• Chicken tamales (Tamales de pollo) (The Chefs' Line)Source: The Chefs' Line

When tamales are great, they're a parcel of absolute goodness. Having that layer of starchy maize on the outside keeping that flavourful filling tight on the inside is key, so is the selection of sauces, salsas and chilli to keep up the buzz. The Chefs' Line






Skill level

Average: 3.6 (18 votes)


  • 180 g (1 cup) masa harina (white corn flour)
  • 20 pieces banana leaf, about 10 x 20 cm  


  • 1 skinless chicken breast, cut into large pieces
  • ½ bunch spring onions, thinly sliced 
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped 
  • 1 red capsicum, seeded and diced
  • 500 ml (2 cups) canola oil 
  • 2 tbsp annatto seeds 
  • 45 g (¼ cup) green olives, pitted
  • 45 g (¼ cup) drained capers
  • 45 g (¼ cup) raisins, finely chopped 
  • 1½ tbsp shaved piloncillo, or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt   

Spicy sauce

  • ½ red capsicum, seeded and diced
  • 2 long red chillies
  • 3 red Habanero chillies, or to taste
  • ½ bunch coriander, chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped  
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • salt, to taste 

Green sauce

  • ¼ white onion, chopped 
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped 
  • ½ bunch coriander, chopped  
  • ½ avocado, chopped 
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • salt, to taste 

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


For the filling, place the chicken breast in a large saucepan, cover with water and place over medium heat. Add the spring onion and half the onion and garlic. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 6-8 minutes. Remove the chicken and reserve 125 ml (½ cup) of the cooking liquid. Place the chicken in a bowl and use hand held beaters to shred the chicken (or when cool enough to handle, shred with your fingers).

Place the capsicum and the remaining onion, spring onion and garlic in a food processor and blitz until a paste forms.

Place the oil and annatto seeds in a saucepan over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until the colour comes out. Strain into a heatproof bowl and discard the seeds. Place 125 ml (½ cup) of the annatto oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped capsicum mixture and cook for 3 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the olives, capers, raisins, piloncillo and the reserved chicken cooking liquid. Cook for 3 minutes and season with salt. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the masa harina and 250 ml (1 cup) water in a bowl. Slowly add 125 ml (½ cup) of the annatto oil and stir until a dough comes together.

To assemble the tamales, brush a piece of banana leaf with some of the annatto oil. Flatten ¼ cup of the dough in the centre of the banana leaf to make a rough thin rectangle. Top with 2 tablespoons of the chicken mixture. Bring the two long sides to the centre, roll down, then fold under the tamale and enclose. Place another banana leaf over the ends and roll to enclose fully, making sure you leave no holes. Tie with string and repeat with the remaining leaves, dough and filling. When ready to cook, tightly pack the tamales in a wide saucepan and pour in enough water to come 4 cm up the side of the pan. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the spicy sauce, place all the ingredients in a blender. Add 2 tablespoons water, then process until smooth.

For the green sauce, place all the ingredients in a blender. Add 2 tablespoons water, then process until smooth.

Serve tamales warm with the spicy and green sauces to the side.

This recipe is from Series 2 of The Chefs' Line airing weeknights at 6pm on SBS. Episodes will be available after broadcast via SBS On Demand. Join the conversation #TheChefsLine on Instagram @sbsfood, Facebook @SBSFood  and Twitter @SBS_Food. Check out sbs.com.au/thechefsline for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more!