The key to moist, flavorful tamales is not being shy about adding fat. Lard is traditional in Mexico, but you can use softened butter for vegetarian versions. Tamales are best eaten doused in salsa or hot sauce. This salsa verde has a fresh, tangy sourness (and kick of heat if you like) that helps cut through the richness of the masa.
Make big batches of tamales because they make great leftovers. Once steamed, tamales can be refrigerated, then resteamed, grilled, or griddled, which adds smoky charred flavor. To griddle, add cooked tamales to a medium-hot griddle or pan (no oil necessary), and heat until the husks are lightly charred and the centers are heated through.
Ditch the store bought stuff for the fresh taste of real corn, then whip up superlative tacos, tamales, and empanadas
- Make the tamales: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the masa, lard, salt, and baking powder, working in batches if needed; beat until well blended. (Alternatively, you can stir the ingredients by hand in a large bowl, but the mixer will produce lighter, airier tamales.)
- Soak the corn husks in hot water until softened, 20 minutes. Remove (no need to dry them off). Lay a husk on a work surface with the curved side facing up and the narrow end facing you. (If needed, use two small husks together, overlapping their long edges.) Leaving a 1 1⁄2-inch border along the husk’s wide, straight end, place 1⁄4 cup of masa in the upper center of the husk. Use the sides of the husk to help shape the masa into a rectangle about 2 inches across. Fold the sides over the filling to cover, then fold the narrow end upward around either of the broad sides of the tamale (one end of the tamale will remain open); tie if desired. Repeat with the remaining masa and husks. Tamales can be filled and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance of steaming, or frozen. If frozen, add 15 minutes of steaming time.
- Transfer to a steamer horizontally or with the open ends facing up. Steam until the masa has firmed, 60-90 minutes. (To test, remove one and open the husk: A toothpick inserted into the masa should come out mostly clean.)
- To serve, open the tamales and serve hot with the salsa verde or with hot sauce.