Tamales Start to Finish

Tamale is a dough and meat dish that is steamed and served. The word tamale is derived from "tamalii," which is from the Nahuatl language spoken by ancient Aztecs. No one is quite sure where tamales originated. However, they have been enjoyed throughout the centuries due to portability and variety of ingredients that can be used.

Tamales are a labor-intensive process, which means they aren't often made and served every day. The food is generally reserved for special family events or holidays. Making tamales can be a group effort, and offers a chance for friends and family to get together, socialize and cook.

When preparing tamales, sometimes it's better if it is done over a period of two days. Use one day to make the dough and filling, and then spend the second day wrapping and steaming the tamales. This process is especially useful when tamales need to be served at parties.

Authentic Tamales


6 cups masa

5 cups warm water or broth

2 cups shortening or lard

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon chile powder

11/2 teaspoon salt

Combine the masa and warm water or broth. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes or more so the masa can soften. Afterward, mix it with a hand mixer on low speed until a dough forms. Gradually add in the salt, cumin, onion powder, and chile powder.

In a separate bowl, whip the lard until fluffy. Add the lard to the dough a little at a time and mix until combined. The dough should be the consistency of peanut butter.

Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.


3 cups shredded beef (see below)

1 cup green chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1 white onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 cup chile sauce, either homemade or store bought

Shredded Beef

1 cut of beef brisket, chuck roast, bottom round, or other large cut

1 jar adobo sauce

2 cans chipotle chiles

6 cups water

2 tablespoons oil

Wrapping Materials

Corn husks

Large bowl


Heat oil in a large saucepan. Brown meat on all sides. Mix chiles and adobo in the water; pour over the meat. Simmer for 6 or more hours, until meat is tender and breaks apart. Put meat in a serving dish and pull off large chunks to shred.

Combine the filling ingredients with the shredded beef in a pan and heat until flavors are combined.

1. To assemble the tamales: Soak the corn husks in a large bowl of warm water. Use a heavy item to keep the husks submerged.

2. Remove the husks from the water and dry off. Use only large or medium husks.

3. Lay a husk on a flat surface. Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of dough on the husk, and spread, leaving a perimeter of space of about 2 inches around the husk.

4. Spread a tablespoon of filling down the center of the dough.

5. Fold the husk over to make a packet. Use smaller husks or unusable pieces to serve as ties to secure the tamale.

6. Place the tamales in a steamer. Steam for about 90 minutes.

7. Serve and enjoy.