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Tamales Recipe | Video

Give the Gift of Homemade Tamales

Los Angeles natives know that Casa Vega is the place to get your Mexican comfort-food fix. Particularly popular is its signature dish, tamales. As owner Christina Vega explains, unwrapping one of these hearty, tender, corn-based delights is like unwrapping a present for your dinner plate. Watch the video to see how she makes them, then print out the recipe.




If you can't find prepared masa dough (sold refrigerated in some Mexican supermarkets) substitute dried masa harina, reconstituting it with water per the package's instructions. Each filling recipe (chicken, beef, or cheese and vegetable) makes enough filling for 10 tamales; choose one type of filling, or triple the tamale dough recipe to prepare a variety of options.



For the tamales:
15 corn husks
3 cups prepared masa
1 tablespoons pasilla chile paste or mild salsa
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
Tapatío, for serving

For the chicken filling:
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
1 small onion, chopped into large pieces
1/2 head of fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon salt
Salsa, to taste

For the beef filling:
2 pounds chuck roast
1 small onion
1/2 head of garlic
1 tablespoon salt
Salsa, to taste

For the vegetable and cheese filling:
10 strips of monterey jack cheese
10 small strips of Anaheim chili peppers, cooked, skinned, and seeded
10 green olives, chopped

For the crema:
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt or more, to taste


  1. For the tamales: In a large container, place the corn husks deep in hot water, and cover for a couple hours until they are soft and pliable. To keep the husks submerged, weigh them down with an inverted plate topped with a heavy can.
  2. Add prepared masa to the bowl of an electric mixer. At medium-low speed, add the following ingredients one at a time: chili paste, baking powder, salt, oil, and water. Mix everything until it gets soft and heavy.
  3. Drain water from husks. One at a time, flatten out the husks with the narrow end toward you, and place 2 1/2 ounces (a little more than 1/4 cup) of masa on the middle of the corn husk, leaving a little more room at the bottom of the husk. Then add 1 1/2 ounces of meat filling (or for the cheese and vegetable option, 1 strip of cheese, 1 strip of Anaheim chile, and 1 olive) in the middle of the masa.
  4. Take the left side of the husk and fold it directly over the right side. Fold the narrow bottom end of the husk onto the folded tamale.
  5. As you are making the tamales, stand them up on their rolled ends in a prepared steamer basket. Steam over boiling water for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, until the masa is firm and holds its shape. Cover the tamales in the steamer with a layer of the leftover corn husks. You can also fill empty spaces (if you have them) with gently wadded aluminum foil to prevent them from falling over.
  6. Serve in the husk (let everyone unroll their own tamale) with Tapatío and crema.
  7. For the chicken filling Add the chicken, onions, garlic, and salt to a large pot of water. As soon as the water boils, reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked.
  8. Once chicken is fully cooked, remove from the water, discarding the onion and garlic. Once cool to the touch, debone, and then shred the chicken. Mix together the shredded chicken and salsa (to taste) in a large mixing bowl.
  9. For the beef filling: Add the chicken, onions, garlic, and salt to a large pot of water set over high heat. As soon as the water boils, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover the pot. Let simmer for several hours. The meat should be medium rare when it's ready and shreds easily.
  10. Once beef is fully cooked, remove from the water, discarding the onion and garlic. Once cool to the touch, shred the beef. Mix together the shredded beef and salsa (to taste) in a large mixing bowl.
  11. For the crema: Whisk together the sour cream, heavy cream, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Taste, and add more salt if necessary. Cover, and let sit at room temperature for several hours before serving. To prepare ahead of time, refrigerate, but bring to room temperature before serving.
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