Homemade Tamales

A versatile recipe for homemade tamales. Use pork, beef, chicken, or even veggies to create your filing. Experiment with flavors and have fun! Just don’t forget to add seasoning to the masa, it really ups the flavor of your finished product. 

Please see the slideshow above the recipe for step by step visuals. 


  • 1 package of dried corn husks
  • 3 cups of cooked filling (Pork, beef, chicken, beans, veggies, or a mix all work great. Just make sure your filling is moist but not super runny.)
  • Seasoning of your choice for the filing, if unseasoned
  • 3 cups masa harina
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, for the masa
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder, for the masa
  • 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder or other seasoning of your choice (Ancho chile powder, chipotle chili powder, or other similar seasonings are a great choice), for the masa
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin, for the masa 
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, for masa  
  • 6 Tablespoons of fat (lard, canola oil, olive oil, or shortening will all work)
  • About 6 cups of chicken, beef, or vegetable broth or stock


1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the dried corn husks to the pot and reduce to a simmer. Allow the husks to simmer for half an hour or according to the package directions for use. Allow the husks to sit in in the hot water as you follow the rest of the recipe steps. 

2. Fill a bowl with your filling of choice. Season liberally if not already cooked with seasoning. ( I suggest using garlic powder, onion powder and some type of chili powder or any other similar spices.) 

3. Fill a second bowl with the masa harina. Add in the baking powder, spices, and salt and mix well. 

4. Add the fat of your choice to the masa working it into the masa with your hands. This will produce  the start of a very crumbly dough (an effect similar to cutting butter into flour for biscuits). 

5. Gradually add the broth into the masa continuing to mix with your hands as you add the liquid. Do not add any more broth then needed to form a lightly moist dough. The dough should stick together well, but not be super wet or sticky.

6. To assemble the tamales: 

  • Use tongs to pull a corn husk out of the hot water. Lay it on a flat surface like a plate. Remove a second corn husk and tear it to strips to tie up the final tamale. 
  • Take about 1/4 cup of masa and flatten it into a rectangular shape in the center of the husk. 
  • Add about two tablespoons of filling to the center of the masa. 
  • Carefully, using the sides of the corn husk, fold the masa inside the corn husk. Then wrap the corn husk all the way around the masa, burrito style. Fold one end of the husk over.
  • Use the strips of corn husk that you ripped in the first step to tie the folded end of tamale shut. You may need two strips one for the top and one for the bottom of the tamale depending on how long the top/ bottom of the corn husk is when you fold them up. 
  • Fold the second end of the corn husk down to the opposite side of the first fold. Tie with another strip. 
  • Repeat until all the corn husks/ masa/ filling is used up.

At this point the tamales can either be cooked or transferred to a ziplock bag to freeze. 

8. To cook the tamales: Add water to a large pot. Place a steamer basket in the bottom of the pot. Add the tamales to the steamer basket and cover the pot with a lid. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce heat to maintain a very gentle boil. Cook for about 30 minutes (until the masa is tender and starts to separate from the corn husk). If the pot is very full you may want to steam for slightly longer. 

To cook frozen tamales follow all cooking directions, just add an additional ten minutes of cook time. 

9. Serve the tamales hot, as is, or unwrap and smother! (They are especially delicious smothered with green chile and topped with some cheese.)