Saturday, June 26, 2010

Homemade Chicken Tamales

This recipe is a long time coming but it is worth it. I have made tamales twice this year and will do it again next time I get the chance. Be aware that this is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process. It is pretty much an all-day thing, but very rewarding. When I make them, I make A LOT so we can freeze them and have them for months, so it makes it worth it. A steamer is the best way to cook your tamales, however if you don't have one big enough, like me, I came up with an oven alternative that works well.

Homemade Chicken Tamales


8 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 16 oz jar of red or green salsa (not chunky)
1 10 oz can of red or green enchilada sauce
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp black pepper

8 c corn masa mix
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
8 c low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 c canola oil
1 large bag corn husks
(I can find both the masa mix and corn husks at my grocery store. If you can't, any specially mexican food store will be sure to have them.)


Early in the morning, put thawed chicken breasts into a crock pot and cover with water. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or until the breasts start to break apart in the water. If you don't have a crock pot, you can also boil them for an hour or so. When chicken is very tender, drain water and rinse chicken with cool water. With forks, pull apart and shred the chicken transfering it to separate, large bowl. Add other filling ingredients to the bowl, mix well and set aside.

Before you start making your dough, put the corn husks in a very large bowl or pot and cover with water. Let stand. To make the dough, the mix the dry dough ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken broth and oil slowly as you mix them with the masa. The consistency should be just wet enough so the dough doesn't break apart and ball up.

To form the tamales, lay a wet corn husk down on your working surface. I use a cutting board. Spread masa evenly over the husk about 1/4" thick with a large spoon. Spread a large spoonful of filling down the center of the masa as shown in the picture below.

Carefully roll the tamale up making sure the masa stays inside. If your corn husk doesn't cover it completely, you may want to cover it in another one. Repeat this process for all tamales. This recipe should make about 24 large tamales.

If you have a large steamer, place them in the steamer and cook for about an hour, checking on them every 20 minutes. To know if they are done, carefully unwrap one tamale (CAUTION: they are HOT!) and check to see if the dough is thoroughly cooked. Even large steamers will only fit about 12, so you may have to go through the process twice.

If you don't have a large steamer, you can use the oven carefully. Pre-heat oven to 375. Stack tamales on a baking sheet in a pyramid as shown below.

Thoroughly wet a large kitchen towel or piece of cotton cloth (I cut up one of Zac's old t-shirts and it worked really well- I have done it safely and successfully twice now). Cover the tamales the cloth, making sure to tuck the cloth under the tamales so it doesn't hang over the sides. Position your rack low in the oven and place the tray in the oven. Bake at 375 for one hour, keeping an eye on them every 20 min or so. Take tamales out of the oven after one hour, unwrap, and with tongs (CAUTION: Again, Tamales are HOT!) rotate the tamales in the pyramid so those on the outside are in the middle and visa-versa. Re-wet cloth and re-cover tamales. Place in the oven for another 60 minutes or until tamale dough is no longer wet and cooked thoroughly. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 min.

Store in husks until you are When you are ready to eat your tamales, separate them easily from the husks. They freeze very well. When thawing, steaming them in their husks for about 30 minutes is best. If you don't have a steamer at all, you can wrap it in it's husk in a wet paper towel and microwave it for 3 or 4 minutes. These are so wonderful, and though they do take a lot of time and effort, the process isn't too difficult. Enjoy!

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