If you have never made these at home, then this is the tamales recipe for you to try. We are going to break down how to make tamales in your own kitchen. No special equipment required. All you need is a little time and delicious ingredients. Poblano Chorizo + Cheese Tamales are filled with earthy peppers, spicy pork sausage, and melty Oaxaca cheese. Oh yeah, these are THAT kind of good.
Tamales are one of those delicious meals that seem so intimidating to make. At least to me they are. Or should I say, WERE. Once you jump in and make homemade tamales, you’ll be so glad you did. Tender masa dough filled with savory and spicy fillings and nom nom cheese, topped with your favorite salsa and crema. There are so many (seriously, Google it) variations of tamales. Dating back to around 5000 B.C., the history of tamales travels from the original inhabitants of Mexico and Latin America to various Native American Tribes and even to the Caribbean.
I bet if you started asking people how to make tamales, you’d probably get just as many answers. Basically, a tamale is a dough made of corn that has a filling in the center. Typically, the tamale is wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf and then cooked. Sounds simple enough, right? A delicious meal from very humble beginnings. This tamales recipe is perfect for holiday celebrations like Christmas, Day of the Dead, and Los Posadas. Our recipe makes about 15 tamales but is easily doubled or tripled for a crowd.
For our Poblano Chorizo + Cheese Tamales, we knew we wanted authentic flavor. Ingredients of choice? Fresh roasted poblano peppers, Cacique® Pork Chorizo, and Cacique® Oaxaca Cheese. With Cacique® products, it’s so easy to savor the flavors of Mexican dishes at home with your family and friends this holiday season. Pork Chorizo is a highly seasoned meat. I love to use it because it gives my Mexican-inspired recipes that robust and spicy flavor I love. (And it takes the thought out of seasoning). Cacique®’s Oaxaca has a buttery flavor and creamy texture. Plus it melts like a dream.
How to Make Tamales – Corn Husks:
When you are ready to make tamales, the first thing you need to do is pick up corn husks. You can find them in the Hispanic Food section of most grocers. At least an hour (up to overnight) before you start, soak the corn husks in a large bowl of hot water. To keep the husks submerged, weigh them down with a heavy dish. Soaking the corn husks makes them easier to work with. Plus it helps keep the filling moist during the cooking process. Once the husks have finished soaking, drain off all of the water and stand the corn husks up to drain.
How to Make Tamales – Roasting the Peppers:
Poblanos are one of my favorite pepper varieties. They aren’t too hot, but they aren’t sweet. They have an earthiness to them that I love. They are easy to cook with, too. (Try stuffing them. So good.) For this tamale recipe, we wanted the pepper flavor to shine. So we tossed our poblanos in a bit of olive oil and roasted them for 25 minutes. Turn them every few minutes to get all sides blistered and charred. Once they are roasted, transfer them to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. The peppers will steam and in about 5 minutes, you can slip the skin off and the seeds come right out. Slice the peppers into strips and set aside for later. TIP: Want spicier “hot” tamales? Swap out the poblanos for jalapenos. Or go milder with bell peppers.
How to Make Tamales – Making the Masa:
Now it is time for the most important part of any tamale recipe: the masa. Masa is a dough made from corn flour (masa harina). Masa harina is also used to make tortillas. (A post for another day!) Here’s how we made our masa dough:
In the bowl of our stand mixer, we mixed masa harina flour, baking powder, and salt.
Drizzle in melted lard and mix on low until the mixture is crumbly like sand.
Gradually add warm chicken broth and increase speed. Mix for about 2 – 3 minutes until the mixture comes together to a cookie dough consistency. (Some people think it is more like peanut butter or hummus, but you get the idea.)
Once the masa is complete, cover it with a warm damp towel to keep it moist while you prepare the filling.
How to Make Tamales – Chorizo Filling:
You can fill tamales with just about anything. Most commonly, tamales are filled with pork or chicken. But you can fill them with anything you’d like. Beef, sausage, cheese, and more. Did you know that there are sweet tamales? Native American tribes like the Chickasaw made a version of the tamale filled with venison, squash, and sweet potato. (Source, Wikipedia.) Me? I’m going all Mexican for the flavors I adore. Cacique® Pork Chorizo uses rich spices and earthy herbs, unique to the authentic chorizo made in Mexico, to create a sausage with unmatched flavor. It is easy to cook, just heat to package directions in a hot skillet. No oil is required. I added chopped onion, a splash of water, and a tablespoon of the masa dough mixture to the pork chorizo to give it extra thickness. Perfect for our tamale filling.
How to Make Tamales – Assemble and Fold:
See? Making tamales at home isn’t too hard. It just involves several steps. Now we are down to the fun part. Putting this tamales recipe together. Here’s how to assemble this tamales recipe:
1. Place a corn husk wide side at the top. Be sure the smooth, waxy side of the husk is facing you. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of the masa onto the husk.
2. Using your hands and even pieces of husk, spread the masa in an even layer on the husk. You can also use a butter knife, plastic wrap, or the back-side of a spoon.
3. Make sure the masa is spread evenly. Work toward the top edge (but don’t get too close). Leave the bottom half of the corn husk uncovered.
4. Place a prepared strip of roasted poblano pepper in the center of the masa.
5. Add a teaspoon or two of the pork chorizo filling.
6. Top with a slice of Oaxaca cheese.
TIP: Don’t overfill the tamale, or else it will seep out during cooking. But really, you can’t mess this up. Don’t overthink it. Just add your toppings and have fun.
Once the masa is filled with your toppings, time to roll and fold. Bring both sides of the corn husk to the center, overlapping each other and roll. Then fold the bottom half over the seam side. If you’d like, you can tie the tamales with a strip of corn husk. Repeat this process until the masa and fillings are gone.
How to Make Tamales – Steaming:
Tamales are usually steamed in a large tamale steamer pot. (I’ve also read they can be grilled or baked!) For this tamales recipe we are going to stick with tradition…however we don’t own a tamale pot. So we improvised by creating a steam pot by placing a large metal colander over a large pot of boiling water. (Get specific steaming instructions in the recipe at the bottom of this post. Due to variances in pots, tamale size, etc. cooking times will vary greatly.) Whether you are using a steamer or an “improvised situation”, here are some tips for tamale success:
● Arrange a layer of corn husks under and on top of the tamales to keep the heat in.
● Bring water to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.
● Don’t let the water touch the tamales. You want to steam them, not boil them.
● Use a lid if possible to promote even cooking.
● Cook for 45 minutes up to 2 hours. This will vary based on your steaming method, number of tamales, size of tamales, and equipment. They tend to cook faster in a traditional steamer…ours took 2 hours.
● To test, remove a tamale from the pot. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Peel back the husk. If the husk peels off evenly and nothing sticks, they are done. If not, keep cooking and check every 20 minutes.
● The masa will “set up” and become more firm if you let the tamales rest for several minutes before serving.
Don’t you love this Tamales Recipe? Are you ready to Take on this Tamales Recipe? Or, are you a pro at tamales and have tips to share with us? We would love to learn from you, so please leave comments and ideas below this post. One of my favorite thing about making tamales at home? The aroma is amazing. The smell of the corn flour and the spicy chorizo with the peppers makes my mouth water. And the taste? So simple but spicy and comforting. I’m from the South, and tamales remind me so much of a moist, grainy cornbread filled with all the yummy things.
Serve Poblano Chorizo + Cheese Tamales with your favorite toppings. You can cover them in rojo or verde sauce, or more simply with Cacique® Crema and flavored sour cream. I love to top mine with fresh avocado and cilantro, too. Just wait until you sink your fork into this delicious tamales recipe, full of peppers, seasoned pork chorizo and Oaxaca cheese.