From the Nahuatl word, tamalli, meaning "wrapped." A dough is made from fat and masa flour, then wrapped, filled, in a corn husk and steamed. It's plated like an enchilada with a chile sauce, pico de gallo, cheese, refried beans and rice, etc.

The tamal is probably the pinnacle of Mexican good eats—a tradition of long, beautiful tastiness even without the royal tamal!


16 tamales (?)

Dough ingredients

⅔ cup lard or shortening
10 oz can beef broth (or vegetable broth or just water)
2 cups masa harina
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
corn husks


1. Prepare filling well ahead of time (see below or substitute other). Soak corn husks in water. These don't dissolve so you don't have to worry about over-soaking.

2. Beat lard/shorting with wisk until fluffy adding a tablespoon of broth or water. The lard must be light and airy.

3. Combine the masa harina, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl.

4. Stir dry masa into lard adding more broth or water as necessary to form a spongy dough. Check dough with a golf ball-sized piece dropped in cold water. If it floats back up to the surface, it's ready. If it sinks, it's not hydrated enough, maybe it needs more fat and more mixing.


This is something for which you would best find and watch a video once or at least an illustration. This link is a very good one if it's still around when you click. Another great link also with super illustrations comes from that unexpected hotbed of Mexican cooking, the beautiful country of New Zealand! Check it out: Jen Reviews: Authentic Mexican Tamale Recipe.

1. Open a corn husk and spread out flat.

2. Spread out a bit of masa dough, then meat filling.

3. Wrap up to put filling in the middle surrounded by masa dough.

4. Pack not too tightly into a steamer, not down in the water, and steam for 1 hour.

Filling ingredients

1¼ lbs pork loin or shoulder
1 large white onion
1 clove garlic
4 dried chile pods
2 cups water


1. Bring pork to boild in a Dutch oven or crock pot with onion, garlic and water. Reduce for a couple of hours.

2. Remove stems from chiles, simmer in a sauce pan for 20 minutes until very soft. Strain. Purée in a blender.

3. Shred the pork and stir in the chile pulp.

Vegetarian alternate

Make a slurry of golden raisins with spices to replace the meat filling.