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Submitted by: walnutspinney on June 6, 2010
0 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 5

I adapted this recipe from Martha Hall Foose’s “Delta Hot Tamales” recipe included in her Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook

I dry corn husks in the fall when we pick corn but they’re also available at many groceries. I like to make a lot of these at once and freeze extras after cooking. I steam them in the rice cooker to reheat.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Servings: 12 (36 tamales)


Tamale Filling:
4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, beef chuck roast or venison
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons chili powder
1-1/2 Tablespoons garlic powder
1-1/2 Tablespoons ground cumin
1-1/2 Tablespoons paprika
1-1/2 Tablespoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 small cans (4-oz. each) chopped green chiles, undrained

Cornmeal Dough:
1 1/2 cups lard, chilled
1 1/2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 cups cornmeal
36-40 dried corn husks, soaked

Tamale Simmering Liquid:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 Tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste


Make the filling:
Heat 1/4 cup of the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Add the meat to hot oil and sear on all sides. Whisk together the 2 cans of green chiles, undrained, 1-1/2 tbs of the chili powder, 1 tbs garlic powder, 1 tbs cumin, 1 tbs paprika, 1 tbs salt, 1 tsp black pepper, and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper. Add the spice mixture to the pot and add enough cold water to almost cover the meat. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, reduce the heat and cover the pot. Simmer until the meat is very tender, 2 to 3 hours.

Transfer the meat to a large bowl to cool. Strain the cooking liquid and reserve for making the cornmeal dough. Cut the meat into chunks, and by pulsing in a food processor, chop the meat.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup oil with the remaining 1-1/2 tbs chili powder, 1/2 tbs garlic powder, 1/2 tbs cumin, 1/2 tbs paprika, 1/2 tbs salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Cook until just warm, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cooked meat and mix with the spice mixture until well combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the filling to a shallow dish and set aside to cool completely.

Make the cornmeal dough:
In an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the lard, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, paprika, salt, cayenne pepper, and baking powder on high speed until fluffy. Add the cornmeal, and beat at low speed until well combined. Mix in 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid and then add more, up to 1 more cup, a little at a time, until the mixture is quite moist and has the consistency of soft cookie dough.

Make the tamales:
Spread each soaked corn husk flat on a counter or cutting board with the pointed end away from you. With a small spatula or butter knife, spread about 2 tbs of cornmeal dough over two-thirds of the husk, leaving about one-third of the husk on the right side uncovered and at least a 1/2-inch border at the top of the tamale.

Place about 2 generous tablespoonfuls of the filling on the dough about 1 inch from the left edge. Fold the sides over to cover the filling. Continue rolling, then fold up the bottom part of the husk to seal. As each tamale is completed, place, folded-side down, on a baking sheet in a single, even layer until all the dough and filling are used. Using butcher’s twine, tie the tamales into bundles of three — best to tie the tamales in two places: about 1 inch from the bottom and 1 inch from the top. (It’s easier if someone helps hold the bundles while you tie them together.)

Make the tamales simmering liquid: Mix together any remaining broth from cooking the meat with enough cold water to make 2 quarts. Add the oil and seasonings.

Cook the tamales: Stand the tamales upright (folded-side down) in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Choose a pot that is just the right size for all of the tamales to remain standing upright. If the pot is too big, the tamales will fall over or come unrolled. If necessary, place a heat-proof mug or bowl in the center of the pot to fill up space.

Add the tamale simmering liquid to the pot, pouring it around the tamales and not directly over them. Then, carefully fill the pot with enough water to come just to the top of the tamales. Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer until the dough is firm and easily pulls away from the husk, about 1 hour. Serve wet or dry.

Soaking corn husks:
Place the corn husks in a large container and cover with warm water. Soak until soft and pliable, about 3 hours. If necessary, weight down with an inverted plate and a heavy can. Before rolling the tamales, drain the water from the corn husks. Rinse each husk, and remove any corn silk. Stand the husks upright in a colander to drain before applying the cornmeal dough.

Notes: The meat filling can be made a day or two ahead and the completed tamales can be made up to two days in advance and refrigerated. Plus, the cooked tamales freeze well. Thaw in the fridge overnight, then steam to heat through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Categories: Appetizers & Snacks, Beef, Main Dish, Pork, Wild Game


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  1. 6-6

    This sounds delicious!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to post the recipe as I know it took a lot of typing! I am going to pick up some corn husks and a pork shoulder this coming weekend and we are having tamales!!!

    • 6-6

      Glad you’re not intimidated by the list of ingredients and directions. 🙂 They looked overwhelming when I typed them up but it really isn’t hard, just long, and the tamales are worth it!

  2. 6-6

    What sort of sauce do you serve with tamales?

  3. 6-6

    You can either eat tamales dry or wet. Dry means just as they come out of the husk (topped with chopped onions if you like). Wet is when you spoon a little of the simmering liquid over the top. Either way, you could sprinkle a few dashes of hot sauce on top if you like it really hot.

    I guess you could always use enchilada sauce or something similar if you really like things sauce-y.

  4. 6-12

    Meat cooked, processed and seasoned awaiting assembly- CHECK
    corn husks soaking- CHECK
    making dough- going to do in a minute

    Tamales today!!! Yeaaaaaaa!

  5. 6-12

    Well, tamales were GREAT! Thanks so much Carolyn for the recipe! They are rather labor intensive and took a long time to roll but well worth every minute of it. I doubled the recipe so I could have plenty to freeze. (I have a large family) Waiting on the batch that is going into the freezer to cool so they can be flash frozen and packed away. Thanks again for taking the time to post the recipe!

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