Delicious Tamales Recipe with a Spicy Twist

Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like tamales. The smell of the masa dough steaming in a corn husk as you unwrap each one is enough to make you salivate. And when you take that first bite, you’ll know why tamales are one of Mexico’s most beloved dishes.

But today, we’re taking this traditional dish and giving it a little twist. We’re introducing the Tamales With Turkey in Black Chile Sauce recipe – a mix of Mexican and American cuisine that will make your taste buds sing.

The star of our show here is a savory black chile sauce that pairs perfectly with juicy slices of turkey. And what makes this recipe even better is that it’s made from scratch! From the masa dough for the tamales to the black chile sauce, every element of this recipe is made fresh and with love.

So get ready to experience one of the most delicious combinations of flavors imaginable. This Tamales With Turkey in Black Chile Sauce recipe will transport you to a world full of pure taste and aroma, something that you won’t forget anytime soon.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Tamales With Turkey in Black Chile Sauce
Tamales With Turkey in Black Chile Sauce

Listen up, all you foodies out there! I’m here to tell you about a recipe that will tingle your taste buds and leave you wanting more. This isn’t your ordinary recipe, but rather a culinary delight that will have you salivating at the mere thought of it – Tamales with Turkey in Black Chile Sauce.

This dish is a perfect blend of smoky and spicy flavors that will have your senses dancing. The savory turkey tamales are draped in a rich and flavorful black chile sauce, which heats up your palate with a perfect combination of black pepper, garlic, chilies, arbol chiles, and Mexican oregano. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another recipe that brings together such complex flavors with so much ease.

But wait, that’s not all! The added touch of cranberry sauce infuses just the right amount of sweetness to balance out the heat, while the black beans bring texture to this dish. Whether you’re on the hunt for something different to enjoy with your family or hosting a dinner party for your squad, these tamales will leave no one unimpressed.

This recipe doesn’t just promise unbeatable taste; it is also perfect if you’re looking for something different to add to your usual rotation of dishes. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try something new or challenge yourself in the kitchen, these homemade tamales are just what you need.

To top it off, this recipe is easy enough to prepare from scratch in just an hour. You won’t be stuck in the kitchen for long periods laboring over your dishes. So why limit yourself to mundane food when you can have these delicious turkey tamales in black chile sauce? Trust me; this recipe will become an instant family favorite!

Ingredient List

 Bringing the heat with this spicy black chile sauce! ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐ŸŒถ๏ธ๐Ÿ”ฅ
Bringing the heat with this spicy black chile sauce! ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐ŸŒถ๏ธ๐Ÿ”ฅ

Before diving into the recipe’s step-by-step guide, we need to make sure to have all the essential ingredients beforehand. This recipe requires a unique blend of flavors that originate in traditional Mexican cuisine but is infused with American influences. Here’s what you’ll need:

For the Turkey Tamales:

  • 1 1/2 lb. cooked turkey, shredded (leftovers are ideal)
  • 1 package dried corn husks

For the Filling:

  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar

For the Black Chile Sauce:

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 4 whole allspice berries
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 ounces arbol chiles, stemmed and seeded (about a cup)
  • 3 large Roma tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped (about two cups)
  • 4 chilies, depending on your preference (use jalapenos for mild, serranos for medium, and thai chiis for spicy)
  • Salt, as needed

For the Masa:

  • 4 cups tamale flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 C. hot water

As you can tell by this extensive list of ingredients, cooking these turkey tamales from scratch is no joke! However, do not desist yet. Trust me; it is worth it! If you’re missing any of these items at home or just can’t find one or two items at the grocery store to save your life, I outline some potential swaps and substitutions below in section five.

The Recipe How-To

 This Thanksgiving, break tradition with turkey tamales! ๐Ÿฆƒ๐ŸŒฝ๐Ÿซ”
This Thanksgiving, break tradition with turkey tamales! ๐Ÿฆƒ๐ŸŒฝ๐Ÿซ”

Now itโ€™s time to roll up our sleeves and get cooking! Follow these simple steps to create a batch of delicious Turkey Tamales in Black Chile Sauce from scratch.

Step 1: Soak the Corn Husks

Begin by soaking the corn husks in hot water for about an hour. This will help soften them up and make them easier to work with.

Step 2: Prepare the Filling

While the corn husks are soaking, itโ€™s time to prepare the filling. In a large mixing bowl, season turkey meat with kosher salt and set aside.

In a blender, combine 4 roma tomatoes, 4 garlic cloves, and 6 dried chilies, stemmed and seeded. Blend until smooth, making a rich red sauce.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Add 1 sliced red onion and sautรฉ until soft and translucent. Add your blended sauce, 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of Mexican oregano, allspice berries (optional), whole cloves, black peppercorns (optional) and cook for 5-7 minutes until thoroughly combined.

Add chopped turkey into pot and cook until the turkey is coated in sauce.

Your turkey filling is ready!

Step 3: Make the Masa Dough

In a large mixing bowl, combine masa harina with 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon baking powder, ยฝ tablespoon ground cumin powder, and mix dry ingredients well.

Add prepared turkey broth (low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth) little by little while mixing continuously until you reach the desired consistency for your dough: firm enough to hold its shape but still light in texture.

Beat butter or vegetable shortening until fluffy with a hand mixer. Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar and whisk. Slowly incorporate masa mixture in small batches to butter mixture until it is fully incorporated.

Your rich and buttery masa dough is now ready!

Step 4: Assemble the Tamales

Take soaked corn husks out of the water and shake off excess water.

Now let’s put all elements together!

Lay a corn husk flat, with the tapered end pointing towards you. Spread a generous amount of masa dough across the surface, leaving about 1 inch of space on each side.

Scoop a tablespoon of turkey filling onto center of masa dough. Fold edges over and roll up tightly to cover filling while simultaneously pulling back husk from the top side.

โœจ Repeat until all of the masa dough and turkey filling have been used up.

Step 5: Cook the Tamales

Line a steamer basket with remaining corn husks. Arrange tamales standing upright inside your steaming basket or pot on top of husks with open ends facing upward

Substitutions and Variations

 Keep calm and tamale on! ๐ŸŒฎ๐Ÿ˜Ž
Keep calm and tamale on! ๐ŸŒฎ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Now, let’s get creative with some substitutions and variations. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and make the recipe your own.

If you can’t find turkey, feel free to use chicken instead. You can even switch it up and use other kinds of meat like beef or pork for a heartier taste.

For the chile sauce, you can substitute arbol chiles with any other hot pepper of your choice. If you prefer a mild flavor, swap out the chilies with bell peppers or poblano peppers. You can also add extra spice by mixing in some jalapenos or habaneros.

If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, try making roasted vegetable tamales using portobello mushrooms and zucchini. You can also add black beans and corn to give it that classic Mexican flavor.

As for the sauce, if you don’t have time to make it from scratch, you can use store-bought enchilada sauce or salsa verde as a quick and easy substitute. For those who enjoy a tangy twist, cranberry sauce pairs perfectly with the turkey tamales.

If you don’t have access to corn husks, parchment paper works just as well as a substitute. Simply cut the parchment paper into squares, spread masa dough onto it and fill with the turkey chili mixture before steaming.

Remember that there are endless possibilities when it comes to making tamales, so don’t be afraid to experiment and add your personal touch to create your ultimate dish.

Serving and Pairing

 Feast your eyes on these savory delights! ๐Ÿคค๐Ÿ‘€
Feast your eyes on these savory delights! ๐Ÿคค๐Ÿ‘€

Now, it’s time to talk about serving and pairing these delicious tamales with turkey in black chile sauce. These beauties are a perfect centerpiece for any fiesta or get-together. The rich flavors and spicy kick come together perfectly with the tender, juicy turkey filling.

For an authentic Mexican feast, serve the tamales with red rice, charro beans, and a fresh salad of sliced lettuce, red onion, and diced tomatoes dressed in white vinegar and kosher salt. And if you’re feeling especially adventurous, whip up some homemade salsa verde or ranchero sauce to drizzle over the top.

For something a little different, serve the tamales with a side of black beans and sweet corn for a satisfying and healthy meal. Or try them with some cranberry sauce on the side for a festive Thanksgiving dish.

If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, substitute the turkey filling with diced zucchini, bell peppers, and onions sautรฉed in some olive oil until tender. This will give you delicious vegetarian tamales that are just as flavorful as the original recipe.

And lastly, don’t forget to pair your tamales with your favorite cold beverage to help cut through the heat of the chile sauce. A refreshing Margarita or ice-cold beer can be just what’s needed to balance out the spiciness of these bold and flavorful turkey tamales.

In short, there is no wrong way to serve or pair these delicious tamales. Whether you choose to keep it traditional or add your own personal twist, they are sure to be a showstopper at any party or family gathering.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 Get ready for a fiesta in your mouth! ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ‘…๐Ÿ’ฅ
Get ready for a fiesta in your mouth! ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ‘…๐Ÿ’ฅ

Listen up, folks! If you’re hungry for some tamales with turkey in black chile sauce but don’t have time to cook them on the spot, I’ve got great news for you. You can make these scrumptious treats ahead of time and store them for later use.

Here’s how: after assembling the tamales, cover them tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for up to 2 days, or freeze them for up to 2 months. When ready to devour, place the tamales in a steamer basket above boiling water and steam them until heated through for about 20-30 minutes. Alternatively, you can pop those babies (still wrapped in plastic) into the microwave and reheat them that way.

But wait, there’s more! Not only can you store and reheat turkey tamales with ease, but you can also make extra sauce ahead of time and freeze it for later use. Simply prepare the red chile sauce as directed in this recipe, let it cool completely, then transfer into airtight containers and freeze for up to 3 months. When needed, thaw overnight in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water on the countertop.

Whether you’re meal-prepping or want to make use of leftovers while they’re still fresh, these make-ahead and reheating tips will have your taste buds dancing with joy. Don’t forget the ranchero sauce or green chili salsa verde to serve alongside your homemade tamalesโ€”you’ll thank me later!

Tips for Perfect Results

 Perfecting the art of tamale-making, one fold at a time. ๐Ÿคฒ๐Ÿซ”
Perfecting the art of tamale-making, one fold at a time. ๐Ÿคฒ๐Ÿซ”

Now, let me share with you some tips for perfecting this recipe.

Firstly, when making the chile sauce from scratch, make sure to use high-quality ingredients such as freshly roasted and seeded chilies and ripe Roma tomatoes. This will ensure the best flavor possible.

Secondly, add in spices such as cumin seed, Mexican oregano, allspice berries, whole cloves, and black peppercorns to give the sauce a complex flavor profile. Don’t be afraid to adjust the spice level to your liking by adding more or less of the chilies depending on your heat preference.

Thirdly, after filling each tamale with the turkey and chile sauce mixture, make sure to tightly wrap them in corn husks before steaming for an hour. This will ensure that the tamales are moist and flavorful.

Fourthly, if you want a different twist on the recipe, try substituting the turkey with cranberry relish or black beans for vegetarian tamales. Additionally, you can switch up the chile powder with green chili, red chili or even enchilada sauce for different variations.

Fifthly and most importantly, serve the tamales with a delicious side of ranchero sauce or salsa verde for a zesty kick that will take your taste buds on a rollercoaster ride. Trust me; it’s worth it.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be sure to create delectable tamales that will be hard to resist!


Before we wrap up, let’s dive into some frequently asked questions about this Tamales with Turkey in Black Chile Sauce recipe. These questions will help you bust through any roadblocks you might face when cooking up this delicious meal! So, read along and get the answers to your most pressing queries.

What kind of sauce do you serve with tamales?

When it comes to accompaniments for tamales, there are many options to choose from. Some of these include guacamole, sour cream, and ranchero sauce. However, the all-time crowd favorite is the classic red chili sauce. It’s important to note that this sauce is different from the ranchero sauce, even though they may seem similar.

What do you serve tamales with?

This recipe article features an assortment of delicious dishes rooted in both Brazilian and American cuisine. You’ll find detailed instructions, tips, and recommendations for creating an Avocado Cucumber Salad, Air Fryer Plantains, Elotes (Mexican Street Corn) Salad, Papas Con Rajas, Refried Black Beans, Gallo Pinto, Roasted Chili Corn Salsa, and Arroz Borracho (Beer Steamed Yellow Rice).

What to serve with tamales on Christmas Eve?

Let’s start with some scrumptious and mouth-watering appetizers that are sure to whet your appetite. These dishes are packed with flavor and are perfect whether you’re hosting a party or just relaxing at home. We have a range of options that are sure to delight your taste buds and leave you feeling completely satisfied.

To begin with, there’s nothing quite like a bowl of crispy tortilla chips to get the party started. Whether you prefer the classic yellow corn, blue corn or white corn variety, chips are always a crowd favorite. And when served with a range of dipping sauces, they make for a great sharing platter that everyone can enjoy.

If you’re looking for something a bit more substantial, you can’t go wrong with some crispy chicharrones. These fried pork rinds are crunchy and flavorful, and are perfect for snacking on while you chat with friends or watch TV.

Of course, no appetizer platter would be complete without salsa, guacamole, and queso โ€“ the holy trinity of dip sauces! Salsa is the perfect combination of tangy and spicy, while guacamole is rich and creamy, and queso is satisfyingly cheesy. Add some pickled or candied jalapenos to spice things up even more and you’re good to go.

So there you have it โ€“ some of my top recommendations for appetizers that are sure to impress. Whether you’re a chips and dip kind of person, or prefer something a little more substantial, we’ve got you covered!

How long does it take to cook tamales from scratch?

When preparing tamales from scratch, it’s crucial to consider the cooking time, which usually takes 1.5 to 2 hours on the stove. This long cooking period is necessary to guarantee that both the outer dough and inner filling are thoroughly cooked. In particular, ensuring that the center is adequately steamed is crucial to avoid any undercooked sections.

Bottom Line

Cooking is an art that requires passion, creativity, and the right set of skills. With this tamales with turkey in black chile sauce recipe, you can unleash your inner chef and wow your family and friends with a mouth-watering meal that combines the flavors of Brazilian and American cuisine.

I hope my step-by-step instructions, tips, and recommendations have helped you create delicious tamales from scratch. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different substitutions and variations to make this recipe even more personalized for you.

Whether you’re making these tamales on a lazy weekend or getting ready for a festive occasion, they are sure to be a crowd-pleaser. So go ahead, try out this recipe, and let your taste buds dance to the beat of these scrumptious tamales with turkey in black chile sauce.

Tamales With Turkey in Black Chile Sauce

Tamales With Turkey in Black Chile Sauce Recipe

A classic Mexican dish with a complex, dark, smoky sauce.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 hrs
Cook Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Calories 892.7 kcal



  • 4 ounces chilies, ancho stemmed and seeded
  • 2 ounces chilies, guajillo stemmed and seeded
  • 15 arbol chiles, stemmed
  • 4 roma tomatoes, cored
  • 3 fresno chilies, stemmed
  • 1/2 white onion, peeled, halved
  • 1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 5 allspice berries
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 2 tablespoons achiote paste
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon schmaltz or 1 tablespoon lard
  • 2 bone-in skin-on turkey thighs

Masa and assembly

  • 3 lbs unprepared fresh corn masa for tamales
  • 1 1/2 cups schmaltz or 1 1/2 cups lard, melted, plus more if needed
  • 1/2 1/2 cup turkey stock or 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 5 lbs fresh banana leaves (thawed, rinsed and drained, cut into 2-foot pieces) or 5 lbs frozen banana leaves (thawed, rinsed and drained, cut into 2-foot pieces)
  • pickled red onion (for serving)


  • For the Filling:
  • Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 475°. Roast chiles on a rimmed baking sheet until completely black, slightly puffed and charcoal like in texture, 1 hour. Your kitchen will get very smoky so keep the vent on and windows open. The smoke will subside after the first 15 minutes. Let cool. Transfer to a large pot, lightly crush will a potato masher. Fill pot with cold water, stir vigorously strain through a fine mesh sieve and discard water. Transfer chiles back to pot and fill with cold water cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 48.
  • Meanwhile, spread tomatoes, fresnos, onion and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt. Roast until vegetables are soft and black in spots, 30–40 minutes. Let cool slightly. Peel garlic cloves. Cover and chill until ready to use.
  • Toast peppercorn, cloves and allspice in a dry small skillet over medium heat, swirling often and adding oregano and cumin seeds during the last 30 seconds, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Cover and let sit at room temperature until ready to use.
  • Strain blackened chiles through a fine mesh sieve and discard water. Transfer chiles, tomatoes, fresnos, onion, garlic, peppercorn, cloves, allspice, oregano, cumin, achiote paste, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon kosher salt to a blender. Purée until completely smooth.
  • Preheat oven to 250°. Heat 1 tablespoon schmaltz in a large heavy pot over medium-high and cook turkey thighs, starting skin-side down, turning once, until deep golden browned, 4-5 minutes per side. Carefully transfer chile purée to pot; bring to a boil, cover and transfer to oven. Braise turkey until very tender and shreds easily, 2–2½ hours. Let cool. Transfer turkey to a cutting board and shred meat and skin; reserve chile sauce and discard bones. Roughly chop into bite-sized pieces. Transfer to a medium bowl and toss 2 ½ cups of reserved sauce until completely combined; season with salt. Transfer filling to an airtight container and chill until turkey is cold and firm, at least 3 hours.
  • Do Ahead: Filling can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled.
  • For the Masa and Assembly:
  • Mix masa, schmaltz, stock and salt in a large bowl with your hands until well incorporated and mixture looks shiny and smooth, about 4 minutes. (Alternatively, you can also do this in a stand mixer) Masa will seem wet but should not stick to your hands. Slap the top of masa with the palm of your hand, immediately pulling your hand back. If masa doesn’t stick and your hand looks shiny, the dough is ready. If masa sticks, add another 2 tablespoons schmaltz and knead until incorporated; repeat slap test. If masa still sticks to your hand, repeat process until you get there (another 2 tablespoons schmaltz should do it).
  • Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat and preheat oven to 350°. Set a rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and position it so that one of the long sides is facing you. Cover the sheet tray with two leaves, lengthwise from top to bottom, slightly overlapped, with ribs in the center. Repeat with another two leaves covering the first two. Brush banana leaves with schmaltz and top with half of the masa. Press into the banana leaves in an even layer covering most of the leaves, leaving a 1” border around the rim of the baking sheet. Gently spread the filling, lengthwise down the center, making a 6” wide strip across the masa.
  • Using overhanging leaves to help you, fold the side closest to you over the filling, carefully separating the leaf from the masa so that it rests over the filling. Pull back the leaf completely so that it is resting on the sheet tray. Fold the second side over so that the masa and leaf completely covers the filling and slightly overlaps the other masa flap. Fold the first leaf over and tuck under the tamal on the other side. Tuck the leaves on the two ends under the tamal. Cover the tamal in wet, clean kitchen towels. Place baking sheet in oven and pour very hot water into pan until it just below the level of the rack and cover with heavy duty foil. Bake until set, 60–75 minutes. Let sit covered for 30 minutes. Carefully unwrap and slice and serve with reserved sauce and pickled red onions.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 484gCalories: 892.7kcalCarbohydrates: 54.3gProtein: 17.6gFat: 68.1gSaturated Fat: 21.6gCholesterol: 84.1mgSodium: 4018.6mgFiber: 9.8gSugar: 6.6g
Keyword Meat, Mexican, Poultry, Sauces
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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.