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How to Make Tamales Masa

How to make tamales masa dough with oil for savory or sweet tamales from scratch. Then you can fill with meat, steam tamales in Instant Pot to perfection and enjoy for dinner. Use this same mix for Sopas or Gorditas too.

How to Make Tamales Masa

I will share a super easy and completely from scratch homemade version of a masa recipe here. That way you can start from the very beginning when attempting your own Mexican tamale recipe at home. Grab some corn kernels or corn masa harina and let’s get started. Then we will show you how to make tamales from scratch here. (affiliate links present)

Masa for Tamales

Tamales masa is the dough used to make tamales, which are a traditional Mexican dish made of masa, or corn dough, that is filled with various ingredients such as meat, cheese, vegetables, and chilies, then wrapped in corn husks and steamed.

To make an EASY tamales masa, you will need masa harina, which is a special type of corn flour that has been treated with lime to make it more digestible and nutritious. To prepare this style, you will typically mix that with water or chicken broth, as well as some fat such as lard or vegetable shortening. Flavors are added with seasoning of your choice such as salt and chili powder.

Masa for Tamales

The mixture is then kneaded until it reaches a smooth, pliable consistency, and it is ready to be used to make tamales. When making the dough is spread onto a soaked corn husks, and the filling is added before it’s folded up and tied up to be cooked inside a steamer basket.

Masa dough is a essential in making tamales, and it gives the dish its distinctive flavor and texture. It can also be used in other traditional Mexican dishes, such as corn tortillas, pupusas, and gorditas.

Best Tamale Masa Recipe

Ingredients you are going to need to make the simplest base are here, additional seasoning ideas are shared below;

  • Instant corn masa harina
  • Salt
  • Baking powder
  • Vegetable oil
  • Chicken broth offers more flavor than water
Best Tamale Masa Recipe

Tamale Masa Recipe with Oil

While masa has a naturally mild flavor, it can be easily flavored with various ingredients to enhance its taste. Here are some ways to flavor this tamale dough so to make it spicy, with herbs or to make cheesy.

  1. Chicken stock or vegetable broth can replace water to add a savory taste vs. just using water. The broth will make it tastier for sure, highly recommend using it.
  2. Adding lard or vegetable shortening like Crisco can help make it softer, more moist, and add more flavor. The fat will add richness and will help to keep it from drying out when cooking too.
  3. Adding spices such as cumin, paprika, garlic powder, or chili powder can add another depth of flavor. Experiment with different spice combinations to create your own unique seasoning blend if you like.
  4. Adding diced fresh herbs such as cilantro, oregano, or epazote can add a fresh and fragrant flavor too.
  5. You could add shredded cheese, such as queso fresco or cheddar for a creamy, salty flavor.

To flavor simply add the desired ingredients to the wet dough when mixing. It is important to taste the before using it on your whole dish it to ensure you like the way it turned out.

To make this you will need a large bowl. Add the corn masa harina, salt, and baking powder. Whisk together until blended. Add the oil and blend until completely mixed. The texture will be like wet sand. Pour the 1 cup of liquid from the pork into the mix and blend until completely mixed. Then, add the chicken broth about 1 cup at a time until the masa is like smooth peanut butter.

homemade masa

Homemade Masa with Corn

Ok so you may want to make masa from scratch instead, to taste the difference.

  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 2-3 ears of corn) + 2 cups masa harina
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil, shortening or lard
  • 1 1/2 cups warmed chicken broth or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp salt and baking powder

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 F. Spread the fresh corn kernels in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast them in oven for 10-15 minutes until they are lightly browned. Let them cool for a few minutes.
  2. In a food processor puree to create ground corn kernels that are smooth.
  3. In a stand mixer combine the corn puree, masa harina, salt, and baking powder.
  4. Add the oil, vegetable shortening or lard to the mixture. Use your hands to work it into the masa until it is well combined.
  5. Slowly add the warm chicken broth to the mixture. Stir constantly, until dough comes together into a smooth dough.
  6. Cover bowl with a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

It is now ready to use now! Vegetable oil is my choice for binder, is easiest to find at the grocery store and work with. Other option used often is lard. Not my favorite but you could substitute for that. You would need to whip that separately in a bowl before combining it with the other mixture.

Tamale Masa Recipe with Oil

Tamale Filling Ideas

These are just a few ideas for what to fill masa with, but the possibilities are endless. The most common is pork for tamales for sure. You can mix and match different ones of course to create your own unique dish. Remember to balance the flavors and textures so that your dish is just what you were hoping for. A few ideas are;

  1. One of the most popular fillings for masa is meat, such as shredded chicken, beef, or pork. You can season the meat with spices and herbs to give it extra flavor.
  2. Cheese is a great filling that pairs well with other ingredients such as black beans or vegetables. Try using shredded queso fresco or Monterey jack cheese.
  3. Beans are a filling and nutritious option for masa. You can use refried beans, black beans, or pinto beans, and season them with spices such as cumin and chili powder.
  4. You could add a variety of different vegetables too such as roasted jalapenos for heat, peppers, onions, and diced tomatoes. You can also use vegetables as the main filling, such as with vegetarian tamales.
  5. For a sweet twist use fruit like diced pineapple, baked apples, or raisins as a filling. Sweet tamales are a popular dessert and a great way to make dinner and dessert wrapped in the same mixture.

That is the great reason to make fresh masa from scratch. That way you can add the flavors you love and homemade tamales are at your fingertips. NO matter what though after it’s cooked you’ll want to pour a decent amount of tamale sauce over the top.

Tamale Filling Ideas

How to Save Leftover Masa

If you have leftovers you can store it in the refrigerator or freezer for later use. Here are some tips to save it properly so you have no waste; If you plan to use it within a few days, you can store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Make sure to cover the surface with plastic wrap or a damp towel to prevent it from drying out.

If you have a large amount or don’t plan to use it for a while, I would freeze it. Divide into portion sizes, balls or patties. Wrap each piece(s) tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Store them in a freezer safe bag or container. It will last for up to 3 months this way. Whether you store in the refrigerator or freezer, make sure to label and date the container.

To thaw it back out when you’re ready to use, remove it from the freezer and let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, bring the ball to room temperature before spreading out and using again. Fill and this is how long to cook tamales.

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How to Make Tamales Masa
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How to Make Tamales Masa

How to make tamales masa dough with oil for savory or sweet tamales from scratch. Use this same mix for Sopas or Gorditas too.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword masa, tamales
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings 24
Calories 160kcal
Author The Typical Mom

Equipment

Ingredients

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, add the corn masa harina, salt, and baking powder. Whisk together until blended.
  • Add the oil, 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp, to the masa and blend until completely mixed. The texture will be like wet sand.
  • Pour the cup of pork drippings into bowl and blend until completely mixed. Then, add the chicken broth about 1 cup at a time until the masa is like smooth peanut butter texture.

Video

Nutrition Facts
How to Make Tamales Masa
Amount Per Serving (1 oz)
Calories 160 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 4g25%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 10mg3%
Sodium 319mg14%
Potassium 81mg2%
Carbohydrates 15g5%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 0.1g0%
Protein 2g4%
Vitamin A 41IU1%
Calcium 38mg4%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Recipe Rating




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