Love and Olive Oil

August Kitchen Challenge Results: Tamales

Homemade Roasted Poblano and Cheese Tamales

Lesson #1: Just because a recipe is on the internet does not mean you can trust it. There’s nothing more disappointing then following a recipe from a source you THINK is trustworthy (I’m looking at you, PBS) only to discover there is clearly something missing. And I’m talking about 2-3 CUPS of liquid, not minor by any means. Needless to say, my first batch of tamales was barely edible. The dough, being more the consistency of cookie dough instead of peanut butter, was thick and pasty and none too appetizing. We ate them anyway. But we did not enjoy them.

Homemade Roasted Poblano and Cheese Tamales

Yvette to the rescue. I should have just started with her recipe to begin with. I tell you, the girl knows her stuff. You should totally buy her cookbook.

Making the recipe the right way involved hunting down freshly prepared masa (Nashville folk: La Hacienda grocery on Nolensville Road has big ol’ bags of it!) but it made all the difference. Fresh masa, good quality lard, a bit of chicken broth, baking powder, and seasoning… and a spoonful or two of homemade salsa verde for extra flavor (that was my addition – recipe coming soon!)

Homemade Roasted Poblano and Cheese Tamales

We filled our tamales with a mixture of blackened poblano peppers and cheese. But we ran out of filling part-way through the process, and, not wanting to waste the rest of the masa, did a bit of scrounging and came up with some refried black beans. And, in all honesty, we almost liked the bean-and-cheese tamales better than the poblanos.

Taylor generously donated his brew pot for the day. Usually he’s totally stingy and nothing that hasn’t been thoroughly doused in iodine can touch his precious brew pot (god forbid, contamination!) But the thing came with a steamer basket and was really the perfect vessel for steaming our tamales. I just hope his next batch of beer doesn’t have any poblano undertones, or I may never get such a privilege again.

Homemade Roasted Poblano and Cheese Tamales

Tamales take a long time to make. I won’t lie. They’re not necessarily HARD to make, just time consuming, filling and folding dozens of corn husks. You’ll want to set aside a good 3 hours of time to make them, or longer depending what kind of delicious stuff you fill them with (something like shredded pork will take a good deal longer than our blackened poblanos).

BUT – once you’ve made one gigantic batch, freeze what you can’t eat within a day or two, and you’ll be set for weeks. Frozen tamales can easily be re-warmed in your steamer in under 30 minutes. Think of it like an investment, a big chunk of time now in exchange for lots and lots (and lots) of quick dinners later.

Did I say LOTS? Considering one person can only reasonably eat about 3 tamales before they start feeling uncomfortable (they are surprisingly filling), one batch of tamales will feed the two of us for at least a half a dozen meals.

You can also make a double batch if you’re feeling spry. Feed the whole neighborhood while you’re at it!

Homemade Roasted Poblano and Cheese Tamales

I’m not going to post how-to photos or anything here, because the last thing I claim to be is an expert in tamale making. While my tamales turned out quite well (if I do say so myself), I’m sure my technique is all wrong. If you’re looking for a good visual jump start, check out Yvette’s tamale video. You’ll be whipping up tamales in no time!

I have to give props to Camilla, who was the only brave soul who took this challenge with me. She made Nacatamales, the Honduran version that is wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks. Pretty cool, huh?

Roasted Poblano and Cheese Tamales

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For Masa:

  • 1 pound lard
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh ground masa (unprepared) for tamales
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup salsa verde

For Filling:

  • 4 large poblano chiles, quartered and seeded
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (such as Manchego or Queso Fresco)

For Assembly:

  • dried corn husks
  • additional salsa verde, for serving
  • Mexican crema or sour cream, for serving


  1. Soften corn husks by covering with warm water for about an hour. Rinse well and drain before using.
  2. Place lard in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment and beat until fluffy, scraping sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in baking powder and salt.
  3. Add masa and mix until incorporated. Slowly add the broth and mix until dough is about the consistency of smooth peanut butter. Mix in salsa verde. To test if your masa is the right consistency, drop a teaspoon of it into a cup of warm water. If it floats, it is ready; if it sinks, add a little more lard to the dough and beat for another minute before testing again.
  4. Place the wide end of the husk on the palm of your hand, narrow end is at the top. Starting at the middle of the husk spread 2 tablespoons of the masa with the back of a spoon in a rectangle or oval shape, using a downward motion towards the wide-bottom edge. Do not spread the masa to the ends; leave about a 2-inch border on the left and right sides of the husk.
  5. Broil poblanos for 3 to 5 minutes per side or until blistered and blackened in spots. When cool enough to handle, finely chop chiles and combine with shredded cheese in a bowl. Set aside.
  6. Place on corn husk on your work surface with the narrow end at the top. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the masa with the back of a spoon in a rectangle or oval shape, using a downward motion towards the wide-bottom edge. Leave about a 2-inch border on the left and right sides of the husk.
  7. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of your filling down the center of the masa. Fold both sides to the center; finish off by folding the pointed end of the husk towards you. If necessary, secure by tying a thin strip of corn husk around the tamal.
  8. Fill a deep pot or tamale steamer with water. Set the steamer rack so it sits over, but not touching, the water. Arrange tamales in the steamer, resting upright with fold facing away from you to keep them from unfolding. Cover pot with a tightly fitting lid and place over high heat until water starts to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours, until the corn husk comes off cleanly without sticking to the filling. If the filling is still sticky, re-cover and continue to cook until they are done.
  9. Tamales can be enjoyed immediately, or frozen for later use. To reheat, place the frozen tamales in the steamer; cover and steam for 20-30 minutes or until heated through.

Adapted from Muy Bueno Cookbook.

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  1. You mislead me with your tamale dough recipe by your title. I though u were using olive oil instead of lard. Do u even have such a recipe?

  2. If you melt lard it helps to incorporate mixture.   When I was younger we would knead the masa an I used that little trick an it cuts the time of kneading. Also putting the dough (masa) in a Glass of water is Esential if you do not do this the masa is not really done

  3. Nice.  But for Mexican-Americans in California, this is more of a Holiday (Christmas/ New Year) celebration dish.  Making a post for August is weird.

    • I disagree with this generalization. I’m third generation San Diego born Mexican-American  and we make tamales all year. Summer time tamales are usually corn (uchepos) or raja con queso (as posted here). 

  4. Being from the border, I LOVE tamales, especially during the holidays. I was just talking to my daughter about making some this Christmas. Definitely going to try this recipe.

  5. I’ve always wanted to try making tamales and yours look (and sound) fantastic! We have a great little place here that sells them at the farmer’s market and I would love to be able to make my own… Maybe I’ll finally give it a shot :)

  6. Oh how I wish I had seen this sooner! I made tamales for the first time 3 years ago, and I have the silliest makeshift steamer pot, but it works! It is made up of a giant stock pot, a colander, and a splatter screen. I think I’ll be making tons of tamales this Christmas. You’ve encouraged me!

  7. Beer with poblano undertones? You may be on to something. Taylor may just be thanking you :) Tamales look delicious!

  8. OMG, delicious!:-)

  9. Wow. It looks amazing! :) Here in Europe, where I live, it’s not a common dish, but I’ve tried it once in Panama and I loved it! Thanks for sharing, I will give it a shot now that I have a good recipe to follow. 

  10. I LOVE tamales! It has been years since I’ve made them – it was just so much work. But I’m inspired by your post – they are going on my list of things to try again soon…

  11. ? ?ot this web site from my pal who informed me concerning this site and at the moment this time I am visiting this web site a?d reading very
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  12. Yikes good for your for powering through after failing with a “reliable” source’s recipe. I had intended to participate this month but as usual the month eluded me. I bet these were so good! They certainly look it.

  13. I wish I had seen this sooner!  My sister and I have a yearly “challenge.”  We make about 10 dozens of tamales in three flavors for our family.  Being in the Los Angeles area, we are spoiled:  There is excellent prepared masa in various places.  Preparing the red and green moles for the pork and the cheese and peppers for the “queso con rajas” tamales is daunting enough.  We start the night before, soaking the corn husks for next morning and slow-cooking the meat.  I love all the different fillings you can use on them.  We only tackle it once a year (Christmas), and that’s enough for us.

  14. Wow, look at these gorgeous looking tamales. You guys did great! They look fabulous and I bet they taste amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with making tamales. It’s such a labor of love so it’s very important to start with a tested recipe. So honored that our recipe inspired you to try again. Gracias for sharing links to my blog and cookbook. May the Muy Bueno cookbook warm your heart and home for many years. Buen provecho.

  15. Oh shucks!  I was totally going to do this one, but I forgot. Oy.  Next one, I’m in!  And now I can use your recipe and make tamales. ;)  They look great!

  16. Your tamales look beautiful!! I’d say you know your stuff pretty well. I usually only make them once a year, since they take forever, but am counting on some little hands for help this year! Lovely!

  17. Wow, your pictures are breathtaking!  So pretty!

    And I’ve ALWAYS wanted to learn how to make tamales.  I buy them from my local Mexi grocery store in bulk and freeze them.  I may take this challenge late and finally learn how to make ’em.  Yours look amazing!

  18. These look amazing! Feeling inspired and just placed an order for fresh masa and will definitely give these a try tomorrow with some mole verde made with pumpkin seeds. Thanks for posting!!

  19. I was the only one! I was hoping for some NEW tamale recipes. Thank goodness for yours. ;) What’s our next challenge? I’m ready.

  20. I adore tamales but have yet to make them at home. You have inspired me. Your photos are gorgeous of them and I think they turned out great! 

  21. I’ve always wanted to make tamales, but I haven’t bitten that bullet just yet. But now I REALLY want to! Such a fun challenge! 

    • Once you make your first batch, the second time around will be much easier. I watched my mom ( 90 yrs. of age)  do her thing and now I make em. Make sure your pot doesn’t dry up of water.

  22. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to try tamales, but I am very grateful that you referred me to Yvette’s site.  As one who lives in El Paso, I love that I can get Mexican recipes from one who was born and raised in that wonderful city.  Thank you for the introduction!

  23. Looking forward to trying your recipe!  I had all the stuff to do the challenge… but August was just too intense.  I’ll have to check out the store on Nolensville.  Got my stuff at one on Harding near 24.  GREAT meat market attached to it.

  24. I love tamales; they’re one of my favorite ethnic street foods. I remember buying them from an old Mexican woman who sold them out of a metal trash can in south Philly, and they were divine. I haven’t been able to replicate that same texture or flavor since, but maybe it’s time to use this recipe and give it another try!

    <3 dani

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