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Helena Tamales

Prep time 40 mins
Soak time 1 hr
Cook time 3 hrs, 15 mins
Yield Makes 18 tamales
We call for using an entire package of corn husks in this recipe because some of them will be torn or split.


  • 1 (6-ounce) package dried corn husks
  • Cornmeal Dough
  • Chicken Filling
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 quarts water

How to Make It

  1. Soak corn husks in hot water to cover 1 hour or until softened. Drain husks, and pat dry.

  2. Spread 2 tablespoons Cornmeal Dough into a 3- x 5-inch rectangle on one side of 1 husk, leaving a 2-inch border at bottom narrow edge and a 1/2-inch border at one long side.

  3. Spoon 2 heaping tablespoons Chicken Filling down center of cornmeal dough rectangle, creating a 1-inch-wide strip. Roll husk up, starting at the long side with 1/2-inch border, enclosing meat filling with the first turn. Fold bottom end with 2-inch border over, and secure with kitchen string or narrow strip of softened corn husk. Repeat procedure using remaining Cornmeal Dough and Chicken Filling.

  4. Bundle together 6 filled corn husks, seam sides inward and open ends facing same direction, and secure with kitchen string. Repeat procedure with remaining filled corn husks, making 2 more bundles of 6 filled corn husks each.

  5. Stand all 3 corn husk bundles, open ends up, in a large 12-quart stockpot. (If the bundles won't stand upright in the stockpot, place a 2-cup glass measuring cup upside down in the stockpot for the corn husk bundles to rest upon.)

  6. Stir together tomato sauce, chili powder, and cumin. Pour tomato sauce mixture and 2 1/2 quarts water around corn husk bundles in stockpot. (Do not pour directly over corn husks.) Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, 3 hours. Remove tamales, discarding tomato sauce mixture.