15+ Easy Tamale Recipes to Spice Up Your Life
Tired of Taco Tuesday? Try tamales on for size. A much-loved food throughout Mexico and parts of the United States, tamales feature a cornmeal dough stuffed with a filling (often meats like pork or beef), and then wrapped in a corn husk (or, less commonly, a banana leaf) and steamed. Traditional tamales can be a little time-consuming, but aren't difficult to make. We've served up a few classic tamale recipes, plus several other twists, including Sugar-and-Spice Fruit Tamales, Tamale Chicken Potpies, Chicken Tamale Casserole, and more.
Pork is the traditional filling for tamales in New Mexico, but we chose beef filling for these tamales. Adjust the ground chile for more or less heat as you prefer. If this recipe makes more tamales than you need, freeze for up to a month.
Chipotle Pork Tamales with Cilantro-Lime Crema
Homemade tamales are a delicious savory food gift, whether around the holidays or just to make someone feel special. For gift-giving, assemble and steam tamales. Cool and freeze, wrapped in husks, in an airtight container. Give frozen to loved ones with a note about reheating.
Fried Pork Tamales
This recipe make enough braised pork filling for both the fried tamales and one 10-inch tamale pie.
Mama Totota's Tamales
These tamales are prepared the traditional way, making them a little time-intensive, so be sure to carve out enough space in your schedule. However, the incredible results are well worth the extra effort!
Shrimp and Cilantro Pesto Tamales
The shrimp cook as the tamales steam, so they're tender and perfectly done.
Chicken Tamales with Ranchero Sauce
Forming the tamales, albeit time-consuming, is part of the fun. Make it a family activity and set up an assembly line--one person placing the filling, another folding, and a third tying. This recipe uses lard, which actually has less saturated fat than butter.
Venezuelan Tamales (Hallacas)
Hallacas are traditional Venezuelan Christmas Eve gifts that are lovingly prepared for the recipients. The filling usually starts with whole chicken, pork shoulder, bacon, and beef chuck all separately seasoned, stewed, and shredded or chopped. This lightened version uses leaner cuts of meat, skips the bacon, and stews all the meats together.
Sugar-and-Spice Fruit Tamales
Take your love of tamales to the dessert table with these sweet twists on the classic Mexican fare. While traditional tamales feature meats such as pork or beef, these tamales calls for pumpkin, pineapple, raisins, and spices, and are served with homemade vanilla and chocolate sauces.
These little bites give you that same combination of soft, steamy masa dough and rich filling. To shave off even more time, use cooked chorizo instead of making a pork filling. Masa harina is fresh corn dough that's been dried and ground into flour. Find it in the international aisle of your grocery store or at Latino markets.
Steamed Pork Tamales
In this recipe, New York chef Alex Stupak shows how to prepare steamed banana-leaf-wrapped tamales. He also gives two variations: fried until crisp (a great trick for reviving leftover steamed ones), and baked as a large pie.
Tamale Chicken Potpies
Serve these individual potpies with a side of spicy black beans.
Chicken Tamale Casserole
If you’re craving tamales but just don’t have the time, this tamale casserole is a quick and easy answer. Homemade tamales can be too time-consuming to prepare on a weeknight, but corn bread mix captures the same flavor. Feel free to experiment with different types of meat, such as ground beef or turkey, or trying chile verde salsa instead of enchilada sauce. No matter how you prepare it, this dish will quickly become a family favorite.
Green Corn Tamale Pie
Canned nopalitos (cactus strips) are available in well-stocked supermarkets and in Latino markets. Assemble pie through step 3 and make salsa up to 2 days ahead; chill separately. Bake chilled tamale pie about 1 1/4 hours.
Chile-Spiced Sweet Potato Tamales
These sweet potato tamales get a spicy kick with chiles.
Chicken Tamale Casserole
Tamales are made easy and accessible, especially for busy weeknights, with this simple casserole featuring boneless, skinless chicken breasts, canned enchilada sauce, and crumbled cornbread.
If you love tamales, our Tamale Pie is for you. We take a shortcut with a make-ahead savory ground beef and kidney bean filling and top with prepared polenta rounds--tasty and quick!