These are made with vegetable oil instead of lard, so they can be kosher if you wish.

The recipe is based on the one from Mely Martínez – Mexico in my Kitchen, who got it from her friend Xochitl. So, I’d like to say “Thank you!” to Xochitl! (and Mely!).

I did make a few changes including reducing the fat considerably. This wasn’t an attempt to make them “healthy”, I just found that too much fat made them too rich for my tastes. Coming from someone who thinks “sausage and cheese pizza’ is good breakfast food, that’s saying something. If you find that you want more or less fat, feel free to adjust the ratio of oil to water.

My biggest contribution, aside from the directions and notes is the discovery that tamales can hold pretty much anything you like. I know that sounds like a “Captain Obvious” moment, but I had spent a lot of time chasing down “authentic” ingredients and recipes to make traditional sauces and fillings, but only recently discovered that they’re really, really good when filled with whatever I liked to make too.  Turkey taco filling, or smoked meat or almost anything else you like will be awesome!

Recently I learned from Rick Bayless’s show “Mexico One Plate at a Time” that there really isn’t such a thing as “authentic” Mexican (or Jewish or Italian or “you name it”) food. Everything is a adaptation made by people living in and passing through an area, using the ingredients that they brought or could get, and techniques they brought with them. Everybody has something different that they consider “the most authentic”.

Make things with the best that you can make, in the place where you are, with the best ingredients you can find and make amazing food. It will always be “authentic” for who you are and where you are.


1 Large Pot with lid and steamer basket


2.5 Cups Corn Masa for Tamales
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
2 1/2 Cups Hot Water
1 Level Teaspoon Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base
2 Cups Any filling you like
15-20 Corn husks


  • Check the corn husks and clean any that are dirty and discard any that can’t be cleaned.
  • Fill the pot about halfway with hot water and add the corn husks.
  • Lower in the steamer basket to keep the corn husks submerged.
  • Leave for at least 30 minutes to soften.
  • Drain corn husks and dump out water.
  • Add water to the pot to about an inch below the steamer basket, insert the steamer, cover and bring to a boil.


  • Add all the dry ingredients to a stand mixer bowl and mix on low for a few seconds.
  • Add all the wet ingredients (except the filling) and mix on low until it comes together, then mix on high until it’s fluffy.
  • The batter should have a consistency between very thick pancake batter and whipped cream cheese. Add a little water if needed.
  • Spread about 3 tablespoons of filling on a corn husk and put about 1.5 tablespoons of filling in the middle.
  • Fold the right and left sides in, then fold the bottom up to make a packet.
  • Stand up in the bottom of the steamer basket.
  • Repeat until all the masa and filling is gone. You should have about 16 tamales


  • Cover and steam for 60-90 minutes.
    Keep an eye on the water. Add more before it boils away, since running out of water means ruined tamales and a ruined pot.
  • The tamales are done when they can be unfolded from the corn husk without falling apart.

Makes about 16 tamales and they freeze beautifully if you want to scale the recipe up.