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Christmas tamales


My friend Jamie shared this traditional Mexican tamale recipe with me. I made a smaller batch and used a vegetarian filling. It was a great hit with my family on our Christmas dinner!

Makes about 24 medium tamales.


Corn Husks

  • 25-26 corn husks


  • 12 oz (330 g) vegetarian sausage, crumbled
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, roasted
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese

Red Chile Salsa:

  • 12 California dried chili peppers (about one 3-oz bag), de-stemmed and broken up
  • 6 tomatillos, roasted, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Mexican seasoning (or use chili powder and oregano to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 c water, or to barely cover

Masa Mixture:

  • 1 lb masa harina
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 c (1.5 sticks) cold salted butter
  • 1 c veggie broth


Corn Husks:

  1. Place corn husks in 1 or 2 large bowls or pots.
  2. Cover with warm water and allow to soak one hour or more.
  3. Drain and lay flat on toweling. Pat dry.


  1. Break up the patties into crumbles and place them in a large food processor (or mix by hand).
  2. Chop jalapeno, onion, and tomatillos. Add to processor along with the shredded cheese.
  3. Process until finely chopped and cohesive. Set side.

Red Chile Salsa

  1. Place the dried chilies, tomatillos, garlic, onion, Mexican seasoning, salt, and water in a large saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
  3. Reduce heat and cook 10 minutes, or until the chilies are tender.
  4. Cool briefly. Place in blender and process until you have a fairly smooth sauce. Set aside.

Masa Mixture:

  1. Place the masa harina, cumin, salt and baking powder in a stand mixer bowl with a dough hook. (This may also be done by hand.) Whisk together.
  2. Cut in butter, beating on medium low, until well-distributed.
  3. Add the vegetable broth and half of the red chile salsa (reserving the rest to serve with the tamales). Continue beating until the texture is smooth and soft, adding a bit of water if too dry.

Assembly and Steaming:

  1. Tear 1-2 of the corn husks into thin strips to tie the tamales.
  2. Arrange your work station with corn husks, masa mixture, and filling.
  3. Place a corn husk on your work surface with wide end towards you. Spread thin layer of masa mixture on middle third of the husk from the bottom edge to 2-inches from the top.
  4. Add two tablespoons filling in a strip down the center of the masa.
  5. Fold left side of husk over filling. Fold right side over as well. Fold top of husk down.
  6. Use a thin strip of corn husk to tie the tamale together. Set it on a tray; repeat process until all the tamales are assembled. (At this point, tamales may be covered and refrigerated overnight for steaming the next day.)
  7. Set up large steamer with 1-inch water in bottom. Bring to boil on medium.
  8. Arrange as many tamales on steamer tray as fit comfortably. (You may need to do 2-3 batches.) Place tray in steamer. Cover tightly.
  9. Reduce heat to medium low and steam one hour, checking on water level midway. Repeat with remaining tamales.
  10. Serve hot with the remaining red chile salsa and/or sauce of choice. Carefully wrap and refrigerate/freeze leftover tamales. Re-steam until hot before serving.

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