Klunker's tamales

Klunker's tamales  

I LOVE TAMALES!!!  I don't know if there is any other way around it.  They have filled my stomach more times than I can remember.......until I went plant-based.  I have not had a tamale in over 2 years now, and I never really gave it a second thought.  I just figured it was one of the foods I could just move on and forget.
But then my friend Julie requested a recipe for them, and there was no way I was going to turn that challenge down.  I sat on this one for a while, because I wanted to make sure I could make them good enough.  I was worried that without oil or lard, the beautiful corn cake would be dry, not stick together and just be nasty.  
Well, I made the recipe and toyed with some ideas, and it worked the very first time.  I unwrapped these little stuffed corn cakes, smothered with my delicious red sauce and was in heaven.  I made a stuffing that was requested by Julie, but I can see several different types of filling for these.  I would say get creative and expand on this recipe.

This recipe is time consuming, and has several parts, but it is so worth it.  I hope you try these and enjoy!!

Step 1- You will need 13 dried corn husks.  You can purchase these at most stores in the Mexican food section.  You can also order online.  They come in a big bags, so you will have leftovers (or you could double the recipe?)  I put the leftovers in a zip bag and in my freezer.
Place the corn husks in a large bowl and cover with boiling water, cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes.  Do this first, and then move on to the recipe below.


For the corn batter

3c Masa harina (I used Maseca® brand)  
1 tablespoon baking powder (low sodium/sodium free baking powder can be used)
1 tsp. salt (optional, but I recommend)
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. chicken-less powder (here is a link if you want to make your own)
2 1/2c hot veggie stock or water
1/4c aquafaba (the liquid from a can of chickpeas)

For the filling

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped small
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced thin
1c cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
2 large handfuls of baby spinach
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
salt to taste

OK, lets make the corn mix first.
In a large bowl, combine the corn flour, baking powder, salt, chili powder and chicken-less powder.  Whisk them together so its all mixed.  Add the stock/water and the aquafaba.  Now get your hands in there and mix.  Mix well.  You want it to be the consistency of peanut butter.  If it is too dry, add a little more water.  If it is too loose, add a little more corn flour.  When it is well mixed, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

For the filling, you will need a large saute pan.  Place it over medium heat, and add the onions.  Saute for about 5 minutes, or until they are starting to get translucent.  Add the mushrooms, and saute another 5-8 minutes, until they are wilted down.  Add the beans and spinach, and saute until the spinach is very wilted.  Add all spices and stir well.  Take off heat, and let sit for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, add to a food processor and pulse several times, until smoother, but still some chunks.  Place in a bowl.

Time to set up your assembly line now. (I told you this was a long recipe)
Drain your corn husks, and rinse.  Set on a plate.  Take one of the husks and rip into thin strings.  You will tie the tamales with this.  You will need 12 of them total.
Place your husks, your corn mix and the filling in a line, so they are easy to get to.  
Place one corn husk down, and spread about 1/4c of your corn mix down, press down and flatten out to about 1/2 inch thick.  Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling down the middle.
Pick up each side, and bring the corn mix together (like a burrito) and then roll from one side so you have a long tube.  Take the small, pointed end, and fold it over, meeting it to the big part.  Place seam side down, and with one of your corn strings, tie shut.
Congratulations, you just made your first one.  Now get to work and make the other 11.
When you have made all 12, you are going to want to steam them.  I choose to use the Instant Pot®, but you can steam them in a traditional steamer too.

For the IP: Place steaming rack in the bottom, and add 1c water.  Stack the tamales facing up.  Close/lock top, and make sure the knob is turned to pressure.  Manually set for 20 minutes.  When the time is up, let sit for 10 minutes, then release the pressure that is left.

For traditional stove top prep:  Place steam rack at the bottom of a large covered pot. Add 2c water, but make sure not to add too much to water, you don't want it to touch the tamales.  Place the tamales, face up in the pot, and cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat, and reduce the heat to medium, and steam for 40 minutes.  After 40 minutes, do not remove top, but cut the heat and let sit for 10 minutes.  

Remove from heat and remove with tongs.  Stack on a plate and serve right away.  You can eat plain, or with some great red enchilada sauce
Most of all, ENJOY.  Explore and experiment.  


  1. The enchilada sauce and these tamales are a treat! I've got to master the recipes by Christmas. Thank you Michael for your sheer genius!

  2. michael, as DH doesn't like tamales, I want to make and freeze some. Do you think I should unwrap them before freezing? Or just wrap husk and all in plastic wrap? Thanks!

    1. put the whole thing in the freezer. The husk will add an extra level of protection. :)

  3. You make the prettiest food! All of it is photo worthy!

  4. Michael, do you think this could be made as a casserole with the mass on the bottom, them filling, then more of the mass, then steam the whole thing?

  5. Auto correct strikes again! MASA NOT MESS! Then filling...

  6. for the aquafaba you could use the water from the black beans.

  7. Michael, Brenda and I could not wait to make these. We referred to your perfect pictures often. The only complaint I have is that my husband loved them, and he didn't think he likes tamales. Your spices in the masa (corn) mix make all of the difference. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this recipe!

  8. Michael I just made up these tamales and loved them. One question I have is this: I used my instant and put it on manual 20 min, and then NPR for 10. is that what you mean or should it have been on steam setting for 20 min. They came out fine at any rate. thanks again, this is a great recipe

    1. I am so glad you enjoyed them. You did it right. 20 minutes pressure, 10 min. NPR. Sorry, sometimes my instructions are not so clear. :)

  9. Years ago when I was spending winters in Mexico, I used to buy sweet corn tamales. They were wonderful. So I am thinking two batches - one with beans (pinto for me) and the other - dessert - with sweet corn. Okay, now my mouth is watering.

  10. hahaha, please let me know how they turn out. I would love to try sweet corn.

  11. if I doubled the recipe, do you think a double batch would fit in the instant pot? I am having 2 Mexican friends plus a mother of one coming to make them with me. Their first experience in no meat cooking. all three are obese....I'm pretty excited they are considering diet changes for the new year :)

    1. I am excited for you to make these. It really just depends on how thick and long you make them. I would almost say no, they won't all fit, but again, it just depends on the size. Let me know how they turned out. :)

  12. Can you show a picture which Masa harina you use? (Maseca® brand) There are gluten free and others. A picture of it would be great. You have answered my prayers, can't wait to try these this holiday. Thank you so much!

  13. I can't do soy... So I don't have soy milk powder. What would you recommend? Thanks

  14. Weird question (sorry) is the aquafaba put in whipped like whip creme, or are you just putting the straight bean water in?


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