Homemade Mexican Tamales

Simple step-by-step instructions for creating authentic Tamales crammed with pork, chicken or beans and cheese and cooked on the stovetop or within the instant pot. 

I learned to form homemade tamales a few years ago from a sweet elderly woman in Puebla, Mexico. My husband and that i were living in Puebla for a couple of months and have become friends with this woman and her family. Her daughter was the secretary at the office block where we worked.

Homemade Mexican Tamales
Homemade Mexican Tamales

This sweet grandmother made incredible tamales! I expressed my desire to find out the ins and outs of authentic Mexican cooking, therefore the Grandma invited me over for a “tamalada” or Tamale making party. She made her masa dough completely from scratch, using dried white corn kernels and “cal” , which has been difficult on behalf of me to seek out within the U.S

Tamales are a standard Mexican dish made with a corn based dough mixture that's crammed with various meats or beans and cheese. Tamales are wrapped and cooked in corn husks or banana leaves, but they're faraway from the husks before eating. Try them served with pico de gallo on top and a side of guacamole and rice.

Homemade Mexican Tamales

For the Dough:

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 4 cups Masa Harina (Maseca brand if available)
  • 3 cups broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable broth)
  • 1 1/3 cups lard
  • 8 ounce package dried corn husks

Filling ideas:

  • Red chili pork
  • Salsa verde chicken See notes for recipe
  • bean and cheese See notes for recipe
  • Authentic Mexican Rice , for serving, optional


  1. Soak the corn husks in a bowl of very hot water for 30 minutes or until softened.
  2. Prepare desired fillings.
  3. Make the masa dough: In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the lard and 2 tablespoons of broth until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Combine the masa flour, baking powder, salt, and cumin in a separate bowl; stir into the lard mixture and beat well with an electric mixer. 
  4. Add the broth, little by little to form a very soft dough. Beat on high speed for several minutes. The dough should spread like creamy peanut butter and be slightly sticky.* Cover the mixing bowl with a damp paper towel, to keep the dough from drying out.
  5. Assemble the tamales: Lay a corn husk, glossy side up, on the counter with the wide end at the top. Scoop about ¼ cup of dough onto the top, center of the corn husk. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and use your hands to press and spread the masa into a thin layer, about 1/4 inch thick. Keep the dough spread along the top half of the corn husk to allow plenty of room to fold the bottom husk up, when it’s time.
  6. Place 1-2 tablespoons of desired filling in a line down the center of the dough. (Youdon’t want too much filling).
  7. Fold in one long side of the husk over the filling. Fold in the other long side, overlapping the first (like folding a brochure). Fold the bottom of the husk up. 
  8. Tying tamales (optional): You don’t have to tie a corn husk string around the tamales--it does take more time and they will hold together without it. However, if you’re making multiple fillings, tying ones of a certain kind can help to identify them.
  9. Cook on the stove-top or Instant Pot: Add water to the bottom of your steamer or instant pot. (About 1 cup for IP and a few cups for a steamer pot—don’t fill above the steamer rack.) Lay a few extra corn husks on the bottom rack to keep the tamales from falling through and any boiling water from directly touching them.
  10. Place tamales standing upright, with their open end up, just tightly enough to keep them standing. If using a steamer pot, lay a few soaked corn husks or a wet towel over the top of the tamales before closing the lid.
  11. Steamer: Bring water to a boil (in Mexico they would often place a coin at the bottom of thesteamer and when the coin started to tap in the pot you know the water was boiling.) Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and steam for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check them after 45 minutes.
  12. Instant Pot: Cook on Manual/High Pressure for 25 minutes. Allow pressure to naturallyrelease for 10 minutes, and then quick release.
  13. To test if the tamales are done: Remove one and try to pull the husk off. If the husk pulls away cleanly from the tamale they're done. If the dough is still sticky or wet looking, cook them for 5-10 minutes longer and try again.
  14. Store leftover tamales in the refrigerator for 5-7 days depending on the freshness of your ingredients.

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