Corn Tamales

One of my favorite things to order when we go for Mexican/Latin American food is corn tamales.  I’ve had really, really good ones that melt in your mouth and some not-so-good ones that were dry and gritty, so I was kind of nervous attempting to make them at home.  We’ve been meaning to make them for ages, and bought the dried corn husks ages ago, but I couldn’t find a recipe that looked simple enough for a first try.  I was looking again today (thanks to the giant snow storm!) and found loads of recipes.  Unfortunately, they were all substantially different, so I ended up getting really confused.  In the end, I decided to combine a whole bunch of them together, and ended up with the  recipe below.


20 large dried corn husks (3 oz), separated and any damaged husks discarded
1.5 stick (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 small onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup corn
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
½ tbsp oregano
2 cups boiling water
2 cups fine-ground masa harina
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
Quesillo (pupusa cheese), cut into rectangular pieces 1/4 inch x 1 inch (optional)


1.  Place husks in a large bowl and cover with hot water.  Put a plate on top to keep the husks submerged and let it sit for at least an hour, until soft.  Tear a few of the longer husks lengthwise into 1/2-inch wide strips to use as ties and also submerge in water (if you are running short of husks, or none of them are long enough, you can use thread to tie them up).

2.  Heat 1/4 cup (12 stick) butter in a nonstick skillet.  When melted, add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes.  Add corn and spices and cook until the corn is tender.

3.  Beat remaining ½ cup (1 stick) butter until fluffy.

4.  In a separate bowl, beat in masa harina, baking powder, sugar, and hot water.

5.  Add the masa mix to the butter and beat.  Once well mixed, use a spoon and mix in the corn mixture.

6.  Put 1 husk on a work surface, with the pointy end close to you.  Place ~3 tbsp of mixture in the middle.  If you want cheese, place a piece in the middle and lightly fold the mix over it.  Leave at least 1 inch of husk on all sides.  Bring the pointy end of husk up over the filling.  Fold the right end of the pointy end.  Fold the left end over the right end.  Fold the top down over the left end.  Tie with a double knot using one of the corn husk strips.  Repeat until the mixture is finished.

7.  Arrange tamales upright in a steamer tray.  Place the tray over boiling water in pot and cover with a towel. Steam tamales for about 1 hour (you may need to add water halfway through).

8.  Serve hot with sour cream and/or salsa!


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