before at my sister’s bar kind of left the help layed up with hangovers.
    Great tradition. Keep up the good work.
    Merry Christmas, Hilah!

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Whoa, Steve! That is quite a commitment! I hope the hungover help will still be allowed to eat. ;)
      Merry Christmas!

  2. Awesome! So glad you made them w/ coconut oil and thank you, thank you for including a vegan option. Yours is the only non-vegan cooking blog that I enjoy! :)

  3. Whoah, just whoah. Those look mui bueno. Honestly I do not feel like my skill level is high enough to do this though. I fear they would turn out horribly.

    Forgive my ignorance here but could you substitute Crisco for that coconut oil? I’ve never bought coconut oil and it sounds frightening. I’m just a little bunny. Also, I assume we could mix with a wooden spoon if we don’t have a mixer. Or is it all complicated like whipping?

    I’ve been wanting to learn traditional Mexican dishes for a while now. Thank you for sharing. Feliz Navidad!

  4. Hilah, in the video you mentioned a sweet potato filling. Will you post that recipe, or did all of that eggnog make you say sweet potato when you meant to say bean?

    I love your show, by the way! Thanks for brightening my week with your sassy ways.

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Dangit! Yes, you are right. Too many eggs in my noggin. Here is the sweet potato filling:
      2 c diced and steamed (or roasted) sweet potato
      1 poblano chile, diced
      2 cloves garlic, minced
      2 T oil
      salt to taste
      Saute the pepper in the oil until soft and blackened in spots. Add the garlic and sweet potatoes and saute another minute. Salt to taste.

  5. Another great video, Hilah, but I cringed every time I heard you say “tamale”. The singular form of “tamales” is “tamal”. Also, I know you know how to properly pronounce “tamales” because of how you read the Spanish version of the label for the masa. Please respect the Spanish language even when speaking in English, and then I would love you even more LOL! Thanks for such an informative post.

    (on Youtube there was a typo on your name. Sorry!)

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Hi Memoria! No disrespect intended, as I am sure you know. You are correct of course, but I grew up calling them “tamale” in singular and just didn’t think of it! All apologies!

  6. Great job on the Tamaleeeee. Anyway, last time I checked, we don’t pay you for this, so you can call them whatever you want. So, what I’m doing actually tomorrow is making some Tequila Lime Chicken Tamales. Simple and quick to assemble the meat creation. I have it all in my head right now and will be getting the stuff for it tomorrow. I will let you know if I don’t kill anyone with them and will give a rundown on ingredients later(if everyone survives).

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Hell yeah, David! Tequila lime chicken sounds wicked awesome. Please share if it works out and no one goes to the ER.

  7. Once again you made it look so easy :) I just don’t have some of the equipment you have to make this so I’ll keep going to the Tortilla shop where the little Mexican ladies make them down the street. Your tamales do look tasty!!!

  8. Wow! I’ve had tamales on the brain for several weeks and decided that learning how to make them would be a New Years resolution. This will definitely be one of the first I’ve ever kept. I’d been bookmarking recipes and pictorial guides to making tamales, but a video is worth a thousand pictures! I’m now certain that it’s within the realm of possibility for me to throw a tamale party. Any suggestions for accompaniments that are more Southwestern than Tex-Mex or Mexican? So far, all I’ve come up with is a Southwestern black bean and corn salad.

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Hey Randy! That salad sounds good! We always have them with chips and queso. What about calabacitas: zucchini, corn, onion, and jalapenos sauteed together and served hot?

  9. How’s it going Hilah. Just wanted to give a report on my Tequila Lime Chicken Tamales. They turned out great. Roasted whole chicken, shred, put it in a pan. I then added juice from a couple of limes. Then, the good stuff…Tequila! While filling the tamales, I then added some mexican cheese and some ortega chiles. To top it off after they were done, I made a mole sauce, then added a spoonful over the tamale. Hilah, we should have a big ass tamale making party next year. With full bar, of course.

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Aw, dude, David! That sounds radical! Did you let the tequila cook off before you filled them? Count me in for the party, man!

  10. With the chicken already cooked/roasted, I simply added the lime and cooked for about a minute. Then, added the Tequila. Another minute. Measured? I just eyeballed it. Tasting the chicken, you had the hint tequila was in it. I used a pretty good agave tequila I bought at a factory in Mexico. So, of course, I might have had a shot for quality control purposes. I’m in the Central part of California, so it’s a bit out of your way there in Austin for a tamale party.

  11. Now that you mention chips and queso, I think I’ll forget about eating the tamales at a sit-down dinner and just keep it more of a cocktail party. Thanks for the calabacitas idea, though. I’ll definitely make that the next time I’m trying to cook outside of the Matt’s El Rancho No. 1 Dinner box.

  12. Actually “tamal” is the word to use if speaking Spanish. “Tamale” is an official English word according to the American Heritage Dictionary. Cultures often barrow words from other languages, but then apply their own pronunciation, grammar and spelling rules.

  13. After making tamales with your pork filling several weeks ago, I felt that the filling was so delicious that it was a shame to just make it on those relatively rare occasions that I make tamales. It’s now my favorite ingredient for Mexican torta sandwiches or any pork sandwich for that matter. It’s also great for tacos. Being lazy (and a chilihead), I don’t mince the jalapeno or the garlic: I just remove the skin from the garlic and the stem from the chili, toss them into the blender and let it do the mincing.

  14. Lisa Lique says:

    Dear Hilah: First LOVE YA! Second I couldn’t find a guacamole recipe so here is one you should try: 1 ripe haas avocado (if ripe the flesh feels the same “squishiness” as the pad of flesh between your thumb and forefinger) 1 ripe tomato, 1 medium white onion, dice all these (cut the avocado in half, take a knife and score it in squares then scoop out with a spoon..no gook on your hands) and put the pit in the guacamole (keeps it from turning brown) juice of 1 lime, 1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper diced very fine (if you like it hot use the seeds too), 1/2 bunch of cilantro chopped very fine (some people take the leaves off and don’t use the stems I like the flavor with the stems it is stronger that way), 1 scant teaspoon salt. Lightly stir all ingredients (this is chunky NOT that mushy supermarket crap). Let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. Hope you try and enjoy this authentic Mexican guacamole recipe!

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Hi Lisa! Thanks so much for writing! I love guacamole and will definitely be making a video in the future. Thank you for sharing your recipe with everyone and me. (And I like cilantro stems, too!)

  15. Lisa Lique says:

    I made your tamale recipe for my friends and husband and they turned out SPECTACULAR! My first time making them and they were perfect! Thank you for the great recipe! Hubby took some to work the next day and people asked if I am Spanish because they were so good! PS he loves your show too we watch episodes on roku player on the weekend together and you always have something we want to try! Keep up the great work and hope you become rich and famous soon chick! You have such fabulous recipes and we both love your “just me” attitude about cooking…not snooty chef, just fabulous cook Hilah whose food anyone can make and it will be delish!

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Lisa, you are awesome! That’s great to hear that they worked so well. Thank you so much for believing in me! xoxo

  16. Hilah, I thought I loved you before but now I am willing to raise your kids for you. Tamales are my all time favoritest food in the world and here you go making it look like something I could actually do myself. Like Indian food (which I also dearly love), tamales were something I’ve always been scared to make because they look so hard and daunting.

    • Yay, Beverly! That’s music to my ears to hear (read) you say (write) that! One of my life’s missions is complete. I hope you try them out! We always have them on Christmas Eve in my family.
      P.S. No kids yet, but when it happens I’m dropping them off with Aunt Beverly. ;)

  17. ok, so every year my mother-in-law pulls the whole family together for “tamale day” with the threat of “you don’t help – you don’t eat”. As a group we manage to produce 25 – 30 doz. which are demied up between all those who have helped. She starts EARLY in the morning with the filler prep & makes the maza. We worker bees get there around 9am to start the filling & rolling task while she works on the steemer pots. This whole process has always been intimidating to me till I watched your video. THAT’S IT?!?!?!?!? I can do this! My goal this year is to follow your instructions and take a few over on the 17th for a taste testing. Hopefully I’ll make some high points with the mom-in-law ;)
    Thanks sooooo much for your super easy to follow instructions!
    Patsy

    • Hi Patsy!
      This sounds like a really fun way to get the family together! I bet those tamales are delicious! I’m glad the video has helped you feel more confident. :)

  18. lisa engles says:

    Thanks so much for the awesome video! I’ve been dying to try my hand at tamale making, and you make it look so easy! I have a few questions though. I make a fabulous carnitas. Can I just that meat and put it straight into tamales? And, I wanted to add diced ortega chilis to the masa, but my sister in law thinks it’s going to ruin the whole thing. Any thoughts? All I need is a steamer, and I’m ready to go. Can’t wait!

    • Thanks, Lisa! Yes, I think carnitas would be a great filling. I’d just recommend shredding it very finely first. And I think you could add a small amount of chilies to the masa if you like. Too much and it could impair the masa binding together properly. Again, if you minced them I think that would work better.
      Have fun and have patience! There is a learning curve but you should get the hang of it after making about 6 tamales or so.

  19. Lisa engles says:

    Just wanted to report back. I made my first batch of tamales tonight. They weren’t perfect by any means. Really too small. The masa didn’t form a perfect little packet ( but I’m hoping it will after they cool a bit) but the flavor was great. I decided instead of chicken broth in the masa harina, I used the juice from my carnitas and added just enough chicken broth to give me the required amount. I also put 1 small can of green chilies in the food processor and added the purée to the masa. The flavor was great! Anyway, even though they had some technical difficulties I’m very pleased at my first attempt. I doubt I would have tried, if you hadn’t made the process look so easy in your video. I can’t thank you enough.

    • Sounds like a really successful first time, Lisa! As long as they tasted good, that’s the most important part for me. I’m glad you gave it a shot and put your own spin on it; the pureed green chilies really sounds good.

  20. Hi Hilah,
    I love your show and recipes. Please forgive this late comment — only a year– I made vegan style tamales and everyone who had them thought they were the BOMBDIGGITY!!! I’ll be making some more for NEW YEAR’S. That was my first time making Vegan. Even my Mexican mother — Half Bean here :) — was impressed with the flavor. I sauteed mushies, spinach, diced butternut squash, blackbeans, onion, garlic, jalapenos- roasted first . At the last minute I threw in cilantro. They were sooo very delicious! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  21. Lisa Lockwood says:

    I bow down before you and all makers of tamales! I just got the only batch of these things I will ever make into the steamer. I just don’t have it in me to try this again. You made it look so easy, but this first time tamale maker is going to leave it to the pros. I’m pretty sure they will be the bomb Cuz I taste tested along the way and even tho I am as white girl as I can be, I thought with the little Hispanic I had in me ( for 2 minutes and 9 months) I could surely do this. I love your recipes, your videos and I’m a newbe subscriber. can’t wait to try something that is more my speed. Thank you you are amazingly awesome!!!

    • Ha! Thanks, Lisa. :) Your comment made me giggle. I hope the tamales turned out yummy at least!

      • Lisa Lockwood says:

        Oh Hilah!!! As predicted, they were the bomb! However, the newbe that I am managed to forget about the water steaming off and needing to add more… instead, when I couldn’t hear the boil going on, I thought the heat was too low and turned it up! Luckily I crammed a buttload of husks under and over the little buggers so they didn’t dry out and my kitchen didn’t burn to the ground! Yea me! I do have a nice little scortch mark on the counter from rookie move # 2 putting the flipping scortching hot pot on there instead of a cool burner. a memory to last a lifetime! Or until I can convince the boyfriend into granite tops. also, did your pork chops tonight… so moist and orgasmic as I couldn’t stop myself from making ” oh my God noises after each bite

        • Ha! Nice save, Lisa! I’m glad they were good at least. :) good luck with the granite countertops. Maybe if you just keep accidentally burning the ones you have…

  22. Hilah
    First the indulgent gratitude part of the comment: if I was just a little crazier than I am I’d probably ask you to be my best friend… But that is just the progesterone talking (deargawd, I hope you read on…)
    It isn’t easy to put a pregnant Mexican in a good mood after a long night of tossing, crazy pregnant dreaming, craving and hourly trips to pee. Woke up this am to prep for my 2nd annual birthday/tamale party: the day when I enlist helplessly devoted American friends to make dozens of tamales-last year we were in DC; this year Chicago; next year we’ll be in Seattle. Apparently no one has yet shared how much work this party could be on facebook or I’d be in big trouble. Realized (way too early this am) no margaritas (not even a bud light lime a rita) for me and the Little Bit this year and was a little overwhelmed. I try make vegan versions of everything when I host parties these days but was not organized enough to keep track of the masa recipe last year so this year I’m trying yours for 2 reasons: 1) your site (especially your restrained responses to the hateful comments on the Chick fil Gay recipe) put me in a super good mood and 2) if I sent friends to your site for the recipe they would probably never even consider that this might actually be work!
    The carnivores in attendance today will eat Chicken Chipotle filling; the vegan filling is usually tomatillo based (so tipsy vegans will have color coding to aid them in their dietary efforts). I mix the Salsa Verde with white hominy for body. The carnivores tend to like both kinds so I make half and half. This year a 2 year old and a 5 year old are coming (I’ll have not-drinking buddies!) and I’m making them their own little filling with creamed sweetcorn, honey and maybe a honey yogurt to go on top.
    I do have one question: have you ever thought up a food-safe way mark the outside of the Hoja so folks will know what they’re getting into before they open the husk?

    Best, avp

    • Hi Abigail!!!
      Happy birthday! Sounds like a wonderful birthday plan, aside from the no margaritas part. Annnd… very good thinking to make the veg filling a different color from the meat filling. As far as a way to mark them, good question. One way would be to roll them differently (some open-ended and some closed) though towards the end of the evening when people are coming back for round three, that might not be obvious enough.
      I wonder if you could make a solution of achiote powder and water (or use achiote oil) and drip a drop of that on the outside of the chicken ones? Seems like it would stain them and match the filling inside!
      Hope your party goes off great and that everyone enjoys the tamales (and that you have a few left over).
      -h

      • Brilliant idea. I thought of the folding too, or tying two ways but these hardworking novices have trouble enough with the single fold and simple tie. And water based food coloring might bleed all over in the steamer. I’ll try to achiote oil next time and let you know. Not very many leftovers; but I think that is a good sign!

  23. Hi Hilah I love your videos and you helped me make my first sausage gravy ever lol it was delicious. Anyways I was just wondering my husbands family is Mexican and when they make tamales they always have a hot sauce inside the tamale. So I was wondering would you pour the hot sauce like salsa verde on the meat before you close the tamale up to cook? Just want to make sure before I try thus recipe lol thanks for your help. Keep making videos.

    • Hi Nichol!
      I’ve had tamales before that had a saucy kind of filling but it’s more like the meat (pork or chicken) is cooked in a salsa before making tamales and then the meat and some of the sauce is put inside. If you want to try a separate sauce, I think the salsa verde would be good with pork or chicken and the guajillo chile sauce from the breakfast enchiladas might also be good with shredded pork.

  24. Hah girl-I love your sass!
    I just whipped up a batch of your badass tamales, tamals, tam-WTF, the dang rolled thingies!
    Lol, I can do that because I, unlike a lot of people (your average white person), have made these babies before. California girl here-hence the moniker.
    Having a bunch of leftover pork ribs leftover, I of course morphed them into tamales using red sauce I have in the freezer (yeah-I roll like that).
    But I had to let you know that I think you’re awesome and I’m now a follower not a stalker.
    You rock girl! Keep it up.
    Hugs-Kari/SourdoughNative

    • Hi Kari!
      That’s fantastic! I love when people repurpose leftovers like that and if you can make them into tamales, then all the better!
      Thank you for writing. It’s nice to meet you!
      -h

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