International Fair Vegan Tamales

By Joni Marie Newman | December 22, 2015
I know it may seem counterintuitive, but whenever I see a bunch of leftovers starting to pile up in my fridge or freezer, I think to myself, “Time to make tamales!” And when I make tamales, I usually make at least one full batch of forty. So here’s the deal. I have found that so many of the dishes make excellent fillings for tamales. Use a good base masa and a variety of fun fillings for fusion tamales that are sure to excite and satisfy those taste buds, especially when served up with a variety of sauces. Plus, they freeze so well. So spend an afternoon with your friends and family making up a batch of tamales, and then have a bunch of easy-go-to meals ready for you in the freezer!


40 cornhusks

For masa:
8 cups (960 g) masa harina
2 tablespoons (14 g) paprika
2 tablespoons (36 g) salt
1 tablespoon (7 g) ground cumin
2 tablespoons (16 g) chili powder
3 tablespoons (24 g) garlic powder
2 cups (470 ml) corn or vegetable oil
2 quarts (2 L) vegetable broth, warm (not hot)

Some of my favorite fillings:
Roasted corn
Soy Chorizo
Walnuts, cranberries, and pumpkin
Green Chilies and vegan jack-style cheese

Soak your husks in warm water for at least 2 hours.

To prepare the masa, place the masa flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the dry spices to the flour and mix until completely incorporated. Add the oil to the masa and spice mixture. Slowly add the broth 1 cup (235 ml) at a time. Knead the mixture with your hands to form a dough with the consistency of peanut butter. If it is too thin, add more masa; if it is too thick, add more broth or warm water.

Remove the husks from the water and carefully separate them. Stack them on a kitchen towel where they will be east to access. Spread about 1/4 cup (70 g) of the masa onto the husk from the center all the way to one edge of the husk. Leave enough space to roll up and fold over the pointy end. Add about 2 tablespoons (about 30 g) of filling to the center of the masa. Starting at the edge with the masa, roll up the tamale, then fold over the pointy end. If desired, tie a strip of husk around the tamale.

Pack the tamales in a steamer basket tightly so they are standing upright, open side up, and won’t fall over. Place enough water in the bottom of the pot so that it does not touch the tamales. Bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low and steam for 2 to 3 hours. Remember to check on the water level every once in a while so that the pot does not boil dry. After 2 hours of steaming, remove one tamale, and place it on a plate to cool for 5 minutes. Unwrap it and test for doneness. It should be it’s own “unit” and not mushy or runny.

If it is done, awesome! If not, continue to steam for another 15 to 30 minutes, and repeat the test. Place on a tray to cool, or place in resealable bags to freeze. You can freeze tamales for up to a year. (But mine never last that long.)

To reheat, I usually just heat them up in the microwave for about 2 minutes, wrapped in a paper towel, but if you are anti microwave, try thawing them in the refrigerator overnight and then heating them, either in a steamer for about 15 minutes, or, like they do in Mexico, on a griddle: heat a griddle to fairly hot, put the tamales (still in the cornhusk wrappers) on the griddle, and toast until the cornhusks are nearly black on all sides. Peel and eat.

Yield: 40 tamales

Excerpted from Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen by Joni Marie Newman. (Fair Winds Press, 2013)

  • Vegan Tamales