Use these steps to learn how to make tamales, plus find a delicious tamale recipe.
Making tamales is a holiday custom for many families of Mexican heritage. Our test kitchen experts show you how to join in the fun.
Tamales are a celebratory food served during the Christmas season and other special occasions. While they’re a treat to eat, the art of preparing them is just as special. Friends and family come together for tamaladas, a party-like gathering centered around preparing and feasting on these savory stuffed delicacies cooked in corn husks.
Tamale fillings vary—fillings can include roasted peppers, shredded pork, chicken, vegetables, cheese and more. No matter how you fill them, tamales make a festive addition to any celebration.
Whip dough (masa) until light and fluffy. It should be very thick and well combined.
Properly beaten dough will float when dropped into cold water.
Pat dough to within 1-in. of edges of each corn husk. Top with chicken mixture and olives.
Roll corn husk around the filling. Fold top and bottom edges under; tie with kitchen string.
Arrange tied tamales in an upright position in a steamer basket.
Did You Know?
Masa harina, Spanish for “dough flour,” is the traditional flour used to make tortillas, tamales and other Mexican dishes. Although it is made from ground corn, masa harina is not like cornmeal. You cannot substitute one for the other in recipes.
Note: Look for dried corn husks and masa harina in the ethnic aisle.
Chicken Tamales Recipe
Chicken Tamales Recipe photo by Taste of Home
“I love making tamales. They’re a little more time- consuming but worth the effort. I usually make them for Christmas, but my family demands them more often.” —Cindy Pruitt, Grove, Oklahoma
Chicken Tamales Recipe
- Prep: 2-1/2 hours + soaking
- Cook: 45 min.
- Yield: 10 Servings
- 20 dried corn husks
- 1 broiler/fryer chicken (3 to 4 pounds), cut up
- 3 quarts water
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 cup shortening
- 3 cups masa harina
- CHICKEN CHILI FILLING:
- 6 tablespoons canola oil
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 cans (2-1/4 ounces each) sliced ripe olives, drained
- Place corn husks in a large bowl; cover with cold water and soak for at least 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, combine the chicken, water, onion, salt and garlic. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 45-60 minutes or until meat is tender. Remove chicken from broth; set aside until cool enough to handle. Strain broth; skim fat. Finely chop or shred chicken.
- For dough, in a large bowl, beat the shortening until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add small amounts of masa harina alternately with 2 cups reserved broth, beating until well blended.
- Drop a small amount of dough into a cup of cold water; dough should float to the top. If dough does not float, continue beating until dough is light enough to float.
- In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat; stir in flour until blended. Cook and stir for 7-9 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in the spices, chicken and 4 cups reserved broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until filling is thickened, stirring occasionally.
- Drain corn husks and pat dry. Place a corn husk on a work surface with the small end pointing away from you. On large end, spread 3 tablespoons dough to within 1 in. of edges. Top with 2 tablespoons chicken mixture and 2 teaspoons olives. Fold long sides of husk over filling, overlapping slightly. Fold over ends of husk; tie with string to secure. Repeat.
- In a large steamer basket, position tamales upright. Place basket in a Dutch oven over 1 in. of water. Bring to a boil; cover and steam for 45-50 minutes or until dough peels away from husk, adding additional hot water to pan as needed. Yield: 20 tamales.