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Daring Cooks Make Tamales!

26 Comments 14 January 2012

Daring Cooks Make Tamales!

Imagine my excitement when I read that this month’s Daring Cooks’ Challenge had a Mexican theme!  You know that I have a love affair with all things cullinarily Mexican. Maranda of Jolts & Jollies was our January 2012 Daring Cooks’ hostess with the mostest! Maranda challenged us to make traditional Mexican Tamales as our first challenge of the year!

I found it interesting that our local Whole Foods, which tends to carry produce from around the world, much of which I’ve never even heard of, did not carry dried corn husks. Before freaking out and making a trip to the city to check the International Market, I thought about the ethnic diversity of the people in my town.  I teach at an elementary school where 27% of our students are hispanic.  Surely, these families do not shop at Whole Foods to get ingredients for their ethnic dishes.  Where do they go?

Kroger.  Thank you, Kroger, for having a WALL of corn husks above the various fresh peppers in the produce section.

My corn husks, made in Mexico, even had a special addition.  I’ll let you guess what this is.


A small price to pay for authentic tamales.

I loved that I only needed to purchase a few products, aside from the corn husks. Everything else was fresh produce.

I started with Maranda’s suggested Vegan Tamale recipe and altered it with some delicious suggestions from Natalie of Tasty Kitchen, because I just can’t resist the combination of Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes!

First I soaked the corn husks overnight.

 The next day, the tamale making began.  I broiled two poblano peppers.

After removing the skins and chopping up the peppers, I roasted them with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, green onions, and green, yellow, and red peppers.

 I added the roasted veggies to black beans and tomatoes.

 Mixed together with cumin, the house soon smelled divine!

While the veggies cooled, I prepared the masa dough.  It was quite simple using the Kitchen Aid.

Masa harina, chili powder, cumin, salt, olive oil, and veggie broth quickly mixed into a dough that was easy to work with.

Spreading dough on the corn husks was made easier by pressing it firmly with a sandwich baggie.  Just a spoonful of filling and a quick wrap of the corn husk, and that’s all it took.

For ONE.  But I found it easier to assemble two at a time.

Yes, it took quite a while to roll 28 tamales.

Since I didn’t have the correctly-sized steamer, I placed a round cake pan at the bottom of my large spaghetti pot so my tamales would stay above the water line.

I peeled away the corn husk having no idea what to expect.  What a pleasant surprise to find that the tamale stayed together perfectly!  And the flavor was delicious.


Vegan Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tamales

Adapted from Squidoo and Natalie of Tasty Kitchen


  • 1 – 8 oz. bag dried corn husks, soaked


  • 2 poblano peppers, broiled, peeled, and chopped
  • 4 large mushrooms, sliced
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced
  • 3 peppers (one yellow, red, and green), finely chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 T. olive oil, divided
  • 1 – 15.5 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 – 14 oz. can diced tomato, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1⁄2 c. chopped cilantro

For the masa dough:

  • 6 c. masa harina (I used Maseca instant masa mix.)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 3 3/4 – 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 3/4 c. olive oil
  • 1⁄2 tsp. sea salt


Prepare corn husks:

1.  Soak corn husks overnight.

2.  Take 3 large corn husks and tear them into 1⁄4 inch strips. Keep them in water until you are ready to use them to avoid breakage.

Prepare filling:

1.  Cut poblano peppers in half and seed them.  Brush with olive oil and broil until black spots form, 3-5 minutes.  Flip and broil the other side for 3-5 more minutes.  Peel skins off, and then chop the peppers.

2.  Combine chopped poblanos, sweet potato cubes, 1-2 c. of the tri-colored peppers, mushrooms, and the green onions.  Coat in 1 T. of olive oil and roast at 425 for 25-30 minutes on a foil-lined jelly roll pan.

3.  In a large wok or skillet, warm 1 T. olive oil over medium heat and saute garlic until it begins to brown.  Add black beans, tomatoes, roasted veggies, and cumin.  Stir in cilantro and remove from heat.

Prepare dough:

1.  Combine masa harina, salt, chili powder, cumin, and olive oil in an electric mixer on medium speed.

2.  Reduce the speed to low and slowly add vegetable broth.  After 3 3/4 cups, test the consistency of the dough and add more broth if needed.

Prepare tamales:

1.  Lay two corn husks on a flat surface.  Place 1/4 c. of dough at the top of a husk and flatten it.  Pressing down with a plastic bag will prevent your fingers from sticking to the dough.

2.  Place a heaping tablespoon of filling down the center of the dough.

3.  Roll the corn husk so it wraps snuggly around the dough and tie it with a corn husk strip.

4.  Stand the tamales up in a steamer.  Add 2 inches of water to the bottom of the pot and steam for an hour or until the dough pulls easily away from the husk.

5.  Share with LOTS of friends!

Makes 25-30 tamales

Great challenge, Maranda!  I look forward to seeing all of the creative tamale recipes that my Daring Cooks Friends come up with!

Other Mexican recipes you may enjoy:

Reader questions:
  • Have you ever made tamales?
  • What is your favorite Mexican dish?

These tamales are also shared at:

Your Comments

26 Comments so far

  1. Betsy says:

    My mouth is watering! Yum! I love tamales, but it is hard to find good vegan ones. WF used to carry one brand that was oh so yummy, but it was $6 for 3 small tamales. I was in love and then one day they simply disappeared.

    I think I may have to pick up the ingredients when I head out to the store later. It would be uber-yummy for the upcoming super bowl!

  2. blepharisma says:

    I hadn’t thought to spice the masa mixture. That sounds great! I loved the look of your roasted veggie filling. I’m a bit of a sucker for sweet potato…

  3. Jo says:

    I would have had a problem, I would have eaten all that tasty looking filling before it ever made it to the tamales! These look great.

  4. Audrey J says:

    These look amazing. Thanks for the cake pan tip. We plan to make tamales next weekend.

  5. Linda says:

    I was lucky enough to be at a friend’s house when they made tamales. They (female family members) has an assembly line going. I was overwhelmed! Reading the recipe, I don’t want to get into it right now, but it sounds delicious!! I just finished making cole slaw, 10 bean soup, and brisket. I cooked part of yesterday and all day today. I am beat! Bet you were when you finished the tamales!

    • Heather says:

      No better feeling than putting your feet up and enjoying the fruits of your labor after a long day in the kitchen! Hope you have a relaxing Sunday ahead, Linda!

  6. Rhonda says:

    Wow! Spectacular job, spicing up the masa was a good move, talk about layers of flavor.

  7. gfcfliving says:

    Oh, my goodness. These look delicious. These would be great party or football food. I am have to whip these up soon. Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Ricki says:

    That’s quite the project–but it does look like the effort was worth it in the end! Thanks so much for submitting to WW this week. :)

  9. Ah those tamales look so good! We discovered the yummiest tamales at a farmers market in Kingston, NY and have talked about making our own ever since, but we keep putting it off and buying the ones from Trader Joe’s instead. We have all of the ingredients except the corn husks at home already and I know Shaw’s carries those. Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. Umm, I hate to play Devil’s advocate, but I popped over from Fat Tues and these are not very authentic. Authentic harina for tamales often involves eggs and always involves lard. If you are really dedicated to being vegan, okay, but it is not really authentic. But it does look good.

    • Heather says:

      Welcome, Melissa! You are quite right. Lard and eggs would definitely make these more authentic. But food allergies and healthy choices make “traditional” tamales a no-no for many people, including myself. Thankfully, we can be creative and find alternatives so that we don’t have to miss out completely on our favorite flavors and dishes. One of my goals at GFC is to help readers see that a food allergy does not mean that we go without. It means that we find other ways to enjoy them without feeling sick or unhealthy. Then we share with each other! I appreciate your comment.

    • Lulu says:

      I’m Mexican and we make authentic tamale, but we have never used egg now lard yes but never egg.
      Heather I like your recipe..

  11. Sarah says:

    These look great! I’ve never tried making tamales, but I sure love eating them!

    I’d love for you to come share this recipe at my Make-ahead meals blog hop over at Raising Isabella!

    Hope to see you there!

  12. Linda says:

    I’ve never made tamales. It looks like it could be a rather fun project. It’s always nice when you don’t know how a gluten free item is going to hold up and then you are pleasantly surprised. I’m glad it worked that way for you!


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A Curious Girl in the Gluten-Free World

I'm a curious girl, wife, teacher, fitness fanatic, gluten-free foodie, high-raw vegan, and Mama Cat living in NYC. I've made the transition from baking and cooking gluten-free to creating raw vegan recipes that are naturally gluten free. My gluten intolerance opened up my diet to a whole new world of nutritious plant-based foods. While I'm not 100% vegan, it's my favorite way to eat, and making and sharing raw foods makes me giddy. Living in the City has its joys and challenges, and I enjoy sharing my experiences with you.

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