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The history of the Tamale is varied. Many sources believe that the word "Tamale" comes from a Nahuatl Indian word "tamalii".

However, if you ask a Manan, he will say that they originated the Tamale. The same if you ask an Aztec, a Zapotec, or even a Mexican of German descent, they will say they originated this dish.

In truth, the developement of the Tamale travels all over Mexico and the Southwest. Each group has added its own special touch and signature to the dish. One thing is apparent, the Tamale had a great transformation during the Spanish Conquest. The Spanish, great experimenters in the culinary arts, also may have created red chili sauce, intorduced beef and pork, and donated other touches.

However, the basic Tamale is just corn masa wrapped in a husk. Many are the variations that come of this.

The Tamale, though, has a basic structure. First off, we have the "Masa". Masa is a pasty corn dough, and can be made or bought in several ways. The Quaker Oats Company has been making Masa Harina corn flower for as long as I can remember. It is the staple in any Mexican kitchen. There are so many generic brands, and these and other ingredients can be found ethnic food aisle in any large grocery store in the country. You may also find these ingredients in the specialty stores which abound in the country now.


Bear in mind that Tamales are not by any means a "quick and easy" fix. They require some time, and are well worth it.

It is sugested that you make a large batch, that way it will be well worth your time. Don't worry, Tamales rarely stay around long, and there are rarely leftovers.

First, the filling.

Red Chile Beef

(If making more than one roast, double ingredients as necessary)

A 3lb Roast 1/4 teaspoon of cumin
3 Tblspns of Red 3 Tblspn of flour
1/4 tsp pepper 1/4 tsp of Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp of salt 1/4 tsp of Onion Powder
A bay leaf 3 Tblspn oil
1 cup beef broth 2 cans of Tomato Sauce
2 tsp Dried Onion A jar of unpitted

Placing Roast in slow cooker, set to low. Add bay leaf, Dried Onion, Garlic Powder, and Onion Powder

Slow cook for 6 - 8 hours. When falling apart done, take out roast, put in bowl, shred,
and place aside.

In a 9-inch skillet, heat oil slowly on low flame. Combine other ingredients in bowl, and "fry" in oil, creating a kind of "fried paste". Carefully add 2 cups of the beef broth (close lid of skillet, open a crack, and pour in the liquid for safest result). Stir until smooth and gravy like. Pour in 2 cans Tomato Sauce, and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Tip: If sauce clumps, put it in a mixer, and mix on puree.

Put in meat with remaining broth in a large pot or a dutch oven, and heat slowly, until warmed. Pour sacue in, mixing thoroughly. Let Red Chili Beef simmer for 45 minutes.

Let cool before filling Tamales. Refrigerating the mixture overnight mixes the flavors very well.

Green Chili Filing

This is a simple filler and was often made for New Years at our house.

You will need.

2 cans of Whole Green Chili 1 pound of Long
horn cheese

The Masa should be as freash as possible. Mixing it and cooking it quick seals the filling and makes the masa more durable.

For masa, you will need:

3 cups of Masa Harina ( 2c warm water or
or equivalent) Flour beef broth
1 tsp salt 1 c lard or
Red chili or Green chili wrappers

Note on Wrappers: Depending on the season, corn husks can be expensive. Now, in the old days, it was the cheapest wrap you culd get, but now it is highly prized and the price shows it. Therefore, there are less expensive alternatives, such as:

Wax paper, cut into 8 x 6 inch rectangles. These dimensions hold also for aluminum foil. Also, their are parchments sold at most stores that do the job well.


Combine flour and salt into mixing bowl, put in lard of shortening. with knife, cut lard into the flour unti it resembles corn meal. Pour warm liquid (water or beef broth) into mixture slowly, stirring with hand or wooden spoon. Mixture should be pasty, easy to spread.


First, bring water in a large pot or a electric skillet to a boil. Place a wire rack over the pot or skillet.

Red Chile Wrapping

Once the chili has chilled, take out and put in a convenient place.

Spread the masa on your wrapper longwise, spreading to about a 1/4 inch of the edges. Spread a tablespoon of Red Chili Beef down the middle, longwise, stopping an inch before the ends.

Place two green olives in the middle, a bit apart. Remember to tell your guests and family that they are unpitted.

Wrap the Tamale from the long edge in, you can use string to tie together if it dosen't stay together.

Place the Tamale on the wire rack, steaming it for 45 minutes or until the masa draws away from th wrap.

Green Chile Filling

Prepare Tamale as above, place a strip of green chile down the middle, then a long sliver of cheese.

Wrap as above, steam as above.

A Christmas day favorite in my family was to bake the tamale in the oven. The Masa becomes crispy, and the filling tastes fabulous.

There you have it, Tamales! Serve them for Christmas, a Birthday, your Anniversary, or any old time you want a taste of Mexico.