Tamales are a snack adored by Mexicans. They are a simple combination of corn and a spicy ancho chilli sauce with chicken. This recipe uses chicken stock in the corn masa adding even more flavour. These are so good you won't be able to stop eating them!






Skill level

Average: 3.1 (29 votes)


  • 500 g lard, softened 
  • 2½ kg maize dough (masa) (see Note)
  • 4 cups chicken stock 
  • salt 
  • corn husks (see Note) 

Chicken filling

  • 1.5 kg chicken 
  • ½ onion 
  • salt and pepper 
  • 100 g ancho chilli
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves 
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon 
  • ½ tsp ground cumin 
  • 2 garlic cloves 
  • 2 tomatoes (optional) 
  • 1 tbsp oil

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.


Soaking time 30 minutes

To prepare filling, place chicken in a pot and cover with water, add the onion, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and gently simmer for 1 hour or until cooked through. Let it cool and then shred chicken meat. Seed and wash the chillies, then cover with boiling water and soak for 30 minutes. Blend chillies and remaining ingredients (except the oil) until smooth, then fry in hot oil for a few minutes. Add shredded chicken and simmer for about 5 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, beat lard until nice and creamy. Add maize dough, salt and gradually add chicken stock until you achieve a nice spreadable consistency. You can test this by dropping a little piece of the mixture into a glass of cold water. If the dough floats; you have done it, if not keep on mixing with your hand by lifting it to air it, continue testing if ready.

Wash the corn husks, being careful not to break or split them and choose ones that will be wide enough to enclose the filling, or you can use 2 or 3 overlapped. Spread about 1 tbsp of the corn masa on the bottom part of the cornhusk. Place a little of the chicken filling in the middle and fold in sides towards the centre and then the top down over the middle.

Place a vegetable steamer in the base of the pot. Layer tamales around the steamer (placing them with the seam down) snugly fitting as many as you can in the pot leaving some room at the top. Add 3–4 cups of water and then cover with any leftover corn husks and a tea towel, tucking in the sides.

Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, topping up the water if necessary. You can test them by taking out one tamale, peel it and if the husk peels off the dough easily they are ready. Leave them in the pot until you are ready to eat them or to cool down if you are not eating them straight away.

Tamales freeze perfectly well and reheat them in the microwave or on a hot plate with the leaves still on.


• Available from specialty food stores or online.
• Ask your local greengrocer to keep the corn husks that they trim off the fresh corn. Wash well before using.