Savory Traditional Chicken Tamales

Traditional Chicken Tamales

Gregg judges a Mexican restaurant by their tamales.  If they aren’t hand made, steamed in a corn husk, with the right favors he simply won’t go back to that restaurant.  Consequently, it took me several years to even attempt a recipe for tamales.  I was so excited to find one that he loves.


6-8 chicken thighs Kosher or sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste 2¼ cups Masa Harina tortilla flour 1 cup warm water ¾ cup shortening ¼ tsp Kosher or sea salt ¼ cup chili powder 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil 1 14½-ounce can tomatoes 2 cloves of garlic 2 tsp sugar ½ tsp oregano ½ tsp cumin 15-18 corn husks


measuring cups/spoons baking sheet for chicken saucepan steamer pan bowl blender mixer


Soak the corn husks in water for several hours.  I put them in a large bowl, cover them with filtered water, then put another bowl filled with water on top so that it is weighted down and forces all of them under the water.

Place chicken on pan.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bake at 375° F for about 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.  Let them cool, then remove the chicken from the bones and finely chop.

Mix the tortilla flour and shortening.  Cover.  Let stand for 20 minutes.


While the tortilla flour and water and sitting, place olive oil in small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat.  Once hot, add the chili powder.  Cook for 4 minutes.

In a blender, put can of undrained tomatoes,



Add chili powder and olive oil mixture.

Blend until smooth.

Return to the saucepan and bring to  a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.  Sauce will thicken.

Put tortilla flour/water mixture in mixer bowl.  Add salt and shortening.  Beat at medium speed until well combined.

Before rolling up your tamales, fill your steamer pan with water and start heating it.  Bring it to a boil and reduce the heat to medium heat. Take a corn husk and pat it dry with a paper towel. Place ¼ cup dough mixture on the tortilla.

Pat out flat, leaving edges of corn husk clear.

Top with 1 Tablespoon chili sauce.

Top with 1 Tablespoon chicken.

Tightly roll the corn husk.

Tie ends.  I use a corn husk that I’ve ripped into strips.

Place in steamer basket.

Once all tamales have been rolled, steam in steamer basket for 35 minutes over medium heat. Serve with chili sauce.


12-15 tamales

High in protein
Low in sodium
Low in sugar

I am not able to find corn husks in every store.  One place I have always found them is Wal-Mart. Do not try to use regular cornmeal for the Masa flour.  Use Masa flour.  You can find it in most grocery stores.  If it’s not in the baking aisle, check the ethnic foods aisle near the Mexican food.

I would love to hear any feedback about this recipe. Did you make it? Did you enjoy it? Did you make any adjustments to it?


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