Sunday, November 16, 2008


Tamales is one of those foods that I couldn't possibly live without. A lot of people have experienced the deliciousness of this regional delicacy, but some have not. Boy are they missing out! Also, some people have made them at home and a lot have not.

Here in El Paso, as in other Southwestern or Hispanic communities, we hold what is called a "Tamalada." This is where you invite family, friends and neighbors to come over and help make dozens and dozens of Tamales, some of which will be going home with them. Though Tamales are not really difficult to make, they are time consuming, especially if you're trying to make them by yourself. They're worth it though.

Because the instructions I have on making Tamales are extensive and way too long for a single post, I'm going to break it down and give you the various steps to making your very own tamales at home over the next few posts. It's traditional in the Southwest and its' popularity has spread far and wide. The cost of purchased tamales last year had risen to $21.00 a dozen. This is for "good" tamales. Sure you can buy them cheaper, but you get what you pay for. You can save yourself money and know exactly what's going into the tamales when you make them at home. So, start your own tradition and have a "Tamalada" starting this year. You'll have fun and make memories along the way.

Today, we'll go through HUSK preparation and making the CHILE SAUCE for your tamales.

Husk Preparation

Cornhusks are usually sold in 8-ounce packages, approximately 50 husks per package. They can be purchased at any supermarket that sells Latin American groceries or go to a Hispanic or Latin market to buy.

Sort through husks, removing extraneous silk strings and any other materials you may find. (Though messy, silks can be removed a lot easier when husks are wet. If you try to remove silks embedded in the husks when they are dry, you will end up tearing the husks.)

Place husks in a large pot or pan and cover with warm water to soften. Weigh the husks down with a heavy object. You'll notice I used a botle of wine. :) Leave husks in water anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight. Separate husks and rinse once or twice more. Remove any remaining silk strings at this time.

Stand the husks in a large pot or basket (I found that a clean dish drainer works the best) and allow the husks to drain. Pat husks dry when actually ready to spread with masa.

Chile Sauce Preparation

Red Chile Purée

9- (about 3 ounces) dried New Mexico or California red chiles, hot or mild or a combination of both
2- cups water, or more, to cover chiles completely with water in pan
1- small onion, chopped
2- cloves garlic, chopped

Roast chiles on a large baking pan for approximately 4 minutes. Let cool slightly and then remove seeds and stems. IMPORTANT! Wear rubber gloves when handling chiles. If you accidentally rub your eyes when handling chiles without gloves, it will really sting. In a 4-quart pan, combine chiles, water, onion, and garlic. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer (covered) until chiles are soft (about 30 minutes). Remove from heat and cool slightly.

In blender, whirl chile mixture till smooth. Run through sieve (strainer) to discard residue and any unprocessed chile skins. Purée can be refrigerated (covered) up to 1 week. Makes 2 cups.

* If you want a hotter tasting chile sauce, try adding 1 or 2 "chile de arbol", stemmed and seeded, to the chile in the water simmering step.

Green Chile Sauce

1/3 cup salad oil
2 medium sized onions, chopped
1 can ( 7 ounces ) diced green chiles, or use roasted fresh green chiles
2 cans ( 13 ounces each ) tomatillos, drained
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon cumin

Cook onion in oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in green chiles, tomatillos, broth, lime juice, oregano, and cumin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whirl in blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

The recipe and instructions on Tamale making are found in the "Aprovecho A Mexican American Border Cookbook". For a peak at the book go here:

Aprovecho: A Mexican-American Border Cookbook (Hippocrene Cookbook Library)

Next post we'll go over Filling Preparation and discover all the various types of delicious fillings that can used in making tamales. From Savory to Sweet, you'll decide what kind of tamales to serve at your next holiday party or family dinner. Hasta luego mis amigos.



Mi Chita's Mexican Chocolate Recipes

Buy Now, Click Here


Gabriel said...

Very nice. I have also a site for recipes for cooking, but you have to translate the Google translate. I am from Slovakia.

Mommy's Kitchen said...

Teresa those tamales look so darn good. I already saw the stores getting all the tamale ingredients out for the holiday. Isnt Tamales a Mexican Tradition on Christmas Eve??? I hope i am correct. I love love homemade tamales and yours take the cake.

Reeni said...

Thanks for showing us how to make these! I love them and haven't had them since I moved back to NY from Tucson. I have never made them myself. I bet yours are fantastic.

Kelly said...

Thanks for the detailed instructions. My library ended up purchasing your book. :-) I cannot wait for it to come in so I can check out more of your delicious recipes. Thanks for your passion of sharing border cooking with us.

Adam said...

Sweet, now I'm looking forward to all the next posts :) When I go to restaurants, my mom and I get tamales and things that 'We can't make at home'. Tamales are always something that have eluded me, but you're breaking it down nicely :)

Happy cook said...

I have neve rhad tamalas.
I was always curious about it as when my daughte rwas younger she used to watch teh sorro serial and then there was this lady selling tamalas hot tamalas.
Well now i know what it is

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

That green chile sauce looks great! I could see myself using it for more than just tamales!

Wow, Teresa, this is awesome! I have only had the oppurtunity to try tamales a few times in my life, but they sure are good!

Gloria Chadwick said...

I've been begging my daughters to let me make a "traditional" Mexican Christmas dinner--tamales, rice, beans, etc., but since we lived in Chicago for 33 years, they still think turkey is traditional for X-mas. We've been living in San Antonio for 5 years, but when it comes to holiday cooking, the roots go deep. Oh well, maybe next year.

Ramya Vijaykumar said...

Tamalas are something new to me and they look so good and I doubt I have all the patience to do that probably after my guests leave I shall make them...

Karen said...

I'm not a big fan of tamales - I prefer the sweet ones to the meat. Are you going to give us some sweet recipes?

anudivya said...

I have had tamales at a friend's place and loved it. It is interesting to see Cumin being used in both Indian and Mexican cooking. I just can't do without that one spice... it is just amazing.

Joan said...

I love tamales! we made the mistake of trying to make some last year. They were good. All 6 dozen. A whole day of work for 6 dozen. Never again. There is a place in San Antonio named Rubens that can expect to see my face. Yours look so tasty!

Dee said...

Wow! That is it! If I ever make it over to where you are I want to be adopted! ha! Those look wonderful. Here in Northern Mexico families, office co-workers & party attendees will consume kilos of tamales between now & Christmas. I have to say they are good here but my favorite are still tamales from Texas. I guess it is all what we are used to & grow up with. Thanks for posting this recipe. Delicious!

Nikki said...

I just got your cookbook in the mail Teresa! I haven't even started to open it yet! I'm so excited!!!!!!

Chef E said...

Growing up in Texas I always looked forward to the Tamale coolers coming around, and then started making them myself. Yummy, and great post!

Chef E said...

Thank you for your compliment, and then I remembered, tamales for $4 a dozen, that was a long time ago, I gasped when they went to $8 a dozen...then I learned said...

Thank you for your tamale info! I have been planning on making them for the new year with my visiting family for many reasons: the price and the experience. I love tamales so thank you for the great tips and ideas!!