Master the Art of Cooking Tamales Like a Pro

Are you ready to become a pro in the art of cooking tamales? Look no further! In this article, you will learn all the tips and tricks you need to know in order to master the delicious Mexican dish. Tamales have been a staple in Mexican cuisine for centuries, and now it’s your turn to create mouthwatering tamales right in your own kitchen. From choosing the best ingredients to perfectly wrapping the masa in corn husks, we will guide you through each step of the process. Get ready to impress your friends and family with your culinary skills as you elevate your tamale game to new heights!

Master the Art of Cooking Tamales Like a Pro | Bistro Le Crillon
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Preparing the Tamales

When it comes to cooking tamales like a pro, preparation is key. Before you even think about cooking them, you need to make sure you have all the necessary steps in place. By following these essential steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating delectable tamales that will impress all your friends and family.

Soaking the Corn Husks

The first step in preparing tamales is soaking the corn husks. This is an important step that helps soften the husks and make them pliable for wrapping the tamale dough. To soak the corn husks, follow these simple steps:

  1. Separate the corn husks and remove any debris or dirt.
  2. Place the husks in a large bowl or pot and cover them with warm water.
  3. Add a heavy object, such as a plate or lid, on top of the husks to keep them submerged.
  4. Let the husks soak for at least 30 minutes, or until they become soft and flexible.

By soaking the corn husks, you ensure that they are pliable and ready to be used when it’s time to assemble the tamales.

Making the Tamale Dough

Once you have soaked the corn husks and they are ready to use, it’s time to make the tamale dough. This is a crucial component of the tamale and requires the right ingredients and technique to achieve the perfect consistency. Here’s how you can make the tamale dough:

  1. Gather the necessary ingredients, including masa harina, lard or vegetable shortening, chicken or vegetable broth, salt, and any desired spices.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the masa harina and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the lard or vegetable shortening until it becomes fluffy.
  4. Gradually add the masa harina mixture to the lard, alternating with the chicken or vegetable broth.
  5. Continue mixing until the dough is well combined and has a smooth consistency. It should hold together when pressed but not be too sticky.

The tamale dough is the foundation of the tamale, so it’s important to get the texture and taste just right. Adjustments can be made by adding more broth or masa harina as needed.

Creating the Filling

The final step in the preparation process is creating the filling for your tamales. This is where you can get creative and add your favorite flavors and ingredients. Here’s how you can create the perfect filling:

  1. Choose your filling ingredients, such as shredded meat, cheese, vegetables, or beans.
  2. Cook or prepare the filling ingredients according to your desired flavor and texture.
  3. Allow the filling to cool before assembling the tamales.

Having a delicious filling is what makes each tamale unique and flavorful. Experiment with different combinations to find your favorite.

By following these essential steps in preparing tamales, you’ll be well on your way to cooking them like a pro. From soaking the corn husks to making the tamale dough and creating the filling, each step is crucial in creating the perfect tamale. So gather your ingredients, roll up your sleeves, and get ready to master the art of cooking tamales!

Assembly Process

When it comes to cooking tamales, mastering the art of assembly is crucial. This process involves spreading the tamale dough, adding the filling, and rolling and tying the tamales. Each step plays a significant role in ensuring that your tamales turn out perfectly cooked and delicious. Let’s explore each step in detail:

Spreading the Tamale Dough

To begin the assembly process, you need to spread the tamale dough onto the corn husks. Start by soaking the husks in warm water until they become soft and pliable. This makes them easier to handle and prevents them from tearing during the assembly.

Take one corn husk and place it on a flat surface. With a spoon or spatula, scoop a generous amount of tamale dough and spread it evenly onto the husk. Make sure to leave a small border around the edges to allow for folding later. Use the back of the spoon to spread the dough smoothly and create an even layer.

Tip: Spread the dough in a thin layer for a lighter texture, or in a thicker layer for a heartier tamale.

Adding the Filling

Once the tamale dough is spread, it’s time to add the filling. This is where you can get creative and experiment with different flavors. Traditionally, tamales are filled with ingredients such as shredded meat, cheese, beans, or vegetables.

Place a spoonful of the filling in the center of the tamale dough. Be careful not to overfill, as it can make the rolling process more difficult. Spread the filling in a thin, even layer, leaving some space around the edges to prevent it from spilling out.

Tip: Adding a touch of salsa, spices, or herbs to the filling can enhance the flavors of your tamales.

Rolling and Tying the Tamales

Now that the tamale dough and filling are in place, it’s time to roll and tie the tamales. This step ensures that the filling remains sealed inside and that the tamales maintain their shape during cooking.

Start by folding one side of the corn husk over the filling. Then, gently roll the husk from one side to the other, tucking in the filling tightly. The tamale should form a neat cylinder shape.

To secure the rolled tamale, you can tie it with a thin strip of corn husk or kitchen twine. This helps to hold everything together and prevents the tamale from unwrapping during cooking.

Tip: If you’re new to rolling tamales, don’t worry if it takes a few tries to get the hang of it. With practice, you’ll become a pro!

By following these assembly techniques, you can master the art of cooking tamales like a pro. Remember to spread the tamale dough evenly, add a flavorful filling, and roll and tie the tamales securely. Now that you’ve learned the proper technique, it’s time to put your skills to the test in the kitchen. Enjoy the delicious journey of making and cooking tamales!

Steaming the Tamales

Master the art of steaming tamales to achieve the perfect texture and flavors. Steaming is the traditional method used to cook tamales, as it allows the masa dough to cook evenly and absorb all the delicious flavors from the filling.

Using a Tamale Steamer

To steam your tamales, it is best to use a tamale steamer. This specialized kitchen tool is designed specifically for cooking tamales and ensures that they are cooked to perfection. A tamale steamer consists of a large pot with a fitted rack or steaming tray.

Tip: If you don’t have a tamale steamer, you can use a large pot with a metal colander or a steaming basket lined with corn husks.

Preparing the Steamer

Before you start steaming your tamales, you need to prepare the steamer by following these steps:

  1. Fill the bottom of the pot with water, making sure it doesn’t touch the rack or steaming tray. This will create the steam that will cook the tamales.
  2. Place the rack or steaming tray over the water, ensuring that it is stable and won’t tip over.
  3. Cover the pot with a tightly fitting lid.
  4. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the water to a boil.

Tip: You can add a few aromatics like bay leaves or garlic cloves to the water to infuse additional flavors into the tamales.

Cooking the Tamales

Now that your steamer is ready, it’s time to cook the tamales:

  1. Stand the tamales upright in the steamer, with the open end facing up.
  2. Arrange them in a single layer, making sure they are not too tightly packed.
  3. Place any leftover corn husks or a clean kitchen towel on top of the tamales to prevent condensation from dripping onto them.
  4. Put the lid back on and reduce the heat to medium-low, ensuring that the water maintains a gentle simmer.
  5. Steam the tamales for about 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the masa dough is firm and easily pulls away from the corn husks.

Tip: It’s important to check the water level periodically during the steaming process and add more hot water if needed.

Steaming tamales requires patience and attention to detail, but the end result is definitely worth it. With fluffy masa and flavorful fillings, your tamales will be a hit at any gathering. Now that you’ve mastered the art of steaming tamales, get creative with different fillings and enjoy this delicious Mexican delicacy!

Serving and Enjoying

When it comes to serving and enjoying tamales, there are several ways you can elevate the taste and presentation of this traditional Mexican dish. Whether you are cooking tamales for a family dinner or hosting a party, these serving suggestions, garnishing ideas, and tips for pairing with sauces and sides are sure to impress your guests.

Serving Suggestions

  1. On a Platter: Arrange your freshly cooked tamales on a colorful platter for a visually appealing presentation. Consider using a mix of corn husks and fresh herbs as a base to add an extra pop of color.
  2. Individually Wrapped: Wrap each tamale in a small, clean corn husk and secure with a decorative string or ribbon. This not only adds a touch of elegance but also makes it easier for guests to grab and enjoy.
  3. In a Basket: Place your tamales in a lined basket, stacked neatly, and cover with a clean cloth to keep them warm. This rustic way of serving is perfect for a casual gathering or potluck.

Garnishing and Toppings

Enhance the flavor and appearance of your tamales by adding garnishes and toppings. Here are some ideas to try:

  • Fresh Herbs: Sprinkle chopped cilantro or parsley on top of your tamales for a burst of freshness.
  • Cheese: Grate some queso fresco or crumble some cotija cheese over the steaming hot tamales for a creamy and salty kick.
  • Salsa: Serve your tamales with a variety of salsas, such as salsa verde, salsa roja, or pico de gallo, to add a spicy and tangy element.
  • Sour Cream: A dollop of sour cream on top of your tamale can provide a cool and creamy contrast to the warm and flavorful filling.
  • Avocado: Sliced avocado or a scoop of guacamole can provide a creamy and buttery addition to your tamales.

Pairing Tamales with Sauces and Sides

Tamales can be even more enjoyable when served with complementary sauces and sides. Here are some delicious pairings to consider:

Note: Don’t be afraid to mix and match different sauces and sides to find your perfect combination.

Red Chili Sauce: The rich and spicy flavors of a red chili sauce pair well with beef or pork tamales. The heat from the sauce adds a depth of flavor and complements the meaty filling.

Green Tomatillo Sauce: A tangy and vibrant green tomatillo sauce goes wonderfully with chicken or cheese tamales. The acidity of the sauce balances the richness of the tamale while adding a refreshing taste.

Refried Beans: Serve a side of traditional refried beans alongside your tamales. The velvety beans provide a creamy and savory element that complements the tamale’s flavors.

Mexican Rice: A side of Mexican rice, flavored with tomatoes, onions, and spices, adds a satisfying texture and taste to your tamale feast.

Pickled Jalapeños: For those who enjoy a bit of heat, pickled jalapeños can be a perfect accompaniment to tamales. The tanginess of the pickling process balances the heat, providing a delightful fusion of flavors.

By exploring different serving options, experimenting with garnishes and toppings, and pairing your tamales with suitable sauces and sides, you can truly master the art of cooking tamales like a pro. These suggestions are just a starting point, so don’t be afraid to get creative and personalize your tamale experience. Happy cooking!

Storing and Reheating

Learn how to store and reheat leftover tamales for future enjoyment.

Proper Storage Techniques

When it comes to storing tamales, it’s important to follow proper techniques to ensure their taste and texture remain intact. Here are some tips to help you store your tamales like a pro:

  1. Wrap individually: To prevent your tamales from drying out or getting freezer burn, wrap each tamale individually in plastic wrap. This will help maintain their moisture and flavor.
  2. Use airtight containers: For longer storage periods, transfer the wrapped tamales into airtight containers or freezer bags. This extra layer of protection will further prevent air from reaching the tamales and affecting their quality.
  3. Label and date: To keep track of your tamales, label and date the containers or bags before placing them in the freezer. This will make it easier for you to know how long they have been stored.
  4. Store in the freezer: The best place to store your tamales is in the freezer, where they can remain fresh and safe to eat for up to three months.

Following these storage techniques will ensure that your tamales retain their delicious taste and are ready for reheating whenever you crave them.

Reheating Methods

Now that you have mastered the art of storing tamales, it’s time to learn how to reheat them to perfection. Here are some methods you can try:

  • Steam them: One of the best ways to reheat tamales is by steaming them. Simply place them in a steamer basket over simmering water for about 15-20 minutes or until heated through. This method helps retain their moisture and prevents them from becoming dry.
  • Microwave: If you’re short on time, you can use a microwave to reheat your tamales. Wrap them in a damp paper towel and heat them on high for about 2-3 minutes. However, be cautious as microwaving can lead to uneven heating and make the texture slightly rubbery.
  • Oven: For a crispy exterior and a warm, tender center, the oven method is your best bet. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C), place the tamales on a baking sheet, and heat them for about 20-25 minutes. This method takes a little longer but yields excellent results.

Serving Reheated Tamales

Once your tamales are reheated, it’s time to serve them with flair. Here are some ideas to make your reheated tamales even more enjoyable:

  • Add some spice: Sprinkle some hot sauce or chili powder over your tamales to give them an extra kick of flavor.
  • Create a guacamole topping: Mash some ripe avocados with lime juice, salt, and pepper to create a creamy guacamole. Spread it over your tamales for a delightful twist.
  • Serve with salsa: Accompany your tamales with a side of homemade salsa for a burst of freshness.

By following these tips for proper storage, reheating methods, and serving ideas, you can master the art of cooking tamales like a pro. With a little practice, you’ll be able to enjoy delicious tamales anytime, whether they’re freshly made or reheated.

Thank you for reading our guide on how to cook a tamale! We hope you found the step-by-step instructions and tips helpful in creating delicious tamales in your own kitchen. Don’t hesitate to come back later for more mouthwatering recipes and culinary inspiration. Stay tuned as we continue to bring you the best cooking guides and expert advice. Happy cooking!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about cooking tamales:

No. Questions Answers
1. What is the traditional filling for tamales? The traditional filling for tamales is usually made with seasoned shredded meat, such as beef, pork, or chicken. However, vegetarian fillings like cheese and roasted vegetables are also popular.
2. How long does it take to steam tamales? The steaming process usually takes about 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on the size of the tamales and the amount of filling. You’ll know they are ready when the masa easily pulls away from the corn husks.
3. Can I freeze tamales? Yes, you can freeze tamales! Wrap them individually in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then place them in a freezer-safe bag or container. They can be frozen for up to 3 months. To reheat, simply steam them again until heated through.
4. What are some traditional toppings for tamales? Common toppings for tamales include salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and cheese. You can also add a squeeze of lime juice and chopped cilantro for extra flavor.
5. Can I use store-bought masa for tamales? Yes, using store-bought masa is a convenient option if you don’t want to make it from scratch. Look for masa harina, which is a type of corn flour specifically made for tamales and tortillas.
6. Are tamales gluten-free? Yes, tamales can be gluten-free if you use ingredients like corn masa, which is naturally gluten-free. However, it’s important to check the labels of any additional ingredients or fillings to ensure they are also gluten-free.

Closing Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning how to cook tamales! With their rich flavors and comforting textures, tamales make a delightful traditional dish for any occasion. Whether you’re celebrating a special event or simply craving something delicious, tamales are sure to satisfy your taste buds. Remember to experiment with different fillings and toppings to make them uniquely your own. Don’t forget to share your tamale creations with us and keep exploring new culinary adventures. Until next time, happy cooking!

Master the Art of Cooking Tamales Like a Pro | Bistro Le Crillon

How to Cook a Tamale

Learn how to cook delicious tamales from scratch with this step-by-step guide. Make traditional or creative fillings, and master the art of steaming tamales to perfection.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8 servings
Calories 250 kcal


  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • ½ cup lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound cooked shredded meat beef, pork, or chicken


  • In a large bowl, mix the masa harina, warm water, lard or vegetable shortening, baking powder, and salt. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and pliable.
  • Soak corn husks in warm water for about 30 minutes until they become soft. Take a corn husk and spread a thin layer of masa dough on one side. Place a spoonful of shredded meat in the center, then fold the sides over to enclose the filling. Fold the bottom of the husk up, and secure with a strip of corn husk or kitchen twine.
  • Arrange the tamales upright in a steamer basket, making sure they are tightly packed to prevent them from unraveling. Place the steamer basket over a pot filled with about 2 inches of water. Cover the pot with a lid and steam the tamales on medium heat for 1.5 hours, or until the masa easily pulls away from the husks.
Keyword tamale, cooking, Mexican cuisine, traditional recipe, steaming, masa

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