Monday, May 30, 2011

Blowing Off Some Steam:Hot Tamale!

Have you ever wanted to make 40 tamales? Yes? Well, settle in. I'll show you how. (I am experimenting with photo-size here. X-tra Large? BBW? Thoughts, experiences? No one cares? Perfect, let's move on.)

Until recently I had never made a tamale. Frankly, I wasn't even really sure what it was other than it being wrapped in a corn husk (or a plantain leaf?) but with some thorough internet research (thanks Wikipedia!) I discovered that Tamales were a Spanish Conquistador staple and that in Central America they use plantain leaves, but in Mexico, corn husks are used.


All right! Tamale time! So, making tamales can involve your Mexican Grocery Store or the Safeway down the street. If you are looking to save money, don't go to Safeway. However, if you are me and you don't have a car and the basket on your bike doesn't have bungee cords and stuff is constantly just flying out (not to mention you have to go up some GIANT hills to get home from the Mexican Grocery Store) then Safeway it is! 

Corn Masa (I used the Masa Brosa Brand with that joyful little corn cob guy on it! He's so friendly!)
Dried Corn Husks
Water or Vegetable Broth
Crisco (or any sort of vegan shortening---even vegetable oil will work if that is all you have)

Filling Ingredients
Mock Meat or Tofu (I used Gardein Beefless Tips)
Black Beans
Diced Tomatoes
Peppers (Depending on your tolerance for Spicy you may want to use a variety! I used ancho, anaheim and a green bell pepper)
Green Chilis

Okay, now I am just listing stuff. Really, you can put whatever the hell you want into your filling. I will not judge you. The Conquistador might but I am pretty sure that once he gets his damn tamale he, at the very least, won't kill you, so, win-win.

The first step in the tamale making process is to soak your corn husks. It is easy. You do this exactly the way you would imagine doing it. I imagined myself soaking corn husks in a giant pot in my kitchen sink. They only have to soak for 10-15 minutes, and then you can remove them and find a place for them to dry. This part was little trickier as I was making enough tamales for an entire army. Luckily, my house has a giant table that worked out well.

While the husks dried in the rarely occurring sun. Brandi, Jes and I started chopping up the onions, peppers,   jalapeños and Gardein tips

I had decided early on that I was going to make two separate fillings: a carne asada filling with the Gardein tips and then a black bean/pinto bean filling.

Each filling had its own helping of onions, peppers, corn, and tomatoes.                                                                        

In one mixture, the Gardein Beefless tips seasoned with chili powder, cumin, oregano and salsa were added and in the second mixture black beans and pinto beans.

While the filling cooked, Brandi began mixing the Masa for the tamale dough: 3 cups Masa, 1 cup of shortening, 1.5 tsp of salt, 1.5 tsp of baking powder and 1.5 Cups of either vegetable stock or water. 

Pristine white onions with a pepper mix (L) and the carne asada filling ready for a tamale! (R)
Once the tamale dough was ready, it was time to assemble! We rolled the dough into a ball roughly 2 inches in diameter, or slightly smaller than one of those GIANT jawbreakers. Yum. Place your dough in the middle of your now dry corn husk and flatten with your palm until it covers as much of the husk as possible. Place about a tablespoon of filling (give or take) on the flattened dough. Resist the urge to overfill! RESIST. Trust me, it'll work out much better if the filling isn't bursting out of the tamale dough while it steams. And then you roll! Have you ever rolled a cigar? Me neither, but that was what the rolling process reminded me of. Using one of the untouched corn husks, peel off 2 strips of husk to tie your freshly filled and rolled tamale. The tying process gets easier as you go, so don't beat yourself up if it doesn't look like a Trader Joe's tamale. These are homemade! It's okay if they look a little weird. 

Ready for steaming!

There are several ways to steam your tamales if you don't have a fancy steam basket or pot. Take a stock pot and fill about halfway with water, place a colander on top and place your tamales in the colander. Find a lid among the array of lids that you surely have floating around your kitchen and fit it atop the tamales. It is okay if it's not a perfect fit. Don't have a colander? (What?!) Don't worry, maybe you have one of those aluminum pie plates. Fill your stock pot with water. Using a knife or some scissors or a screwdriver poke holes in the aluminum pie plate. Place the pie plate on the stock pot, fill with tamales and find a lid for your creative new steamer! But, if you do have a fancy steam pot, just use that. 

Steaming will take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. I steamed each batch for about 45-50 minutes. After 20 minutes, test a tamale by untying one end. If the husk peels easily off of the dough and the dough is slightly hardened then LUCKY YOU! If not, re-tie and replace and let steam for another 20 minutes. 

Eventually your tamales will be done and it will be time to eat them. Our tamales were served with salsa, sour supreme, and a garnish of avocado and corn. They will taste especially good with a beer; Negra Modelo, perhaps? 

Stay tuned for desserts, jerky and another traditional Mexican recipe veganized to perfection! Not to mention, a pitcher of homemade Bloody Mary's. I wish I could have brunch every day. 


  1. They definitely didn't look like TJ's tamales but they tasted a HELL of a lot better. True story (trust me, I am the kitchen contessa of frozen foods).

  2. These look awesome!!!! I want some NOW!

  3. made these tonight! Since there weren't really measurements, I also made enough filling to feed an army! About to make round two for eating later right now :) I found that the masa recipe made about 12 tamales, for me.

    Thanks though these were awesome!!

  4. @saparks I am so glad you liked them! I think I finished off my last frozen tamale about a week ago...

    Thanks for reading!