I ‘m calling this post “White Girl Makes Tamales” because while researching how to make these I realized how very cultureless (is that a word?) I am, how very rootless I am, how very, well, white I am. Not that there’s anything wrong with being white, it just seemed like all the “making tamales” videos featured groups of women, that appeared to be related, gathering for food preparation and wonderful fellowship.  I just don’t see that very often in my little world. Maybe I should stop whining and purpose to start some traditions in my own family.

Or, maybe I should have titled this post “Poor W.A.P. Girl Makes Tamales”? (W.A.P.=Weston A Price)

 I’m not really poor. My kitchen is, however, fairly basic. I don’t have a food processor or a blender or masa grinder. That didn’t stop me, though. Encouraged by the fact that the village woman Dr. Price studied had very basic tools and managed to do amazing things, I had to at least try.

Homemade Tamales


About a pound of dent corn

 1 Tbs pickling lime from the canning section of your supermarket, sometimes called Cal)

pckg of corn husks

about 1/4 cup lard

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Rinse dent corn well and place in pot and cover with water.

Stir in Lime and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer (slightly bubbling) for about 10 min. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Cover with a cloth and allow to sit for at least 24 hrs., I let mine sit for about a week and a half.

Drain, under cool running water, pick up handfuls of the corn and rub between your hands under the water to remove loose skin.

Traditionally masa for tamales would be prepared like this……..


My kitchen isn’t quite this basic, but, I was able to come pretty close while grinding my corn. In the video she is using a Metate, made from a volcanic stone called Basalt. Fortunately, I gave my husband a Molcajete for his birthday. A Molcajete is also made from basalt, but, is shaped differently and is typically used for making salsa.

After chopping up the corn, one. handful. at. a. time. in a little veggie chopper,

I ground it, one. handful. at. a. time., in the Molcajete, like this….

I would grind until the corn would come together well…

I could only grind a handful at a time, any more than that and I couldn’t get the corn fine enough.

Yeah, it took awhile, but my arms will be ripped for summer, lol.

While I was grinding, I had my sauce simmering happily nearby….


about 8 chiles, either California or something similar.

one handful chopped garlic cloves

Cut of the stems and deseed

Place them in a sauce pan with the garlic and cover them with chicken stock (can use water too)

Simmer until soft and puree, I used my stick blender, then add in meat, I used leftover beef roast, about this much…..

Now, place about 1/3 of your corn husks in water to soften.

While the husks are bathing, mix the corn, lard, baking powder, and salt.

You want a consistency that will spread without running or cracking, I I ended up adding a little stock to get it just right.

I don’t know if you can see them in the pics..at the advice of a very wise friend, I added a few handfuls of craisins to the sauce/meat mixture. Oh was she ever right! The sweetness of the craisins was wonderful with the smoky-ness of the sauce, yum!

I also sprinkled a little cheese on each one.

now, roll these up, from one long side to the other and fold the empty, pointy side under.

If, like me, you don’t have a Tamale Steamer, wad up a large ball of aluminum foil and place it in a pot with a couple of inches of water.

Bring the water to a simmer, turn it down a little, so the tamales will steam, and prop the tamales up around the foil, like this…

these were perfect after about 25 minutes. let them steam until the husk pulls away from the tamale easily.

These were a little dry, I think, because some of them cracked while cooking. This might be a combination of not enough lard and not getting my corn ground fine enough? I’m not sure, this was my very first taste of tamales. What I am sure of…I will be making these again, they were really good. Maybe next time I’ll have friends over and start a new tamale tradition 🙂