Tamales Verdes

Posted · 42 Comments


In preparation for a family dinner that I am hosting, I made sure to make homemade Mexican tamales.  It’s a family tradition from my Mexican side of the family to eat tamales every Christmas Eve.  Steamed corn dough filled with different meats and sauces made of chili’s, roasted peppers, and spices.

In the past, my mother always ordered them from friends and family.  From the women that we had ordered them from, it was a tradition to spend an entire day in the kitchen with family laughing and chatting while making dozens upon dozens of different filled tamales.

I wanted to make this tradition a part of my family as well, so three years ago I embarked on a mission to make my own tamales at home and enlisted the help of my sisters and mother.  After 3 years, many mistakes, and extremely hilarious moments, we can now make our own tamales from scratch.

For this recipe, I made a green sauce using roasted tomatillo’s.  I usually make a red sauced tamale using dried ancho and guajillo chili’s. I’ll most likely share that recipe for the New Year.  This recipe uses Maseca. Ground, all natural, corn flour for tamales.  I’d like to try and make my own masa by soaking my own corn kernels in a lime solution and grinding them up myself for an even fresher tasting tamale. (*Update – I now purchase masa harina from Bob’s Red Mill.  It’s GMO free.)

Making tamales is not difficult but it is a lengthy process.  Therefore, it makes much more sense to make a large batch as they freeze well.

You will need corn husks to wrap the tamales in.  They can be purchased along with the masa harina at a Mexican grocer or a well stocked grocery store.  The corn husks must be soaked in water for at least an hour before using.


Step 1: the filling

  • 1 farm fresh chicken, shredded
  • 1lb tomatillo’s
  • 1 jalapeno pepper or serrano chili
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch cilantro (about a cup)
  • 3/4 green onions (I roasted mine on a cast iron skillet until they were blackened on both sides)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (preferably homemade)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. Roast the tomatillo’s in a 375F oven until blackened on both sides.
  2. In a blender, blend the tomatillo’s,  jalapeno or serrano chili, garlic, and cilantro.
  3. Roast the green onions in a cast iron pan until blackened on both sides.
  4. Add the blended tomatillo sauce, and chicken broth to the pan.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
  5. Season to taste.
  6. In a large bowl, shred your chicken.
  7. Add the green tomatillo sauce and cheese to the chicken.

Step 2: corn masa
(Follow the instructions on the package of the masa harina)

A couple of tips for making the masa

  1. Your broth is so important to making a great tasting tamale.  Use the stock from whatever kind of meat you have boiled.
  2. The pork lard is an important ingredient here as well.  Please stay away from the shelf hydrogenated, tasteless stuff.  Instead, find your local family farmer and ask them for rendered leaf lard or pork fat to render your own.  If you can’t find rendered leaf lard or pork fat from a family farmer a great tip is to ask the meat counter at your Mexican grocer for Manteca de Cerdo.  It’s not as clean but it’s natural, healthier and hasn’t been processed.

Step 3: Assembly


You can fill the tamale with as much masa as you personally like.  I prefer mine thinner so I use about a heaping tablespoon and a half of masa for each tamale.  Fill the corn husk with masa.  Starting on one edge leaving about 1 1/2 inch of space on the opposite side.  As you can see from the photo illustrations, add as much or as little filling as you would like and carefully fold the corn husk over sealing the masa from one end to the other.  Make a second roll, bring the bottom flap up and tie with a long piece of corn husk.  It takes some getting used to, but once you get going, it’s easy.

Once your tamales are all filled and rolled, you will need a steamer, or tamalera, which can also be purchased at a mexican grocer.  You will need to fill the bottom with water and bring to a boil.  Once it’s boiling, add the tamales.  I stand them up and usually fill the entire bottom area.

Cover with a damp towel and lid.  Steam for 1 hour or until the masa easily pulls away from the husk.
Buen Provecho!

42 Responses to "Tamales Verdes"
  1. Velva says:

    Your tamales look fabulous. What a wonderful Christmas tradition to start in your family. Awesome!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  2. Erica says:

    Hi Diana,

    Feliz navidad para ti y toda tu familia. Your tamales look delicious…..We have our own Colombian version for the holidays too!

  3. momgateway says:

    Yummy tamales recipe! We make ours with rice flour instead of masa and wrap them in banana leaves.

  4. girlichef says:

    Your tamales are gorgeous, Diana :) I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!

  5. Fresh Local and Best says:

    I want to have this tradition in my house too! I love tamales! You've laid it out in a way that has makes it easy to follow!

  6. Foy says:

    When I lived in Panama we always helped make tamales for the New Year and bollos for Carnival. The ladies always used fresh corn and it does taste so much better!

    They simply ground it through a counter top old fashion crank meat grinder. Just like my grandma used to crush tomatoes and make sausage. I eventually bought one and they do come in handy for other things like making carneminolas and hummus.

    Enjoy your feast! Felis Navidad

  7. Debbie says:

    I LOVE GOOD TAMALES!!! These look fantastic!

  8. Vegetable Matter says:

    A beautiful family tradition. Happy Christmas! Robin

  9. Simply Life says:

    oh I love your beautiful presentation of them! They look great!

  10. Daniel says:

    Feliz Navidad and thank you for sharing in such great detail such a wonderful recipe. My best to you!

    Casual Kitchen

  11. penny aka jeroxie says:

    Never had tamales before. Looks great!

  12. Joan Nova says:

    Great tutorial on tamale making.

    Felicidades a todos!

  13. Arabic Bites says:

    I always love to learn about new food from your blog….
    Tamales looks very delicious… I'll be looking for masa harina & I hope I can find it here.

    Wishing you a great holiday with your family and I hope that 2010 brings you all that you wish for.

    Warm wishes for the holidays :)

  14. Sook says:

    Diana, will you believe it if I told you that tamales verdes is the very first American (??) food that I tried when I came to America? And I fell in love with it ever since. I would've never thought to make these at home but now that I know there is a way, I would have to try it. Thank you.

  15. Chow and Chatter says:

    wow amazing and what a cool tradition, yummy, have a great meal tomorrow with your family

    Love Rebecca

  16. My Little Space says:

    Hi Diana, these Tamales Verdes look more or alike our local steamed goodies except you're using corn masa! Looks really delicious too. Btw, just in case I forgot… wishing your & your family Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. Have lots of fun and may your wishes come true. Cheers always!
    Best Wishes, Kristy

  17. Crail Cakes says:

    Oh Girl you always outdo yourself! I can't wait to indulge in these yummy tamales. Good job everything looks amazing :)

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much for the recipe, it really really looks great. Ingredients are already in my shopping list.

    Feliz Navidad!


  19. Daydreamer Desserts says:

    I've been looking for a good tamale recipe for a while… I think I finally found one, thank you! :)

  20. Fresh Local and Best says:

    Just popping in to wish you a Merry Christmas!

  21. Adriana says:

    que ilusion encontrar tu blog! yo tambien soy española pero en mi caso, vivo en boston desde hace año y medio y la pastelería al estilo americano me tiene fascinada!

    recuerdos desde aquí!


  22. 5 Star Foodie says:

    Beautiful tamales! Merry Christmas!

  23. Jen @Tiny Urban Kitchen says:

    Oh man, these look incredible. I've never cooked with lard before – nor corn husks! These sort of remind me of a Chinese version where we use bamboo leaves and rice. :) Merry Christmas!

  24. NOELLE says:

    These look great! Merry Christmas!

  25. myblissfulbites says:

    Fantastic! Hope you had a Merry Christmas!

  26. Cook Afloat says:

    I stumbled on your blog – and I love the ideals you hold. We just moved to North Dakota (from a place with tons of ingredients for my favorite cuisine)

    I have the grinder – and have ground my own masa from the soaked and rinsed dried corn. Yummy. I brought 2 bags with me, and an emergency giant can of hominy. We usually do tamales for New Years – now I just have to find more pork fat – I hate using that processed lard "stuff".

    I hope you had a merry Christmas – I'm bookmarking your blog!

  27. Memória says:

    I have some guajillo chiles (spelled with an "e" and no apostrophe) at home along with pasilla and ancho chiles. Also, I asked Santa for a tamal (singular of "tamales") steamer and received that, too. Now, I'm armed and ready to make tamales haha. All that to say that I will be trying out your recipe. I love the fact that you have process photos; I'll need that. Gracias por la receta. ¡Feliz año nuevo!

  28. Tasty Eats At Home says:

    Oh yum – I love tamales – I learned to make them for the first time this year, but for Christmas Eve, I ordered some of the best tamales I've ever had from a friend's grandmother. She makes them so perfectly…I could eat my weight in tamales! Yum! Yours look different with the salsa verde, but wow, how delicious!

  29. Diana Bauman says:

    Thanks everyone!! They did turn out so yummy!!

    Adriana – Gracias por visitando! Encantada de conocerte 😉 Un beso!

    Cook Afloat – Thanks for stopping by! Looking forward to visiting your place!

    Memoria – Thanks for visiting! I hope the tamales turn out for you and definitely excited to hear about them!

  30. CookEatLove says:

    Thanks so much for this recipe, I am looking forward to trying it!

  31. Hummingbird Appetite says:

    I would love to try these!

  32. Miranda says:

    Believe it or not…I have made tamales quit a few times. My husband loves them. I have tried to perfect my recipe!
    These look unbelievable! I can't wait to give them a try!!!

  33. Doña Masita says:

    It's so nice to read about someone who worries about building communities with different cultures and cuisines, just as I do. I invite you to visit my website (http://www.donamasita.com), I'm sure you will enjoy sharing your own recipes and anecdotes with hispanic people. Congratulations on your blog and Happy New Year.

  34. This is how we make our tamales too! We brag that we make the best tamales in Iowa and this is how you make them.

  35. I love making and eating tamales! :) Salsa verde are always my favorite! All the ladies in my area insist on adding a green olive and slice of potato.

  36. karen says:

    Did I miss the part on how to make the masa for the tamale? It seemed to jump from chicken prep to putting it together…help

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Karen, I use Bob Red Mill’s Masa Harina. However, you can use Maseca brand as well. If you follow the package directions, it’s pretty easy. You will need to mix masa harina with chicken broth and lard.

  37. Cheryl says:

    Hi Diana,
    The recipe looks wonderful. Just 2 questions:
    3/4 green onions—what does this mean? 3/4 Cup chopped green onions? what?
    also: what is rendered LEAF lard. I’ve never heard of it.

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Cheryl, so sorry, I wrote this post a LONG time ago… it’s time to revisit it 😉 Yes, 3/4 cup green onions, chopped. Rendered leaf lard or regular lard is fine. It’s just fat from the pig that’s rendered at home versus buying hydrogenated from the store. I have a post about it here –> http://www.myhumblekitchen.com/2011/02/how-render-lard-the-right-way-snow-white/. Also, if you don’t have time to find pig fat to render at home, I highly recommend visiting your local butcher or the meat counter at your local Mexican market. They make it fresh so it’s not full of yucky preservatives or hydrogenated :)

  38. Karenrod says:

    I too have wonderful memories of growing up and seeing all my aunts make three different type of tamales for a whole day before Christmas (red, green and sweet). My favorite is the red so I can’t wait to see your recipe. I never tried to make it myself…but your post has encouraged me que si se puede!! :)

  39. jeanne says:

    I just use a stock pot. We would layers if husks down and then the water. We liked to make some just masa and smir butter on them for in the morning. Yum!!!

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