Delicious Chicken Tamales

Tamales are a delicious staple of the Mexican diet!  The problem is that most tamale recipes call for lard, and of course, that is not an option for someone who keeps kosher.   My solution?  To make them myself.

Making tamales is a labor of love that requires more steps than ingredients.  In fact,  3 chicken breasts with the skin on, will cover the majority of your bases.  I start by removing the skin and frying it over low heat, to render the chicken fat for use in the tamale dough.   Out of the chicken breasts, I make a simple chicken stock (also for use in the tamale dough)  Finally, I shred the boiled chicken to use in the tamale filling.

These tamales can be made vegetarian with just the Salsa Verde filling,  and by using a vegetarian soup stock and vegetable shortening instead of chicken fat.


30 Corn Husks (soaked and drained) for wrapping the tamales

Chicken Stock:

3 Chicken breasts -bone in – cut in half  (that you will use for the filling later on)

½ Onion

3 Garlic cloves

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 Quarts  of water

Dough (Masa)

6 cups Masa Harina – Maseca  (this is a prepared corn flour that can be found in all Hispanic markets)

2 tsp. salt

1 ½  tsp. Baking powder

6 cups chicken stock

¾ cup chicken fat or vegetable Shortening

Salsa Verde (double this quantity for tamales)


30 Aluminum foil squares

Two Large steaming pots


Soak the corn husks for one hour and then drain.

Make double the quantity of Salsa Verde from the above linked Blog recipe.

Remove the skin from the chicken breasts and render the fat.

Make the simple chicken stock out of the chicken breasts by cooking the stock ingredients for 45 minutes.

Cool and shred the chicken breasts (reserve the chicken stock for use in the tamale dough).  Add the shredded chicken to the saucepan where you’ve made the Salsa Verde, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Corn Dough:

Combine the corn flour , salt and baking powder.   Slowly add the still warm chicken broth, mix thoroughly, then add the chicken fat.  When all of the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Take one damp (not wet) corn husk at a time, ridge side up,  and spread between 3 and 5 tablespoons (amount of dough depends on the size of the corn husk) of the dough onto the wide edge of the husk.  With damp hands spread the dough over and down, to cover the upper, wide half of the husk.   Take 2-3 tablespoons of the chicken in salsa Verde filling and spread it in the center of the dough.  Roll the husk up, fold up the skinny edge, completely encasing it in the husk.  Place the tamale into an aluminum foil square, rolling it up and then rolling in the edges of the foil, so that the tamale is tightly sealed.

Fill the two pots with just enough water to reach the steaming baskets.  Form and place a small ball  of foil in the center of the steaming basket. Lean the tamales on the ball, forming somewhat of a teepee with the tamales.  Once you have filled the pot with your tamales, cover the pot tightly and steam the tamales for 3 hours on a medium flame.  Make sure that the steamer never runs out of water so continuously re-fill.

After three hours, remove the tamales and allow them to cool.  They can be eaten fresh, refrigerated or frozen for future use.   the consistency of the tamale dough will be better after they are cooled and thoroughly reheated in the microwave.

Makes 25-30 tamales.

Happy eating!

7 responses

  1. Pingback: JLit Links | Jewish Book Council Blog

  2. Pingback: Distracted by Tamales. « pickahling

  3. The recipe sounds yummy, but why would you steam the tamales for 3 hours and then recommend reheating in a microwave? I’m from deep, South Texas and we steam tamales for 30 minutes. I now live in a much higher altitude state and I steam tamales for one hour. Also microwaving destroys a foods molecules. I was raised to reheat tamales either in the oven covered in foil to refrain from drying out the masa or reheating on a cast iron skillet on the stove top. I am quite perplexed at your suggestion for reheating and length of steaming.

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