Authentic Homemade Tamales Recipe: Step-by-Step Guide

Authentic Homemade Tamales Recipe: Step-by-Step Guide

Discover the art of making traditional Mexican tamales with this comprehensive recipe. Perfect for special occasions and family gatherings, these homemade tamales are a true labor of love that results in delicious, individually wrapped bundles of joy.

Tamales are a cherished Mexican dish, often prepared during holiday seasons when family and friends come together. The process involves creating a light, fluffy masa (corn dough), filling it with savory ingredients, wrapping it in corn husks, and steaming to perfection. While time-consuming, the end result is well worth the effort.

This recipe yields approximately 25 tamales, ideal for a small gathering or family meal. However, you can easily double the recipe for larger events or to freeze for future enjoyment. Let’s dive into the world of tamale-making!


  • 25 large dried corn husks (about 8 inches long by 6 inches wide, 6 ounces; 170g)
  • 1 cup lard, vegetable shortening, or duck fat (6 ounces; 170g), softened
  • 3 1/3 cups masa harina (12 3/4 ounces; 361g)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons (6g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond crystal kosher salt (use half as much if using table salt)
  • 2 cups (475ml) homemade chicken, pork, or beef broth (or low-sodium store-bought chicken broth)
  • 1 recipe of your choice: rojos de puerco, pollo con salsa verde, or birria for filling
  • Optional toppings: queso, crema, salsa, and/or hot sauce


  1. Soak corn husks in hot water for 20-30 minutes until pliable. Ensure they’re fully submerged, using a heavy plate if needed.
  2. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the lard (or chosen fat) on medium speed for about 4 minutes until smooth, light, and airy.
  3. Add masa harina and baking powder to the mixer. Combine on medium speed for about 1 minute.
  4. Gradually drizzle in broth while mixing for about 5 minutes. The dough should become moist, smooth, and spongy.
  5. Test the seasoning by cooking a small piece in the microwave for 15 seconds. Adjust salt if needed.
  6. Pat dry the corn husks. Spread about 2 tablespoons (32g) of masa in a thin layer on each husk, leaving borders as described in the original recipe.
  7. Add 2 tablespoons of filling down the center of the masa.
  8. Fold the corn husk sides over the filling, overlapping slightly. Tuck the tapered end up to create a secure pouch.
  9. Prepare a large pot or Dutch oven with a steamer basket. Fill with water just touching the basket’s bottom and bring to a boil.
  10. Stand tamales in the basket with open ends facing up. Cover and steam for 60-90 minutes, adding water as needed.
  11. Once tamales easily separate from husks, remove from heat and let rest uncovered for 20 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Masa harina can be found in most grocery stores’ Latin foods section. Maseca and Masienda brands work well and are interchangeable when measured by weight. Use large corn husks when possible; smaller ones may require shingling. Adjust masa amount for differently sized husks, ensuring a thin layer.

Make-Ahead and Storage Tips

Uncooked tamales can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month. When cooking frozen tamales, steam for an extra 15 minutes. Cooked tamales last up to 4 days in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer. Reheat refrigerated tamales by steaming, microwaving, or grilling. Steam frozen tamales without thawing.

Nutritional Information

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
183 Calories
12g Fat
13g Carbs
5g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 25
Amount per serving
Calories 183
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 16%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Cholesterol 19mg 6%
Sodium 115mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 11mg 54%
Calcium 42mg 3%
Iron 2mg 10%
Potassium 127mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

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