Making Texas Tamales

In the South, when a dish reaches “comfort food” status, it attains the highest ring of the eating ladder.

Tamales are a part of Southern comfort foods, like instance pigs-in-a-blanket and corn dogs. Finely ground corn batter, called masa, coats a fold of softened husk. Rows of stewed meat, typically chicken, pork, or beef runs down the center. After rolling the husk, a potted batch is usually steamed (or boiled in Mississippi). Because of the husk, a dozen tamales can stay hot for hours after being prepared, making them a perfect treat in the winter.

texas tamales

No matter what the filling, Texas tamales are covered in corn shucks and steamed for an hour on the stove. And more than any other time of year Christmas is when the tamale is mainly popular. Holiday parties with no tamales are seen as a real social blunder. The Advent tamale is a Texas Christmas staple along with eggnog.

Here’s a recipe for traditional Texas Tamales:

Texas Tamales Ingredients:

  • Corn Husks
  • 6 oz bag dried corn husks (60-70 husks needed)
  • Dried Chiles
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • 1 tbsp lard
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 lb pork butt meat, cut into chunks
  • enough water to cover pork

Masa Dough

  • 3 cups masa harina
  • 1½ – 2 cups warm water (or pork stock)
  • 5 oz (almost a half of a block) of lard
  • 4 ancho chiles, stems & seeds removed
  • 4 New Mexican chiles, seeds, stems & veins removed
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • Pot of cold water (to reconstitute chiles)
  • ⅓ Cup reserved pork stock

Pork Filling

  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp red chili powder
  • 4 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Chile Paste* pulp from reconstituted chiles
  • 1 tbsp Mexican oregano
  • Large bucket or pot of warm water (enough to submerge husks)

How to Make Texas Tamales

texas tamales on a table

Prepare Husks

  • Pull husks apart. In a huge pot or bucket of warm water, soak the husks; make sure that they are entirely submerged. The longer they soak, the better – at least 3 hours
  • After they have soaked, trim them down to 4” wide. Trim 1-2″ off the length of any very long husks
  • About 1 hour prior to use, drain the water and place husks upright in the pot or a huge bowl, letting them drain and dry

Prepare Chiles

  • Get rid of stems and seeds from chiles. With a paring knife, make a slit down the side, and open up the chiles. Take away seeds and stems
  • Soak in a small pot of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the chiles to sit for 1 hour
  • Take out chiles from water and put on cutting board. With a paring knife or spatula, graze the pulp from the skins of the chiles (discard the skins) and set aside

Boil Pork & Make Chile Paste

  • Cut pork into big chunks, and put into large pot. Add sufficient cold water to cover pork, bring to a boil, and add salt. Lessen to a simmer and cook, covered, about 1 hour or until tender
  • Strain pork and save the stock
  • Chop pork into small pieces (when cool enough to hold) and set aside.
  • In a blender, add the chile pulp, oregano, cumin, garlic, salt, pepper and ⅓ cup of the reserved pork stock. Begin on low speed, then increase and blend to a paste

Make Pork & Chile Paste Filling

  • In a huge pot, melt 1 tbsp lard over medium heat
  • Add the boiled and chopped pork and chile paste and stir to evenly mix ingredients
  • Add the rest of the saved pork stock, stir, and let it simmer while uncovered for 30-45 minutes

Make Tamale Dough (Masa)

  • Place masa in a large bowl. Begin with 1½ cups of warm water, and combine together until it reaches a ‘clay like’ consistency, adding more warm water as necessary, up to 2 cups.
  • Melt lard over medium heat in small sauce pan. Mix spices into melted lard.
  • Add lard-spice mix into masa along with baking powder. Mix on low speed with hand mixer, or mould and mix with hands until well incorporated and the combination feels fluffy, spongy, and spreadable
  • Place a damp towel over the dough until ready to use

Assemble & Steam

  • Pat dry softened husks
  • When filling the husk, place the smooth side facing up from the palm of your hand
  • Spread 1 heaping tbsp of masa using a large spatula or knife (leaving approximately 2″ at the top). The masa have to be consistently spread across the lower ¾ of the husk
  • Put husk horizontal on cutting board. With spoon, place just about 1 heaping tbsp of pork filling in a line down the center of the masa. Roll the husk with meat inside up to the side that has no masa
  • After all the tamale has been rolled and stacked (do not flatten), they can be frozen for later use or cook immediately
  • To prepare steamer, place a big mound of aluminium foil in the steam basket. Line the base of the basket freely with some of the husk scraps
  • To cook, stack tamales standing, side by side (with fold at bottom) around the foil, as if “building a tepee.” Pile some husk scraps atop the tamales to help out lock in the steam and add one more layer of flavouring
  • Start 1 cup of water to simmer in the steamer’s pot. Put the steamer basket inside, cover and cook 1 hour, until the masa is firm and pulls away from husk
  • Let tamales cool 15 minutes prior to serving. Serve with your favourite sauce or salsa