Saturday, February 18, 2012

20-Minute Tamales

I love tamales, but they are pretty time-consuming to make. Even just steaming them takes an hour to an hour and a half. I knew there had to be a better way.

One day while cleaning out my fridge, I came across some leftover grits that had taken on the form of the container in which I had stored them. I took them out and heated them up, but they remained in that same stubborn shape. That's when it hit me: why not cook the masa, the corn grits used to make tamales, on the stovetop and then roll it in the corn husks with the filling? I gave it a shot, and it worked perfectly. Using this method knocks a good hour off the time it takes to make this dish.

20-Minute Tamales

4 cups vegetable broth
1/8 cup olive oil
zest from one lime
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups masa (for tamales)
12 corn husks (soaked in water for one hour until soft)
2 1/2 cups tamale filling (recipe follows)

Bring broth to a boil and add the oil, lime zest, chile powder, and baking powder. Stir and then add masa a little at a time so you don't get any lumps. Cook masa for 20 minutes stirring often to develop a creamy texture. While masa is hot, spread about 1/4 cup on the center of a corn husk, place two spoonfuls of filling in the center of the masa, and roll it up; I didn't even fold the ends up because the masa was so thick it stayed in place. Allow them to cool. To serve, simply heat them in the microwave for a few minutes, top hot sauce and your choice of salsa, and enjoy.

Tamale Filling

2 1/2 cups mushroom meat
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder

Mix mushroom meat, cumin, ancho, and chipotle powders together in a small bowl and set aside until ready to use.


  1. ok, I'm making this. I think my boys would go crazy for this.

  2. If you have a filling you like, use it. This is way more about the technique of the masa.

  3. Oh. My. Stars. The mushroom meat is fabulous. Hi taco night? Definite repeatable ingredient. I did press it through a strainer after reading about the extra liquid issues.
    my own issues- I bought tortilla masa instead of tamale masa by accident. But it worked fine, cooked it up like polenta. The lime zest added a lot of flavor. After about 30 min it still seemed a little soft so I wrapped them up in aluminum foil, added 3" of water to my asparagus steamer, thew in my metal canning funnel, and steamed for 30 minutes. I found that the masa was much easier to spread with an extra damp husk. After I figured out that trick the assembly breezed by. Next month, I'm making this for my bookclub! Serving tonight with a lime-cumin-cilantro red cabbage and corn slaw and homemade salsa. Thank you for an easy and exotic wednesday night supper!

  4. ok. the hubs liked the plain mushroom meat. He liked the cold tamale. Served hot? he balked. Little one loved it until he saw I was eating the same thing. What? This isn't meat? he balked. Major problems over here. Still making it for bookclub, but those boys of mine are going to have to spend the night outside in the treehouse.

  5. Just finished putting this together. The Masa is very good. The only thing I would do differently next time is double the spices. Also when making the mushroom meat I will omit the balsamic vinegar. It gave it a sweetness I didn't particularly care for. I was looking for more of a savory meaty flavor. Overall good recipe.

  6. I see this has been tested...we've recently re-discovered locally made tamales and this looks very appealing.