Okay, so picture a town with streets full of different varieties of tamale vendors....amazing right! So we had the bright idea of recreating that image right here in the TGBK kitchen. Being that we don't have a town full of people to feed, we decided on just two delicious varieties of tamales this time around. Also, as this is a plant and health based blog we of course used a few substitutes to make these tamales not only friendly to the taste buds but to our bodies as well. If you are new to tamale making then read (and look!) on, we have plenty of pictures and instructions to help you get started creating tamales in your own kitchen.
Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish of a variety of fillings stuffed in a corn dough, or masa, and wrapped in corn husks. Traditionally, the fat source used in the masa is animal lard but we substituted with coconut oil with great success! We've given you one vegan and one vegetarian filling option but the possibilities are endless: consider any variety of beans, veggies, and cheese, meat options if you are a meat eater, or even sweet, dessert variations. Tamales are so delicious and very portable given their corn husk wrapping. Dried corn husks can be found at most grocery stores and definitely at ethnic and specialty grocers. Remember that they have to be pre-soaked before tamale making to become pliable. The masa flour for the corn dough is a specialty type of corn flour used for tamale making and can also be found at most grocers. So once you have your corn husks, masa, and filling ready (pictured above), you move on to the art of tamale making. As you can see (pictured below) the masa is pressed into the pre-soaked corn husks, layered with filling, wrapped, and then tied into a neat little package for steaming. They are easy to freeze and save for future meals and easy to pack and transport for on the go meals, what could be better? So now that you have the gist of the tamale process let's get to the recipe!
PREP TIME: 45 mins
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour
Servings: 16-20 tamales
24 corn husks
Filling Option #1
16 oz fresh spinach, cooked and drained
4 oz feta cheese
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Sprinkle of sea salt
Filling Option #2:
1/2 sweet onion
8-10 mini bell peppers or 1 small- medium bell pepper
1/4 cup black beans
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp taco seasoning
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 cups masa flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric (optional, gives the dough a beautiful golden hue)
1 Tbsp powdered ancho chili pepper (optional for a slightly smokey flavor)
1 cup coconut oil, softened
1 cup room temperature water
Fill a large bowl with water and soak about 24 corn husks making sure they are fully submerged. Allow to soak while you prepare the fillings. Reserve 4 soaked husks and tear into small strips to tie your tamale packages.
To make filling option one, place spinach in a large pan over medium heat and saute until wilted. Press spinach through a mesh strainer to remove excess water then rough chop spinach and place in a bowl. Add feta cheese, red pepper flakes, and sea salt and stir to combine.
To make filling option two, add olive oil to a medium pan over medium heat. Dice onion into small cubes and add to the hot pan. Cook the onion for 3-5 minutes until edges are golden brown. Dice the peppers to about the same size as the onion and rough chip the beans. Add peppers and beans to the pan along with taco seasoning and sea salt. Continue cooking until the onions have caramelized and the peppers and beans are softened. Remove from heat and set aside.
To make the dough, combine masa flour, baking powder, salt, turmeric, and chili pepper in a large bowl. Add the softened coconut oil to the dry ingredients and slowly add the water, stirring gently until a soft dough is formed. Now it's time to assemble the tamales!
Remove the corn husks from the water. Lay softened husks on a clean work space and evenly spread about 2 heaping tablespoons of dough in the center of the husks (view pictures above). Spread about 1 tablespoon of filling down the center of the dough then press the tamale together lengthwise. Wrap the corn husk around the dough and fold the ends in like a package. Carefully wrap a thin piece of husk around each end of the corn husk package and tie together. Continue this process until all the dough has been used. This recipe makes about 16-20 tamales depending on the size you make them. Place wrapped tamales in a steamer basket over boiling water, making sure to not overlap them for even steaming. Partially cover with a lid and steam for 15 minutes. Repeat process until all tamales have been steamed. Serve warm or keep in the fridge for 5 days. If you do not plan to eat your tamales within this time frame, feel free to freeze them. When heating frozen tamales keep in mind that they should first be thawed and then re-steamed for about 5-7 minutes. Serve with salsa (we whipped up a mango salsa) or hot sauce of your choice. Oh and share with friends, you'll have plenty!
PREP TIME: 10 mins
TOTAL TIME: 12 mins
Servings: ~ 2 cups
2 ripe mangos
1/4 cup cilantro
1 inch jalapeño pepper
Splash of fresh lime juice
Sprinkle of sea salt
Peel and chop the mangos into 1/4" cubes. Chop cilantro and dice jalapeño pepper then add to the chopped mango. Sprinkle with fresh lime juice and salt to taste. Just like that you have fresh, fruity, and spicy salsa! Serve over hot tamales or keep in an air tight container in the fridge for 5-7 days.
So this is definitely just what we had pictured, tamales of all varieties just waiting to be shared. We hope that you enjoy the crumbly but rich, coconut oil based masa dough stuffed with your favorite variety of fillings. Just remember to discard (and not eat!) the corn husk packaging. Hopefully this instruction and recipe has given you the confidence to create your own tamale town!
Jess and Cecelia
Jess and Cecelia welcome you to our kitchen. We are fun-loving and passionate foodies working to make the world a healthier, happier place one plant based recipe at a time.