This recipe is the perfect addition to your Christmas dinner table. Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish with a rich history, dating back to ancient Aztec times. Their versatility and delicious taste have made them popular not only in Mexico but also in many Latin American countries, including Guatemala and Costa Rica. Whether you are looking for a vegan option or prefer the classic pork tamales or chicken tamales, this recipe will make your Feliz Navidad celebration even more special.
Making tamales at home can seem intimidating, but trust me when I say that the end result is worth every minute spent in the kitchen. It’s a wonderful way to carry on the tradition of making tamales with family and friends. In Mexican culture, it’s common to have a tamalada – a gathering of family and friends where everyone comes together to make tamales.
In this recipe article, I’ll guide you step-by-step through making delicious Christmas tamales from scratch. You’ll need ingredients such as masa harina flour, corn husks, ground beef or pork, chili peppers, and various spices like dried oregano and ground cumin. I’ll also provide substitutions and variations for those who want to experiment with different flavors.
The recipe makes around 24 tamales, which is perfect for sharing with your loved ones. Plus, you can prepare them ahead of time and store them in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy them on Christmas day.
So why not start a new tradition this year? Let’s learn how to make tamales together!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Are you looking for a traditional yet delicious meal to serve at your Mexican Christmas dinner this year? Look no further than this Christmas Tamales recipe! Not only is it an authentic and beloved Mexican dish, but it also incorporates American cuisine, making it the perfect fusion of flavors for any palate.
But why should you choose this recipe out of all the others? For starters, the combination of ground beef, pork, and ancho chilies creates a rich and savory flavor that will satisfy even the pickiest eaters. Plus, with the addition of freshly chopped cilantro, the dish has a burst of freshness that perfectly balances out the hearty meat filling.
Let’s not forget about the masa harina flour. It gives just the right amount of texture to hold all of those delicious flavors together in a perfectly steamed package. Furthermore, making tamales at home is a fun and interactive way to get friends and family involved in cooking. It’s a great way to start an enjoyable holiday tradition of making tamales together with loved ones.
Finally, who can resist shouting “Feliz Navidad” as they bite into their first warm and fluffy tamale? This recipe is the perfect way to celebrate Christmas with traditional food that brings people together. So go ahead and add this Christmas Tamales recipe to your holiday menu – your taste buds will thank you.
Here is a list of ingredients you need to gather before starting to make tamales at home:
You will need dried corn husks to wrap the tamales. You can buy them in stores, or dry them yourself.
The main ingredient of tamales is masa harina. This is a special type of corn flour used to make the dough.
Use either chicken broth or beef broth, or any other broth of your choice as a base for the dough.
For meat lovers, use 2 lbs pork or 1 1/4 lbs chicken to fill your tamales. You could also use ground beef if you prefer.
Get either ancho chilies, red chilies or dried chili peppers to add smoky heat and robust flavor to your tamales.
Adding dried oregano will give the tamales flavor and aroma.
Use ground cumin to enhance the taste of the filling
Baking powder is used to give the masa mixture some rise while cooking. Get 1 teaspoon of baking powder
Salt and Pepper:
Add white pepper and dried ground cayenne in small amounts for extra spice. Don’t forget salt, which makes it all come together.
Use freshly chopped cilantro for garnish on top of the cooked tamales.
Make sure all ingredients are well distributed inside each tamale so that no one bite steals all the glory!
The Recipe How-To
Now that we have all the ingredients on hand, it’s time to start making the Christmas Tamales Recipe. This recipe is quite simple and can be easily followed at home as long as you follow each step carefully.
Step 1: Preparing the Corn Husks
Before beginning with the recipe, you need to soaks the dried corn husks in water for about an hour until they become pliable. Once done, rinse them to remove any debris and set aside.
Step 2: Preparing the Filling
In a large pot, add 2 lbs pork or chicken with enough water or chicken broth to cover it entirely. Add some dried onion, garlic powder, salt, chili peppers, and let it cook over medium heat until fully cooked, approximately 45 minutes or until the meat falls apart effortlessly. When finished, remove the meat from the bone and fork it into smaller portions.
Step 3: Making Masa Dough
In a bowl, mix 8 ounces lard, one tablespoon of salt dissolved in 2 cups chicken stock, two teaspoons dried ground cumin, one teaspoon dried ground cayenne pepper or more to taste alongside with 4 cups masa harina flour. Mix them by hand using gloves until everything is incorporated. At this point, you can add additional chicken broth to create masa dough that has a consistency akin to soft cookie dough.
Step 4: Assembling the Tamales
Spread a hefty spoonful of masa dough alluding back onto the center of each corn husk leaf using your fingers or offset spatula.
Next, smooth out the surface of each husk gently and place your filling of choice (either pork or chicken) into each tamale’s center.
Wrap each tamale around itself such that its edges meet around its stuffing so that they overlap as necessary utilizing the husk’s sides.
Step 5: Cooking Healthy Tamales
Prepare a steamer or canner, and place it over medium heat. Add enough water to steam the tamales but do not touch them to prevent uncooked masses.
Stand each tamale upright in the canner or steamer, making sure there is greater space at the bottom that allows for tamales to stand steadily.
Once all tamales are put inside the hot pot, cover it and steam them for approximately 60 minutes over medium-high heat or until the masa separates effortlessly from the corn husk.
After steaming, let them settle down for a few minutes before heating so that they become slightly stable.
Now it’s time to enjoy and say Feliz Navidad! with some scrumptious Christmas Tamales at your table.
Substitutions and Variations
Do not be afraid to experiment with the ingredients listed in this recipe. Tamales are particularly adaptable to substitutions and variations.
For vegetarians, you can easily substitute the ground beef and pork with vegetarian alternatives like soy meat or textured vegetable protein. For vegans, you can replace the chicken broth with vegetable stock.
If you want a spicier tamale, you can add more chili peppers or use different types of chilies like red chiles or dried poblano peppers.
You can also get creative with the fillings by using different meats like chicken or beef. Pork ancho chiles is another option that could add more flavor to your tamales. You can also add some mole sauce for a sweeter and richer flavor profile.
For those who have dietary restrictions or preferences, you can also make some sweet tamales by adding sugar or chocolate to your masa mix.
In Guatemala and Costa Rica, they make traditional tamales filled with potatoes and other vegetables. You can experiment with these flavors to achieve very different types of tamales.
Ultimately, the best thing about homemade tamales is that they are versatile and can be customized to suit your taste preferences. You just need some creativity to come up with unique combinations of fillings and spices that will delight your taste buds.
As always, don’t forget to share those delicious creations with family and friends at your Mexican Christmas dinner! ¡Feliz Navidad!
Serving and Pairing
The Christmas Tamales recipe is a dish that is not only a feast for the taste buds, but also for the eyes. The beautiful corn husks containing the delicious meaty filling make for an aesthetically pleasing present in themselves. Placing these tamales on a large platter will make your guests dive in as soon as possible!
In terms of pairing, traditional tamale-lovers like myself enjoy pairing their tamales with hot sauce, sour cream, and fresh pico de gallo to balance out the heat of the chili peppers in the fillings.
If you want to venture even further, then try serving your tamales with a fresh salad or grilled vegetables on the side to add some extra nutrition that balances out the heaviness of this festive delight.
To take it up a notch, you can also create a homemade mole sauce to drizzle over your tamales. This provides an added depth of flavor and adds more richness to it!
Remember that Feliz Navidad is all about coming together with family and friends, so consider sharing your homemade tamales with them! It’s a Mexican Christmas dinner tradition that never gets old. Whether you’re from Guatemala, Costa Rica or anywhere else on this continent or beyond, this recipe makes for an excellent option.
Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating
If you’re planning to host a Christmas Tamale party, you can start preparing early by making the tamales ahead of time. Once you have assembled the tamales, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to two days or freeze them for up to six months. Make sure that they are wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or foil.
To reheat, simply steam them over boiling water for 15 minutes or until they are heated through. You can also warm them in the microwave, wrapped in damp paper towels for 1 minute on high.
Another option is to prepare the tamale filling in advance and assemble and cook them the day of your event. For even more convenience, you can make a batch of these tamales well in advance and reheat them anytime you want to enjoy some traditional Christmas flavors.
For those who prefer vegan or sweet tamales, don’t fret! There are plenty of ways to personalize your tamales with different fillings and seasonings that will suit your taste buds. Alternatively, you can serve the pork tamales with a side dish of mole sauce or salsa and sour cream to spruce up their flavor.
No matter how you decide to store and reheat these delicious Christmas Tamales, they will surely add a touch of Mexican holiday tradition to your celebrations this year. So, get ready for a Feliz Navidad with your tamale-making skills!
Tips for Perfect Results
When it comes to making tamales, the process can be intimidating for beginners. However, with a few tips and tricks, anyone can master the art of tamale-making and achieve perfect results every time. Here are some tips to help you make the best Christmas tamales:
1. Use fresh ingredients: Fresh ingredients will always taste better than stale or expired ones. For example, fresh chili peppers and herbs like cilantro will bring out the best flavors in your tamales.
2. Soak the corn husks: Soaking the dried corn husks in hot water for at least an hour before using them will make them pliable and flexible, making it easier to wrap the masa and filling mixture.
3. Spread masa evenly: Make sure to spread the masa evenly over each corn husk when preparing your tamales. This will ensure that each tamale has a consistent texture and flavor throughout.
4. Don’t overfill: Avoid overfilling your tamales as this can cause them to fall apart or leak during cooking. Use a tablespoon to measure out the filling and spread it evenly over the masa.
5. Steam properly: When steaming your tamales, make sure that there is enough room between each tamale to allow steam to circulate freely. This will prevent them from sticking together or becoming soggy.
6. Get creative with fillings: While pork or chicken tamales are traditional for Christmas, don’t be afraid to get creative with fillings like mole, vegetables, or even sweet tamales for dessert.
7. Experiment with spices: Mexican cuisine is known for its bold and complex flavor profiles, so don’t be shy when it comes to adding spices like cumin or chili powder for an extra kick in your tamales.
8. Respect tradition: Making tamales at Christmas is a long-standing tradition in many Latin American countries like Guatemala and Costa Rica. Embrace this cultural practice and use it as an opportunity to connect with family and friends over a delicious Mexican Christmas dinner.
By following these tips, you’ll be on your way to mastering the art of tamale-making and impressing your loved ones with the best homemade tamales around. Feliz Navidad!
Now, in this section, I want to address some questions and concerns that you may have as you attempt to recreate my Christmas Tamales recipe. Don’t worry; making tamales is not as hard as it seems. You can do this! Let’s dive into your FAQ.
What are Christmas tamales?
Tamales are a widely-enjoyed dish that exudes comfort and taste, typically packed with meat options like pork, beef or chicken. The recipe involves a delightful corn flour dough known as masa, which is smothered onto a corn husk or banana leaf, followed by the addition of preferred fillings such as shredded meat, fruit, or cheese.
Why do Mexicans make tamales at Christmas?
Tamales, once considered a sacred dish, were prepared in reverence to certain deities during particular lunar cycles, seasons, and religious ceremonies. The process of making tamales was seen as a mystical culinary pursuit, requiring the cultivation of maize in a specific season, with adequate sunlight, water, and prayers.
Do Mexicans make tamales for Christmas?
During the Christmas season, a customary practice among Mexican, Mexican-Texan, and Mexican American families is to prepare tamales, a dish that has been handed down from generation to generation. The importance of corn in Mesoamerican culture was profound, and it was thought that humans were created from this life-sustaining crop by the gods.
What to make with tamales for Christmas?
When it comes to snacks, I always make sure to have a bowl of crisp tortilla chips readily available. Whether it’s yellow corn, blue corn, or white corn, these salty treats always hit the spot. Another satisfyingly crunchy option that I like to offer are chicharrones. These fried pork rinds are perfect for satisfying those savory cravings. To add a little zing to my snack spread, I like to include a few jars of salsa, guacamole, queso, pickled jalapenos, candied jalapenos, and even some jalapeno fudge. These condiments are sure to liven up any party or gathering.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab some corn husks, masa harina flour, and your favorite ingredients and start making these delicious Christmas tamales. Whether you’re carrying on a generations-old tradition or starting a new one, this recipe is sure to make your holiday season even more special.
Remember, making tamales is not just about the end product – it’s about the process of coming together with your loved ones to create something amazing. So gather your family and friends and start cooking!
Trust me, these tamales will be the showstopper of your Mexican Christmas dinner. So go ahead and give it a try! Feliz Navidad!
Christmas Tamales Recipe
- 8 ounces dried guajillo chilies
- 8 ounces dried ancho chilies
- 32 ounces chicken stock
- 2 lbs masa harina flour, mix (MaSeCa Tamale Mix)
- 1 quart corn oil
- 1 cup fresh cilantro (washed in a colander)
- 2 white onions, chopped
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 5 tablespoons ground cumin
- 5 tablespoons dried oregano
- 5 tablespoons dried onion
- 5 tablespoons dried ground cayenne
- 5 tablespoons white pepper
- 16 ounces tomatoes & chili peppers (Ro-Tel)
- 8 ounces dried corn husks
- Soak the Ancho and Guajillo chilis in water overnight or for 3 hours at least. The seeds should float to the top and are discarded. Go over Chili each pepper and clean off any dirt and remove stems and pods. Meanwhile, saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of Corn oil till translucent and soft, on a medium heat, stirring often. Turn down the heat and add all the Ancho and Guajillo peppers, and saute to bring out the flavors. Keep stirring on a medium-low heat making sure not to burn anything. After the Chili peppers are sizzling, add in the fresh cilantro and saute for 3 minutes more, then add the Ro-Tel, on a low heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Cook the ground beef till browned and drain off the liquid. Transfer the ground beef to a mixing bowl and with a wooden spoon, mix in 2 tablespoons each of Cumin, oregano, dried onion, cayenne, and white pepper, and set aside. Back to the chili pepper mixture: Let it cool, then put it all in the Blender with 2 cups more Chicken stock and blend till it forms a smooth sauce. Combine the blended peppers with the seasoned Ground Beef & incorporate everything well. This filling mixture should sit and marinate in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 3-4 hours.
- Now do the mixing: The first step to mixing the batter is to season the Masa Mix. Open the package and in a large mixing bowl sift together the mix with 3 tablespoons each of the dried onion, cumin, cayenne, oregano, and white pepper. For the actual mixing, start by pouring 3 cups of corn oil into the seasoned Masa Mix, then take an electric mixer on a low speed and as you mix by machine in one hand, use the other hand to slowly pour in a super-small amount chicken stock. You want to keep machine-mixing till it forms a paste. If it doesn't seem to be holding together, add in more oil as you machine-mix. If it's too dry, simply add a larger amount of chicken stock. Once it forms a reasonably batter-like paste, it is ready to be assembled with the filling. Or, it can be folded up and wrapped in plastic, just like a dough, and sit in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, for whenever you are ready to assemble and fill the tamales.
- Soak the Corn husks in water, overnight, or until 3 hours before Tamales are ready to be assembled. The husks should be just slightly damp when ready to be assembled and filled.
- After the filling has sat, marinating in the refrigerator, it needs to be briefly heated to make sure all the flavors have incorporated. This can be done in the microwave, stirring frequently, or on the stove.
- Fill a large stock pot that has a steamer insert, with a small amount of water. The water should not touch the bottom of the insert. Set aside.
- To start assembling, take a damp corn husk and spread the batter over it. Take a large spoonful of the ground beef filling and put in the middle. Now close up the husk, just like an envelope and wrap in parchment paper, cut to size. Place the filled, parchment-papered tamale, upright, standing up, inside the steamer on top of the steamer insert. Repeat these steps until you use up all the filling and the steamer is lined with tamales standing up. You may place a second layer of filled tamales on top of the first layer, as long as they are standing up. If the stock pot is deep enough, and a large enough amount of tamales to be filled, you might end up having 3 or 4 layers going up the sides of the steamer.
- The tamales steam on low for about 3 hours. Check by simply taking one and opening up the parchment to make sure the batter is firm and done. Serve with my Homemade Salsa (see different recipe).
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Dora is a chef well-versed in Brazilian and American cuisine. After a hard day's work in the kitchen of her restaurant, she finds the time to jot down recipes for her food blog. Her recipes are sure to delight foodies everywhere, as she strives to make each one unique and enjoyable to read.