Authentic Tamale Recipe

Easy and Truly Mexican for El Día de La Candelaria

In Mexico we celebrate with this authentic tamale recipe. On Kings Day, Janurary 6th, we had our traditional Rosca de Reyes. After dinner we cut the rosca and my niece Stacy was blessed to receive baby Jesus.

On February 2nd Stacy’s parents would be hosting the party on Dia de la Candelaria, which is Candle mass in English.

Día de la Candelaria is a religious family holiday, and candles are taken to church to be blessed. The celebration begins with making Tamales as the main dish. To make this authentic tamale recipe you have do the masa and the filling. The filling can be beef or pork or both. Then the purpose is to make the masa, then fill each tamale, build the tamale and then steam them to perfection to enjoy them.

My favorite Tamale recipe is for 16 dozen hot tamales, and feeds 20 to 30 tamale lovers. Hot tamales are a favorite among all chili lovers. My much loved hot chili is chile de arbol. It has a smoky flavor, a fiery heat and is a preferred one in Mexican cuisine. Chile de árbol translates into chile of the tree. Want to make hotter tamales? Then use more chile de arbol or your favorite chili peppers. If you need help with making tamales, video clips are available at

Tamale Masa Recipe Using Masa Harina

This authentic tamale recipe starts by making the masa. Here is a simple way to make it.


  • Masa harina 16-Cups Bag
  • Broth 16-Cups (from the meat/pork you boiled)
  • Salt 1/3 Cup
  • Ground Garlic 1/3 Cup
  • Chile Powder 1/3 Cup
  • Vegetable oil 4 Cups
  • Baking Powder 1/3 Cup

Making Masa

To make the masa simply place masa harina in a large bowl, add broth water combination and mix using a mixer. Mix together oil, chili powder and salt until they dissolve. Add to the masa and mix using a mixer on high for 2 minutes. Add the baking powder and mix on high speed for 5 minutes. Let the masa rest for 10 to 20 minutes.

Tamale Meat Filler

  • 10 lbs of pork and beef combination
  • 1 garlic pod peeled
  • 8 to 10 dried red poblano peppers
  • 2 to 4 cups of broth
  • 1/2 cup of mixed cumin & pepper corns
  • 2 tbsp. of salt


  • Cook meat. Boil, broil, bake or slow-cook the meat; you can add some garlic and salt. Reserve the broth for the masa and the filling.
  • Chop or shred the cooked meat.
  • Clean the peppers and boil them in 2 cups water for 5 minutes.
  • In a blender grind pepper corns and cumin seeds, until they become powder.
  • Add poblano peppers with water and garlic in the blender and liquefy until a paste is formed.
  • Add spice paste and broth to the meat, and mix until all ingredients blend together.
  • Use immediately or refrigerate overnight.
  • For hot tamales add 2 to 4 chile de árbol to the meat.

Chile de árbol is Mexican chili pepper that is small and very potent. Its heat index is between 15,000 and 30,000 Scoville units. Many refer to it as rat’s tail chile and bird’s beak chile. You know it is mature because it is red.

The Tamale Process

  • Prepare tamale filling.
  • Use your favorite meat filling, 10 pounds for the full bag or 2.5 pounds for the 4 cup recipe.
  • Prepare corn husks by pulling apart dry husks and soaking them in hot water for an hour or until soft.
  • Prepare tamale dough using the masa Harina recipe.
  • Spread the masa fast and easy on the silky side using the Mas Tamales Masa Spreader.

Filling And Cooking Tamales

  • After the masa is spread, place 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling lengthwise in the center of the masa.
  • Then, fold the sides over towards the center.
  • Next, fold the end of the husk and pinch open the end.
  • In a large steamer, add water and set steam rack. Place tamales standing upright with the folded side to the bottom. Cover with a wet kitchen towel or husks.
  • Steam tamales for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  • Let tamales cool for about 15 minutes. Your tamales are cooked when the dough is firm, spongy and does not stick to husk.

Which Tamale Steamer Is Best for the Job?

It is important to have the right tools for the job. Think about capacity and ease of use. I recommend to own a 12 quart capacity steamer. You can use it for small or large jobs. One thing is sure, when making tamales we don’t just cook a small batch, therefore choose a large tamalera,

Pay attention to the materials of the steamer. Hard enamel aluminum stock pot with tempered glass cover, tamale steamer insert with riveted steel handles and a non stick interior are excellent. By far my favorite choices are the stainless steel steamers with tempered glass covers that let you monitor the process.

Interested in knowing more about tamale steamers? Check out my tamale steamer article.

I hope you enjoy this authentic tamale recipe, it is the one I use to celebrate El Día de La Candelaria and it has been a favorite of my family. Sandra Vásquez is an inventor and a Hispanic entrepreneur. You can purchase Tamale Spreaders from HEB Grocery Stores, Fiesta Marts, Supermercados Wal-Mart, Food City, Bashas, Super A Foods,, and many other Hispanic grocers.

Tamale Pie and Tamale

A Great Hispanic Tradition

Many names and many preparations. This magnificent dish from Latin America helps keep traditions alive. Making tamale recipes is a family affair. If you make it “old style” it may take hours while involving parents, cousins, brothers, sisters, and friends. If you make it “new style,” it may just take a kit or a steamer, and less time.

Many people ask me what are the main differences between a tamale and a tamale pie. I think the most important difference is that the first one is wrapped in plantain, corn, avocado, bijao or maguey leafs and uses a special dough made from the kernels of the corn that are dried and processed with lime.

Instead the pie is like a casserole that uses cornmeal. Another major difference is that the pie is baked instead of steamed or boiled.

This food has all kinds of names depending on the country you are referring to. In Colombia, Cuba, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru it is tamal. Americans call it tamale.

In Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and parts of Peru they call it “Humita.” In Venezuela is the “Hallaca.” In Belize it is “bollo.” In Puerto Rico “ganime” or “pastel.” Dominicans call it also “pastel” and Mexicans call it many names, some are corunda, pata de burro, zacahuil, chak chak wah, and chanchamito.


This food has a special place in Hispanic culture. It is a central dish in many countries during Christmas, and its fame reaches many places in North, Central and South America as the most representative meal of the Latin culture.

Tamale and History

According to “La Historia General de las Cosas de la Nueva España” by Fray Bernardino, in the XVI century Monctezuma had servants preparing many kinds of pasteles, not only of different shapes but also with many fillings.

The Spanish name “tamal,” comes from the word “tamalli” -the Náhuatl, a language which is a dialect of the Aztecs. It means food made with corn dough.

Many may say the the word comes from Mexico just like the corn, but there is no specific evidence to conclude so.

What I’ve learnt by reading and researching is that many say the tamales date from the Spanish colonization in the XV and XVI centuries. Stories tell about slaves who used to take leftovers of the ingredients used to cook wrapped in leafs to their homes.

In the book “La Lenta Emergencia de la Comida Mexicana. Ambiguedades Criollas, 1750-1800” by José Luis Juárez López the author refers to the book “Historia Antigua de México” by Mariano Veytia which talks about a very known food specially used by the indigenous inhabitants. The author describes the food as small “pastelillos o cubiletes” made with corn dough filled with meat and fish in round form, wrapped in corn leafs and cooked in a clay pot without water.

The Peruvian anthropologist Humberto Rodríguez Pastor describes the tamale as an Afro-Peruvian legacy in his book “La Vida en el Entorno del Tamal Peruano” which translates the life surrounding the Peruvian tamal. The author talks about the tamale being introduced in Peru with the arrival of the Spaniards who came with their slaves, originally from the Atlantic coast in the African continent.

Make Tamales

Now that we know a bit more of the history of tamales lets Make Tamales with Sandra Vasquez. Follow the simple recipes and enjoy authentic Mexican tamales. Sandra Vasquez shared some of her recipes with us and helped us in the process.