new years tamales

Tamales have been part of marking my new year for a long time – my friend Katie and I used to enjoy them as we celebrated welcoming the new year. Several years we made them in her NYC apartment, at least once at my place in Portland, even in Eugene with her brother.

I love tamales.

pinto bean, monterey jack, green chile:

Tamales have become a New Years tradition for Jason and me. This year,we made several flavors, including a dessert tamale and a spicy new sauce. We ate well yesterday, had a lot of fun, and have more tamales to enjoy later.

I love tradition.

black bean, roasted sweet potato, arbol chile: 

making tamales – step by step

First, prepare the husks. Soak at least one hour in warm water. I place them in a container with a lid, water filled to the very top, as the husks float. I have also used a large bowl with something to weigh them down.

While husks soak, prep filling ingredients. Grate cheeses, soak/cook or open cans of beans, prepare hot sauces. 

a few of my flavors this year:

green chile + pinto bean + monterey jack

black bean + arbol chile + roasted sweet potato

dark chocolate + sweet cashew cream

Once the fillings are prepped, make the dough. 

tamale dough

makes 18-20 tamales

4 cups instant corn masa mix
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or water)

Combine masa and salt. Add broth one cup at a time, mixing with hands until it reaches doughy consistency, almost spreadable.

Time to wrap tamales!

Remove corn husks from soaking, pat dry with a towel. Spread a thin layer of masa in the middle of a husk, leaving the pointed end and edges free for folding. Place filling down middle:

Fold sides of husk so masa meets and forms in the middle. Fold thinner pointed end over. Place in steamer, standing up on folded end.

Steam tamales. Using a large pot with a steamer insert, add water just under steam basket so water is not touching tamales. Bring water to boil, then reduce heat to medium. Check water level often, adding hot water as needed to keep from running dry. Steam for 60 minutes – check a tamale – masa should be firm. Continue to steam, checking every 10 minutes, if not firm, up to 90 minutes total.

We love to eat them fresh out of the steamer, topped with avocado and sauce (I made a sauce with arbol chiles we brought back from Mexico – I’ll share soon).

This year we also had dessert! I have wanted to make a dark chocolate filled tamale for a while, and I am so happy I did. Fantastic.

dark chocolate, sweet cashew cream:

A great start to the year, indeed.



    • spabettie says

      I know what you mean, Heather… I’m not a fan of too many of the traditional tamales either (um, no thanks, pork!). I used to get some amazing vegetarian tamales years ago, from this family who was neighbors with a friend… authentic as you can get, and they made me special vegan ones with chiles and cactus – YUM!

  1. says

    love tamales! we have them every year for Christmas Eve, but I’ve never made my own…sounds like something Billy would love to do. happy new year, friend! xo

    • spabettie says

      I’ve been meaning to ask you about Billy – his tortilla making!! does he use a press or just his hands? we made some the other day, just rolling them between parchment. I don’t really want to get another gadget… 😉

  2. says

    Yummmmmmmmmm!! I love tamales!! :) So tasty!!

    I love the idea of sweet ones!! Instant masa is incredible hard to find here and corn husks are SO expensive… :( So we don’t get this treat very often.

    Happy New Years to you guys!!

    • spabettie says

      perhaps we need to do another goodie swap, so I could send you tamale fixins. 😀 why are they so difficult to find and so expensive?

      happy new year to you both, my friend! XO

    • spabettie says

      they take a bit of time, especially if you are making the traditional carnitas – Jason was up at 5:45 making that for his! they are in no way difficult, though, after you get the hang of wrapping them. really fun, and yeah, you can make whatever you want so you KNOW they’ll be good. the chocolate will be an annual tradition now, too. happy new year to you! :)

  3. says

    Oh my do I love tamales! But I’m far too impatient to make them. Plus, I’m afraid of “bastardizing” them as I live in LA and I can get really good authentic tamales within 10 min. Seriously, when are you coming to visit?

    • spabettie says

      while I love a great authentic tamale, and had many in Mexico, I like to make them and fully admit most of mine are anything but authentic. add tamales to the list of what we will do when I visit!

    • spabettie says

      thank you, Suzanne! these are always so fun to make, even if they may not all be traditional flavors. the chocolate one will be a must make, every time. Happy New Year to you!

  4. says

    These look great. Man, I haven’t eaten tamales in a long time. When I lived in Texas, they were plentiful. Here in Wisconsin, you have to go to a restaurant to find them.

  5. says

    YUM. I absolutely adore tamales. I made them once, oh, maybe five years ago, and remember them being a lot of work, but worth it. Love the idea for a sweet tamale!

    • spabettie says

      they are a lot of work, but not difficult, right? if you have someone to make them with it’s fun! next time you make them, a sweet version is a MUST! :)

  6. says

    I have to say that I’m not a huge fan of tamales because they are too much dough and not enough filling. Yours look anything but! And bring on the dessert tamale – I’m all over it!

    • spabettie says

      Susan I am SO glad you noticed! I take extra time to make them thin. I am so glad I finally made the dessert tamale, OOH it was good! 😀

  7. says

    Shit, Kristina!!! I freakin’ love tamales, and your dessert tamale looks crazygood! I have never made my own, but I might have to start now. Or maybe I’ll just fly to Portland and you’ll make me some, yeah? 😉

    • spabettie says

      they are really easy and fun to make, so yes, you should… or YES, just come here!! I will make you any tamale you want! 😀

  8. David says

    Wow, it looks delicious, I don’t know how I ended up in this blog, I was just googling a nice pic of a blackberry cheesecake, but anyways, now I’m craving tamales! I’m a huge fan of Mexican food. Btw, you should also try the Hallacas, which are a Venezuelan version of the Mexican tamales.

  9. says

    Making tamales seems so daunting to me! I have a HUGE bag of masa in my pantry that I bought to make tortillas. I am horrible at making them, and vow not to again (until I get a tortilla press), and don’t know what else to do with the rest of that Masa. Using it to make tamales looks much easier than tortillas though! I just need to get my hands on some corn husks… hmm.

  10. says

    Yum, and thank you – this tutorial is great! I’ve been wanting to learn how to make tamales for a while now and this is just what I needed. Now, as for us getting together – I’m doing a lot of half days on Tuesday and Wednesday the next few weeks – wanna do lunch any of those days?

    • spabettie says

      there are several steps but really very easy! :) I hope you make some!

      yes – lunch on a Tuesday or Wednesday would be great – next week is full but maybe the 17 or 18th? email me? 😀

  11. says

    you made them for new year and I will make them on February 2, your tamales look pretty good but you should add a bit of shortening to make them even better :)

    • spabettie says

      you know, I have used shortening or oil in the past! Jason made the dough this time while I was prepping the innards, and I didn’t even know but he used the recipe for tortillas on the package! :) the dough worked, he used broth in place of water, but I didn’t even know that’s all he did until I was typing this up and I asked him the measurements he used! :) but yes… shortening is GOOD.

      enjoy your tamales next month!

  12. maria says

    the orange sauce! can you post the recipe for that.. there’s a spot here in California with orange sauce like that but its a secret recipe, I’ve been trying to crack it for years and it looks just like that..And the tamales look great I buy them cause they are tons of work. Thank you thank you thank you

    • spabettie says

      hi Maria – I am going to be posting the sauce soon! we brought back arbol chiles from Mexico last month, and … OOOH these babies are HOT and make an awesome sauce! :)

  13. says

    I want you to know these are the best tamales I have ever had!! thank you for sharing your hot sauce recipe with me, I promise not to share until you have!! I found the arbol, wow, you are right YOU NEED GLOVES!! :) thanks Kristina!!

  14. Patrick says

    THESE LOOK AMAZING!! I can’t wait to try, I have a superbowl party this weekend and think I may make these? If I make them the day before would that be okay? just store them in the frige?


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