Tamales are really almost anything covered in Masa (Mexican corn flour) and steamed in corn husks.   Here are some vegan recipes I have done.  I find it is easy to tweak Tamale recipes and varying the recipes is not a problem.  Tamales are very easy and a just a small bit of work.  They have a reputation for being crazy hard, but you will find they can be very easy.  Making the masa dough is 10 minutes of mixing if you take your time. The fillings can be complicated or simple, and you can put almost anything inside.  Whatever might make a good taco, would make a good tamale.  The real time consuming part is the assembly of the tamales.

For example, I started out putting a stacks of husks in warm water in the morning, then took them out later to dry out a little.   Making the masa took about 10 minutes of mixing.  I chopped up the spinach and grated some garlic and seasoned (2 minutes).  Mixed the black beans and green chile (1 minute).  Made Butler’s Soy taco filling (2 minutes).  I then assembled all the tamales in about 25 minutes and put them on the stove to cook for 90 minutes.


Here is a good instructional video from The Unhealthy Vegan- http://youtu.be/TGh75kWRnG4?list=PLmIqdlomtuSuRZYpMN8IWwJ3mm1BOCByb

The outer stuff:

Qty for 20 Tamales (just multiply if you want to make more).  Note you adapt to the corn husks.  Large husks means larger tamales which means fewer of them.  Smalls husks are the other direction.  So each recipe can make 15 tamales… or 30 tamales.  Hard to say.

  • Tamal or Masa flour 3 cup
  • Corn Meal 1/2 cup  (can use just Tamal instead of the corn meal)  Using corn meal adds some more texture.
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2tsp Garlic powder
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2/3 cup of vegetable shortening or vegan butter

Alternative recipe (simpler)

  • 3 1/2 cups Masa Harina or Tamal
  • 1/2 cup Corn Meal (can use just Tamal instead of the corn meal)  Using corn meal adds some more texture.
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or 1/2 cup of vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Husks.  A normal package will have about 60 husks in it.  Soak 30 or so husks in warm water for 60 minutes or so.  You can use some of the not-quite-right sized husks as your “string” and these can be separated into strips easily. The “strings” should also be wet.  You do not need strings to tie the tamales if you can stack them vertically so that each tamale is touching the other tamales so that their wrapping stays tight.  You want extra husks since some will be split.
  2. Pour all the dough ingredients into a large bowl.
  3. Mix the ingredients together to create a dough that’s sort of the same texture as cookie dough. I usually start mixing with a fork or spoon, and switch to mixing with my hands when the dough starts to hold together.


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Heat up the vegetable broth (this helps melt the shortening) and mix it in. Or heat up the shortening or butter. You want a spreadable paste.  Not a runny mix.  Not a dry mix.  If the mixture dries out from sitting, just mix in more vegetable broth or water.  This is not a rocket science so don’t overthink it. 🙂

Set up an assembly area.

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To spread the filling, use a blob about the size of a large golfball.  Take the husks, the natural curve like a bowl, the inside is where you want to place the filling.  Set the husk with the pointed end away from you.  Coat the bottom 1/2 of the husk about 1/8″ thick. Don’t worry about being perfect.  A perfect tamale and a sloppy one tastes the same.  Don’t worry to much about coverage. Look for even thickness.  If the husk is too dry or too wet, it will not stick well.  Shake or towel off excess water from the husks.  I find using your fingers the easiest to press the dough down and spread it out.



Spoon some of the filling mix in a vertical strip.  Fold the husk lengthwise in thirds so the filling is now inside and hidden.  Think simply in thirds.  Fold the left third over the middle then the right third over the middle too.

Fold the pointed end back down over the body of the tamale. Now you can tie the husk strips around, or use string, or don’t tie. Whatever works for you.

In a larger steamer, line the bottom of the steamer section with more husks.

Place the tamales in the steamer (and NOT in the water) with the now-folded over section down.  Line them up vertically side by side.  Steam (medium heat) for about 90 minutes, checking to make sure you do not run out of water.

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One bowl of finished, two ready to cook:

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Fillings (each recipe below makes about 20-24 tamales):

Poblano Chile and Corn (this one is a bit of work)

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  • 3 Poblano Chiles
  • I med white onion, fine chopped.
  • 2 ears of corn or package/can of corn kernels (if using ear, cut off kernels)
  • 4 ounce can of chopped green chiles
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Olive oil

Roast Poblanos over flame until outer skin is charred.  Let cool.  Remove skin, remove ends, veins, and seeds. Chop into small bits, no larger than a corn kernel.

Roasted pobanos along with the jalapeno and tomatillos for the verde sauce.


Cook onion in pan with some olive oil, add salt and pepper.  Cook about 6 minutes.  Stir in corn and chiles.  Cook, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.


“Chicken” or Tofu and Raisin.  The sweetness of the raisins work to contrast with the rest of the tamale.  This one also is a lot of work.

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  • Approx 1 pound of Gardein style chicken (shred) or firm tofu (small cubes).  Can also use Butler’s Soy Curls.
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large tomato
  • 4 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 4 ounce can of chopped green chiles
  • 2 pickled jalapenos, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp Oregano
  • Vegetable stock (if needed)

Set aside chicken/tofu and 1/4 cup of rasins.

Using other 1/4 cup of raisins and all other ingredients,  roughly puree in food processor or finely chop and mix.

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Pour mix into sauce pan (already lightly coated in earth balance or olive oil).  Cook for 10 minutes.  Stir in chicken/tofu and remaining raisins.  Cook another 10 minutes. Set aside


Mushroom and Sweet potato

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  • ½ cup mushrooms
  • 1 large sweet potato (cubed into 4 cups, small cubes)
  • 1 can black beans
  • Pickled jalapenos (2 tbl)
  • Cliantro chopped 1/3rd cup
  • 4 oz can of mild green chiles
  • Liquid smoke (½ tsp)
  • Daiya white cheese (optional)
  • Lime juice (½ tsp)
  • Olive oil (2 tbls)
  • Salt (1 tsp)
  • Pepper (½ tsp)

Peel and then cube Sweet Potato.  Cubes should be approx 1/4″ square.  Coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place on lined baking sheet. Cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Should be soft with browned edges. Let cool.

Drain can of black beans. Put beans and all other ingredients except cheese into a large bowl.  Mix in sweet potatoes.  Mix in cheese. Set aside.


Taco “Meat” filling

This one is simple and if you use Butler’s product, you are ready in 2 minutes.


  • 1/2 cup dry TVP (textured vegetable protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon taco seasoning
  • Water


  1. Mix TVP with your favorite taco seasoning.
  2. Cover with water, and heat in the microwave for a minute.
  3. Stir, and microwave again for another 30-60 seconds.
  4. Let it sit for a few minutes until all the water is absorbed.
  5. Alternatively, you can simply use the premade Butler’s Taco Soy Meat

Black Bean & Green Chili Filling Recipe

This one is totally no work.  Just open a couple of cans.


  • 1 15 oz. can black beans
  • 1 4 oz. can chopped green chilies, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin


  1. Mix ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Taste, and adjust spices as desired.

This recipe makes a very mild filling. If you’d like more zing, add some red chili powder or flakes. For really fiery filling, use some or all of a small can of chilies in adobo sauce instead of the green chilies and cumin

Spinach & Garlic Filling Recipe

This is simple. Just chop and mix.


  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • dash of salt


  1. Combine ingredients in a small bowl.

This filling can easily be spiced up according to your taste. I like to shake a little nutmeg or cumin over the filling before I wrap the tamale closed for cooking.

Makes enough to fill a dozen tamales.


It will take some time to chop and cook the more complicated fillings (can be done the day before).  It will take 10 minutes to make the masa.   It will take an hour to assemble.  And then cooking at 90 minutes per (fewer batches if you have a very large steaming pot, more if your pot is small or you made a lot of the tamales).  Serve the tamales with a side of salsa, guacamole, and/or verde sauce (we make our own verde sauce with roasted tomatillos, a roasted jalapeno, finely chopped cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper… all blended.  The tamales will keep a few days in the frig and are easy to heat up.  Freeze the rest.  They freeze well and are easy to reheat in the microwave for a quick meal.

Quac and Verde Sauce

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