If you are nervous to make tamales at home, no need to worry.Today, I am sharing all my tips & tricks to set your mind at ease when attempting tamales at home.
My first tip – break up the process by prepping ingredients a few days in advance. Breaking up the prep as much as you can in advance helps to make the process of making tamales at home manageable. Breaking up the process does not leave me feeling overwhelmed the day I assemble/steam the tamales. This post is a collaboration with Beef Loving Texans on behalf of the Beef Checkoff.
What are corn husks? Corn husks are the outer covering of an ear of corn. They are dried and used in making tamales or to encase foods to be steamed. You can find corn husks year-round here in Texas, pero come December you find them located near the produce area, in huge displays along with dried chile ancho. Look for bags of corn husks: free from tears, free of moisture (which causes the husks to mold) and free of debris. Corn husks are used to make tamales, they hold the tamales together and help keep them from drying out. The corn husks allow the steam to penetrate while the tamales cook. You can also find dried corn husks online.
The evening before you are set to make tamales, remove your corn husks from the package. I like to give them a quick look over, to remove any debris, threads, molded corn husks, or torn husks.
Place your husk in a large bowl or container. You want plenty of room for when you add the hot water.
You can use a cooler, ice bucket, a stockpot, or your sink. Clean each container thoroughly before adding corn husks.
Before we add the corn husk to our container give them a quick rinse under cold water to remove any dirt, dust collected in shipping/storage and any threads.
Place corn husks in the appropriate container, then top with hot water. You will want to weigh down the husks, so they do not float to the top – you want the husks to be submerged in the water the entire time.
I use my Abuelita’s molcajete, but you can use any heavy pot, a Dutch oven works well. I like to soak my corn husk overnight since we make a TON of tamales, but if you only plan to make a few dozen you can soak the corn husks for at least two hours in hot water. You want the husk to be soft and pliable, ready to wrap your tamales.
When you are ready to assemble your tamales, remove corn husks as needed leaving the remaining to soak. Place on a baking sheet, cover them with a damp paper towel to help retain their moisture. If the corn husks begin to dry out, return to water and allow to soak.
Let’s talk about the filling for our tamales.
The brisket filling can be made up to four days in advance. A trimmed brisket works best for this recipe as we want a little fat, but if you have ever cooked a brisket there is a thicker layer of fat near the gristle. You can trim at home or ask your local butcher to trim for you.
Slice the brisket into larger square cuts, this will make for quicker cook time and make for easier shredding. We are seasoning our brisket with onion, garlic, peppercorns. The garlic will be combined with shredded brisket, so feel free to add the cloves whole to the pot, not minced or chopped. Simmer for about 3 hours or until fork tender. Carefully remove cuts of brisket to a cutting board and shred/slice with a knife or two forks. I find using a large chef’s knife works best for brisket.
Ancho chile paste will be added to our shredded brisket. Ancho chiles are dried poblano peppers. They have a smoky, sweet flavor and used to make pozole, moles, marinades, and tamales. We are rehydrating our chile ancho so they will blend easily in the blender. To our pot, we are adding comino seeds (cumin seeds) along with our chiles. You can boil over the stove-top or place your chile and comino seeds into a microwave safe dish and microwave until chiles have softened.
When they are cool enough to handle, slit them open and remove seeds and veins. Place in a blender along with comino seeds and blend until a paste is formed. Next, we will fry the chile paste. Frying the chile paste adds a depth of flavor and gives our filling amazing flavor and color. Sauté chile paste for about 3 minutes stirring all the time. Add beef and garlic, continuing to cook for the flavors to meld. Add ½ cup of the broth and let the mixture cook for about 10 minutes over a medium flame. Season filling with salt as needed. The ancho chile paste can be made up to four days in advance. You can also make chile paste, fry, and add shredded brisket up to four days in advance. Store covered in fridge until ready to assemble tamales.
Let’s make masa
What is Masa? Masa translates to dough, masa is used to make much more than tamales, it is a powerhouse ingredient in Mexican cooking. Masa is used to make tortillas, gorditas, sopes, huaraches, tylaudas and sopes.
Masa is a dough made from finely dried corn kernels that have been soaked in an alkaline solution, which roughly translates to limewater which softens down the corn, which then is grounded down to make masa.
Here in South Texas, fresh masa can easily be found during the holiday season at tortilleras and bakeries, or the local Mercado offers freshly ground masa.
How To Eat Tamales
Red Tamales pair perfectly with Frijoles Puercos or just regular Refried Beans. For parties or holidays, they are also served with a side of Mexican Macaroni Salad.
They are also a very common breakfast in Mexico served with Atole or Champurrado. My favorite way to eat them for breakfast? Fried until crispy with a side of over medium eggs! The beans and a good Chile De Arbol Salsa are a must.
In some parts of Mexico, they’re even eaten in a sandwich, called “guajolota” using a bolillo for the bread. It goes without saying that these are not light in calories lol!
Looking for a Green Tamal recipe? Check out my Tamales Verdes with Green Chile, Corn and Cheese. So delish!
You can freeze tamales cooked or raw. However it’s best to freeze cooked tamales as the raw fillings can change flavor and texture when frozen.
Let the tamales cool completely before storing.
- Fridge: Place the tamales in airtight freezer bags or thick aluminum foil and remove as much air as you can. Do not remove the husk as it will help maintain the flavor. For best flavor, store for up to 4 days.
- Place the tamales in airtight freezer bags or thick aluminum foil and remove as much air as you can. Do not remove the husk as it will help maintain the flavor.
- For extra protection and to conserve the freshness, place the bags in a plastic or glass container.
- Freeze tamales for up to 5 months.
It’s best to let them thaw overnight in the fridge. This is the safest way to thaw tamales and to ensure they’re not left at temperatures that could lead to bacterial growth.
If you don’t have time to wait overnight, a few hours in the fridge should defrost the tamales long enough for you to reheat them later. Alternative, you can defrost them in the microwave on the defrost setting.
There are a few ways to reheat tamales and it’s all a matter of preference. Which one is yours?
- By frying: Remove the husk and place them on a heavy bottom skillet (no extra oil needed). Fry each side on medium low until they reach the desired crispiness and the center has heated thru. About 5 minutes per side.
- In microwave: Keep the husk on and place in microwave for about 1 to 2 minutes or until center has heated thru.
- In steamer: Fill the steamer with about 2 inches of water along with the steaming tray. Place the tamales standing up (make sure the water doesn’t touch the tamales as they will get mushy).
- Set to medium heat, steam for 40 minutes for frozen tamales but start checking after 20 minutes to make sure they’re not overcooked.
- For non-frozen tamales, steam for 20 minutes or until the center reaches the desired temperature. Don’t cook them too long as they dry up quickly.
– Raw tamales should steam for one hour. – Steam for 40 minutes for frozen tamales but start checking after 20 minutes to make sure they’re not overcooked.
It’s best if eaten within 4 to 5 days for the best flavor. If they won’t be used within this time, it’s best to freeze them and eat later.
Are Tamales Gluten Free?
There is only one way to reduce the risk of gluten exposure: cook tamales at home!
Some brands of dough flour (masa harina) are mixed with wheat flour. For this reason, opt for certified gluten-free dough products or pure dough flour so you can make gluten-free tamales dough.
Oct 10, 2023 · Today we are making a small batch of classic beef tamales Duration: 8:27Posted: Oct 10, 2023
What meat was originally used in tamales?
How many pounds of masa do I need for 100 tamales?