Tamale Making 101

Alternative title: Tamale Thursday since we pronounce “tamale” with the “th” sound Smile

I went to my Nana’s to make tamales today! It used to be a family tradition to make them on Christmas eve, but we moved it up a few days this year for convenience. My Nana did all the hard work beforehand – making the chili, prepping the meat, masa and oujas (corn husks).

oujas for tamales

ingredients for tamales

She cooks the meat and makes the chili from scratch the day before we plan on putting them together.tamale meat

We help put them together. This means spreading the masa on the corn husks…

making tamales for christmasmaking tamales for christmas with my family

Filling them with meat

spreading the meat in tamale making

spreading the meat in tamale making

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And folding them

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(flip the bottom up)

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TaDa! Tamales!

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Santa hat optional

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We also made green chili and cheese – these ones are amazing!

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We carefully lay them in a huge pan filled with a steam basket (or upside down pan) and water. Then, steam to cook.

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pan with tamales

They take hours and hours because the pans are sooo big! I think we make about 10 dozen? Or maybe it’s that I eat 10 dozen… I can’t remember.

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After we were done putting the tamales together I had a taco with the leftover meat and cheese filling

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I also nibbled on some of the goodies my Nana has – including these Eggnog Covered Almonds from Trader Joes. She also had cookies! Too.Much.Good.Stuff.

eggnog almonds

When we were done building tamales I went to my mom’s to wrap presents and walk the dogs.

Christmas Fact: Candy makes the best wrapping fuel.

My mom has a box of See’s Candy and it had my favorite piece – dark chocolate nougat with almonds <3 You should never turn down your favorite candy from See’s. I live by that rule.IMG_2942 (800x533)

A few hours later the tamales were done! Dinner is served Smile

Christmas Tamales

Sure, we don’t have that fancy azz Bobby Flay tamale presentation, but these taste 5 star all the way. Added bonus: You can eat them with a cheap beer while watching Christmas movies on your couch.

fancy tamales

Since I’ll be spending Christmas in Florida I need to get my fill of this Mexican Tamale making / eating tradition now! Will do.

Question: What do you eat on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

My fam eats tamales. On Christmas morning we eat tamales topped with a fried egg. The key is to eat as many tamales as possible in two days so that you don’t have to make them again for a year.


  1. says

    Um, both. 😉 Actually we are eating on Christmas Day.

    And I will have to try the candy fueling thing because I have a lot of wrapping to do. Is there someone I can hire???

    And tamales. I just had a tamale and wine day with the girls a couple weekends back. Man, cheese and jalapeño are the BEST!

    Have fun eating them all (I have some tucked in the freezer so I can have one everyday for lunch).

    Happy Holidays!

  2. says

    I’ve only had one tamal this December and it bums me out. I haven’t participated in the annual Christmas tamalada in a few years, but do show up to unwrap them. We eat tamales and sone other not-so-Mexican food on Nochebuena. In the morning I like the sweet tamales toasted on the comal. I love the crunchiness.

    One other thing, I hate being on hoja cleaning duty. I’d rather add the masa.

  3. Jessica says

    We celebrate and have a feast on both days! Christmas eve always includes tamales and ponche (spiked with brandy of course). Christmas day is always reheated tamales on the comal and posole! My mom hooks it up for my vegetarian ass and makes me veggie posole. I know, I’m spoiled.

  4. Rebecca says

    My family gets together on Christmas Eve to eat pasteles, pernil, arroz con gandlues and mofongo along with some traditional American fare like ham and fruit cake. I know fruit cake has a bad rep but my cousin’s fruit cake is amazing!

  5. says

    Oh man, I’m coming to your house!!! I love tamales!!!!!

    We are having ham and not sure what else for Christmas Eve at my mom’s house and I’m scared to find out what we’ll be having Christmas day dinner at my in laws.

  6. Sarah Williams says

    Yum! I wish I had tamale making skills!! On Christmas Eve we have lots of appetizers and dips…light stuff…in preparation for christmas day feasts!!

  7. says

    I loooove tamales! When my husband and I were on our honeymoon, the hotel offered breakfast tamales that had cottage cheese and pineapple in them, some had breakfast sausage, so stinkin’ good!

    And I’m sorry, eggnog almonds?! Send me some!

    Christmas eve, we have a buffet at my husband’s aunt’s house – lasagna, snacks, chicken tenders, the whole shebang.

    Christmas morning, mimosas while opening stockings, homemade blueberry muffins (with berries that my mom picked and froze during the summer. Christmas dinner this year is my favorite meal, chicken and dumplings!

  8. says

    Christmas eve used to be the traditional Italian feast of the 7 fishes with a first course of spaghetti in oil. Boy I miss those feasts!!! Now we go to a restaurant with friends and I still try and order seafood for the Italian in me :)

    Christmas morning was always my mom’s coffee cake, which I now make to keep that tradition going. YUM!

  9. says

    I had tamales the first time this year, I am not a fan. A co-worker brought me some from his ‘hood. He said they were homemade and delicious. (I guess I have no good taste, except following you) 😉

    My family in South Dakota has appetizers on Christmas Eve. We aren’t traveling, so we are off to my son’s grandparents. I believe they are making lasagna.

  10. Denise says

    Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my desk. I love tamales, although I’d probably get laughed at the for the ones I find good (like from a fast food establishment).

    If I’m with my dad’s family on Christmas it is usually something Italian – homemade lasagna, sausage, manicotti etc.

    My mom even picked up on this (after being married to my Italian dad for only like 4 years) and she does stuffed shells for her meal usually.

    And then it is tradition for my mom to cook a simple eggs, bacon, toast breakfast on Christmas morning after we open presents.

  11. Angie says

    On Christmas Eve we had chili, which was perfect because it usually snows. On Christmas day we have the most perfect, melt in your mouth ravioli. My grandma makes homemade spaghetti sauce and we have chicken breasts as well. We have a large Italian family and there are 40-50 people there. I love it. We’re not going back this year and I’m so bummed!

  12. Pam says

    Love tamales!! :) We order ours every year from a senorita that sells hers from the trunk of her car at the El Tapatio restaurant. Favorite is the green chile with cheese, pineapple and cinnamon-raisin!! :)

    Christmas morning I make an egg-bake casserole, cinnamon rolls, pozole and tamales. Eating is the best part of the holidays! Sooo much good food.

    Have a wonderful Christmas in Florida chica!! see you in 2012!! xo :)

  13. says

    love, love, LOVE green chile and cheese tamales. i love bean ones even more. living in Texas – tamales are plentiful and i am wondering if 10:30 am is too early to go search for and eat for a mid morning snack…?

  14. says

    Tamales are so good! I used to have a neighbor that would make them twice a year and would give us a big batch. Yum!

    Christmas Eve this year will be a lasagna dinner and Christmas morning will be eggs, turkey bacon and fresh cinnamon rolls. Then Christmas dinner will be prime rib. I can’t wait!

  15. says

    Growing up, we always had meat fondue on Christmas Eve, which was our big celebration. Last year, it was just my husband and me for Christmas so we had monkey bread for breakfast Christmas morning and chicken wild rice soup + watergate salad for dinner. We’re doing the same thing this year! I love traditions.

  16. says

    I love tamales. We were actually going to eat them for Christmas Day dinner this year.

    Our tradition is a big Christmas eve dinner of Prime Rib, salad, bread (from Tartine) and this year my famous mac and cheese.

    On Christmas morning we eat eggs, sausage and my mom’s homemade Stollen (a german christmas bread).

  17. says

    I eat my regular breakfast Christmas morning (overnight oatmeal) and Christmas Eve is usually some sort of quinoa salad that I can make ahead. Since I can’t eat pretty much anything that others make, I gotta make something filling!

  18. says

    I am now DYING to make tamales!!!!

    Btw, I was chatting with a coworker of mine yesterday and your blog came up in conversation! Turns out we both read it!

    Have a great day!

  19. says

    That looks fun. My bf is half Mexican from Pasadena and he’s introduced me to the real authentic Mexican food in NYC and I’m in love.

    I made mango banana tamales when I was in pastry school and it was fun to make them.

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