How to Make Tamales
Tamales aren't difficult to prepare, and the filling is limited only by your imagination and preference.
Traditionally, tamales are cooked in a tamalera, a metal pot with a steamer tray that can cook up to 6 dozen tamales. We found that you can achieve similar results with an oven method that doesn't require special equipment. Place up to 2 dozen tamales on a broiler rack lined with a damp towel, cover tamales with another damp towel, and place rack in a broiler pan filled with hot water to a depth of about 1/2 inch. (Use old towels if possible because they may discolor.)
Look for specific ingredients at local supermarkets and Latin markets.
- Masa harina: This flour is made from sun-dried corn kernels cooked in limewater, and then ground.
- Lard: You'll find lard, made from rendered pork fat, in refrigerated cases or the frozen foods section of some specialty markets. Our recipe for Basic Masa Dough uses just a touch of lard to bind and flavor the dough. If you can't find lard, you can use an equal amount of vegetable shortening.
- Dried corn husks: Used to wrap tamales and keep them moist while cooking, corn husks are not eaten. Other traditional wrappers include banana and plantain leaves.
Weigh corn husks down; cover with water. Soak them at least 30 minutes.
Fold corn husk over, covering filling with dough.
Fold husk over again.
Fold bottom end of husk up and over tamale.