Kitchen Notes

Hosting a Tamalada

by Thomas Kelly on Nov 24, 2020

In some households, tamales are totems of the holiday season. The corn-based steamed cakes studded with filling and wrapped in corn husks are labor intensive, so they’re best undertaken with a bit of help. Our suggestion: throw a tamale party. Enlist friends and family to come over for a drink or two and put them to work, assembly-line style.

We’re fans of preparing a few different fillings for variety’s sake. We’ve made tamales with everything from red chili-soaked carnitas to green chili chicken. For vegetarians, try a traditional rajas tamale made with cheese and poblanos.

And no tamale party is complete without an army of hot sauces and condiments to doctor the finished product. Grab a copy of our Hot Sauce Field Guide for recipe inspiration to adorn your tamale bar.

Basic Tamale Recipe

Makes 30 tamales

This recipe is minimally adapted from the amazing master recipe on Serious Eats[]. We cut butter into our dough for a fluffier texture, and used a bit less chicken broth than called for.

  • 40 dried corn husks
  • 3 cups masa harina
  • 3 cups high quality chicken broth, divided
  • ½ cup lard, room temperature
  • ¼ cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Place the corn husks in a large bowl and cover with boiling water; let sit for 1 hour to reconstitute.

In a large bowl, mix the masa with 2 cups chicken broth. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. In the bowl of a mixer, combine the lard, butter, baking soda, and salt and mix until creamed. Add the masa in 4 additions, mixing well between each addition to incorporate. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly drizzle in the remaining cup of chicken stock until the mixture looks fluffy and spreadable, but not so wet that it could be poured (you may not need all the stock). Beat for another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the dough to the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Prepare your wrapping station: Drain the husks well. Cut 4 of the husks lengthwise into ½-inch wide strips for tying your tamales. To assemble your tamale, lay 1 husk out on a work surface and spread 3 to 4 tablespoons of the masa into a thin rectangle on the husk, leaving a ½ inch margin from the edges of the husk. Place approximately 2 tablespoons of filling on the center of the masa. Fold in the long sides of the husk so that they overlap; then fold in the ends and secure the bundle with one of the strips. Continue with the remaining husks and masa. (The tamales can be made ahead to this point and frozen.)

To cook the tamales, set up a steamer insert inside a large pot with a few inches of boiling water and steam the tamales until the masa pulls away from the husk, about 1 hour (make sure to keep adding water as it evaporates).

Serve with an array of hot sauces.