How to Make Tamales

How to Make Tamales for Your Tamalada (Tamale-making Party)

Publish Date October 23, 2023 3 Minute Read

What is a Tamalada?

A tamalada is a tamale-making party that brings family and friends together for the labor-intensive practice of cooking, assembling and eating tamales. The process begins with masa, a dough made from ground corn, which is traditionally made through a lengthy process of cooking, soaking and grinding corn. Today, however, masa flour is widely available and can be substituted to save much labor and time. At a tamalada, assembly lines are formed within families with one person (or team) cooking the meats, another prepping the masa, and yet another soaking the corn husks and assembling the tamales before steaming them. It’s a tradition that brings generations together and is enjoyed by all (especially because everyone gets to enjoy the fruits of their labor).

Why Are Tamales Eaten for Christmas?

Tamales are eaten year-round, but they’re a traditional food during Christmas and Las Posadas, a 9-day holiday that commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph. Due to the importance of corn in Mesoamerica (and later in Mexico), and because of the significance of Christmas to Christians, it became a common tradition to gather together tomake and serve tamales during both of these holy holidays.

How to Make Tamales

Tamales are labor-intensive, but well worth the effort. First, if you’re using meat, it must be prepped. Pork, beef, or chicken — preferably dark meat, as white meat can be too dry — is often roasted in a pot of water for up to 6 hours until it’s fall-apart tender. Then, it’s shredded and seasoned with chili peppers, garlic and other spices.

Next, the masa is made either by the traditional (and time-consuming) method of grinding cooked and soaked sun-dried corn kernels or simply by combining masa flour with broth. Then, using an electric mixer, the lard or shortening is beaten until fluffy and combined with the masa dough.

After softening corn husks in boiling water, a layer of masa dough is spread into each husk, followed by a layer of meat, cheeses or vegetables. The tamale is then wrapped or rolled up into the corn husk and steamed for 30 to 45 minutes.

Since tamales take a bit of work to make, many families make dozens of them at a time and freeze leftovers.

Ready to host your own Tamalada? You can find plenty of inspiration, recipes, and ingredients at our Tamalada shop.

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