Homemade Tamales

We recently discovered a great way to use and repurpose leftovers into something quick and delicious for dinner in a hurry. Homemade tamales!

So far, we’ve made them with leftover shredded smoked chicken, and pulled pork. This weekend brisket is on the menu, and you can bet we’ll be keeping some leftovers to try as a tamale filling!

This recipe makes about 24-30 tamales, which freeze easily and can be cooked from frozen in less than 20 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a salad and you’ve got a great dinner. 

Tamale Dough

  • 3 cups masa harina (corn flour)
  • 2 cups chicken broth + more if needed
  • 8 ounces crisco or lard (or a mix of the two)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Combine masa harina and chicken broth, and mix well. Let stand for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, place crisco, lard or mixture of both in bowl of a stand mixer and whip on high for 5-10 minutes. Add salt and baking powder and continue mixing. When the mixture becomes bright white, add masa harina/chicken broth mixture 1/3 at a time, and mix well. Add additional chicken broth as necessary to achieve a hummus-like consistency. 

Tamale Filling

  • 3 cups leftover grilled meat.

We recommend shredded smoked pork butt, shredded smoked chicken, or shredded/chopped brisket. You can add 1 can of chopped green chiles, beans, or other fillings you’d like. Whatever you use should be moist and a little saucy.

Tamale Assembly

  • 3 dozen dried corn husks, soaked in hot water for 30+ minutes until soft

Make Your Tamales!

Working one at a time, place a corn husk on work surface. Place 2-3 tablespoons of tamale dough on larger end of husk and spread into a rectangle approximately 1/4 inch thick, leaving a 1-inch border around edges of husk. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in a line down center of dough. Fold over sides of husk so dough surrounds filling, then fold bottom of husk up and place in an aluminum pan, seam side down. 

When you’ve used up all your ingredients, place constructed tamales in a gallon size ziplock bag and freeze. 

Cook and Serve

Tamales can be cooked from frozen, and we’ve found the best way to cook them is in your InstantPot pressure cooker or on the stovetop with a steamer insert. 

Place frozen tamales, open side up, on a steamer tray over 1/2 an inch of water. Steam for 20 minutes until heated through. Remove and pile (with husks in place) on a plate and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rest 5-10 minutes, then unwrap and serve with green chile, sour cream, salsa or the toppings of your choice. 

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