Vegetarian Tamales (VIDEO)

Bean Tamales with Tomatillo Salsa — these are easy to make and totally vegetarian (for Mirra).  I had always been intimidated by making tamales but turns out it’s pretty easy.  Enjoy



  • 4 cups Masa Harina
  • 1 stick of butter (Cut into small chunks)
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons chilli powder
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • one packet of corn husks (or 30 corn husks)

Take corn husks and pour hot water over them, weigh down with a heavy pan and let sit for an hour.

In a mixer, cream the butter by spinning on medium until all the chunks are broken apart and the consistency is smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients before adding the vegetable stock.  Mix thoroughly until it becomes a dough.  Add the dough to the creamed butter, and mix on medium for about 2 minutes until it gets a little fluffier.  The mixture should have the consistency of thick cake batter (it should just barely stick to the spoon).  If it’s too thick, add a bit more vegetable stock.

Time to assemble the tamales! Drain the water from the husks. Lay out each husk and put two heaping spoonfuls of the batter in the center of the husk, flattening the mixture a bit.  Add about a tablespoon of filling — in this case, beans (see recipe below) and cheese, but you could use anything.  Close the masa around the filling using one side of the husk.  Then fold the bottom of the husk upward and finally the other side of the husk across (see video) and tie with a strip of husk (torn off to act as string).  Steam the tamales for 45 minutes to an hour if they are small (like ours’ – easer to make) or an hour and half if they are bigger.

  • 1 cup dried black beans
  • 1 chile de arbol
  • 1 chile chipotle
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon of salt to start (the rest to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

There are a lot of ways to cook beans.  I often forget to soak them overnight so here is an easy way to make same-day beans and also avoid some of the stomach repercussions.

Cover beans in water (by a lot — too much water here is not an issue) and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat.  Let them sit for 20 minutes then pour off the excess liquid. Apparently a lot of the flatulence-causing-elements are in that liquid.

Re-cover the beans with water and all other ingredients (just put them directly into the water).  Bring to a boil and then simmer.  I find it pretty difficult to gauge how long beans are going to take, so I start them as soon as possible and just let them go — continuing to test the constancy every 20 minutes after they have been simmering for an hour.  The longer the simmer, the tastier the beans.  Once they are done, I like to let them cool and then heat them back up again, the cooling seems to infuse the flavor and the salt.  By the time the beans are done, the garlic and the chiles will be soft.  Take out the cinnamon and the outer skin off the chiles and the stem, then mix all the ingredients together so the garlic and the chiles get mashed into the sauce.  Let cool. If there is too much liquid by the time it’s cooled, just strain off a bit, or hold aside to add back in if there are extra beans.


Tomatillo Salsa:
  • 10 small tomatillos, cut in half
  • 2 serrano chiles
  • 1 onion cut in quarters
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup cilantro (chopped)
  • water
  • salt

Broil all the ingredients for 10 minutes or until charred (remove the garlic early if necessary to avoid burning it — charred garlic is not good).  Let the ingredients cool and add them to a blender.  Blend with the cilantro, add salt to taste.  Add water to create a runny salsa-like consistency.  Serve over your tamales or on just about anything!



7 responses to “Vegetarian Tamales (VIDEO)”

  1. arnaudH says:

    thanks for the recipes , i have been longing for that since i left san francisco.I ll try as soon as i found massa harina

  2. bbriggs says:

    the video says you require baking powder but it is not listed in the ingredient list… what is the amount needed?

  3. Kevin Wenzel says:

    sooo cute!!! and inspire me to make ta-MAL-ezze!

  4. ZinDC says:

    It doesn’t look as if a very experienced tamale maker taught you how to do this. I have made many different kinds of tamales many times. There are some basic things missing from your technique and verbal description. First, you have to beat the fat for a good long time to incorporate air. (BTW excellent vegan tamales can be made using coconut oil.) If using masa harina, it should be moistened with some water or vegetable stock first until it holds together when pinched, and then added to the fat bit by bit, while the mixer is running, until well incorporated. Add baking powder and salt (and chile powder, if using it), and after all of the masa has been added, add liquid until it is a thick batter. To check to make sure that you have beaten it long enough you have to do “the float test.” Take a glass of water, and drop a heaping teaspoon full of batter into the water. If it bobs up to the surface, you are good to go ahead and you will have nice fluffy tamales. If it sinks, there isn’t enough air incorporated into the batter and your tamales may turn out dense and heavy. If the batter sinks, keep beating for another few minutes and do the float test again. I can’t stress enough how important it is to beat the fat, and then the fat and masa together at the beginning of the process to get the masa preparada sufficiently aereated. Some other vegetarian suggestions: make the vegetable stock with a bunch of corn cobs, onion, carrot celery, bay leaf, thyme and some fennel tops. Fill with rajas: roasted peeled poblano chiles cut into thin strips, slow cooked in a little olive oil with thin strips of onion. Add a little bit of crema, unless you are doing a vegan version. Another hint: squeeze some fresh lime juice into your roasted tomatillo salsa.

  5. KCHICAGO says:

    Thanks for the advice, ZinDC, especially on how to “veganize” it! I think the best way to make this recipe both easy and sustainable is to make it vegan. For most people, dairy is not sustainable and most farmers at the farmers markets are not selling butter. I just arrived on this site today and will be sifting through before I speak further, but after seeing this recipe, I don’t understand how this recipe is at all sustainable.

  6. Mirza says:

    Hi, loved this recipe and will be making it soon.
    Can you please tell me which masa harina you used?
    Traditional Mexican Maseca, or other?

    Thank you

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