Fresh Corn Tamales

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  • 4 ears corn, shucked and husks reserved (altogether you'll need 5 to 6 husks for the tamales)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pasilla or jalapeño peppers (roasted or fresh)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 cup Mexican cheese (queso fresco or Cotija)
  • 1 cup crumbled chèvre cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Lime juice, to taste
  • 2 pounds Masa Dough for tamales
  • Pico de Gallo


Grill shucked corn over hot coals, turning occasionally until lightly charred. Allow to cool then cut the kernels from the ears, scraping the cob to accumulate all the juices. You may do this up to 1 day in advance.

In a heavy sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat and cook onions until soft and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl and let cool slightly.

Add peppers, corn kernels, oregano, chipotle and cheeses. Season with salt, pepper and lime juice.

To assemble the tamales

Lay out a corn husk, rough side down. If it’s a small husk, place two together, overlapping them a bit. Spread a rectangle of 2 to 3 tablespoons masa in the center of the husk (you may use your moistened fingers or the back of a spoon to do this). Place 1 to 2 tablespoons filling down the center. I like my masa to be relatively thin, so about 1/8-inch-thickness works well. All of these measurements will depend on the size of the tamales you wish to make. Let good sense and a healthy dose of fun be your guide!

Fold the two long sides of the husk toward the middle so the masa forms a tube around the filling and wrap the husk around to form a cylinder.

Tie tamales at each end of the filling with kitchen twine. (Or you may use the traditional method by tearing off strips of corn husk and twisting them into small ropes.)

You may place the tamales in a pot or steamer standing upright or stack them by placing one layer facing one direction and the next at a 90-degree angle, etc. leaving space for steam to circulate around each. Place the lid on the pot/steamer and bring the water to a steady simmer. Watch the pot for water level and fill with water as needed. (I keep a pot of boiling water on the stove so I don’t lose temperature in my steamer.)

Check for doneness at about 15 minutes for loosely packed tamales and 45 minutes to 1 hour for more tightly packed. To tell if your tamales are done, peel the husk away. If it comes off smoothly and the masa is tender but firm, your tamale is done. If not, rewrap and place it back in the steamer. Depending on the size of the tamales, and how closely they are packed, it may take up to 1 hour.

Serve with Pico de Gallo.

Special notes:

Steaming tamales

There are many methods for steaming tamales. The classic steamer looks like a large pot with a perforated smaller insert, which sits in the pot. You may devise one of these by placing a cake rack on inverted small ramekins in the bottom of a heavy pot with a lid. Fill the pot with water, almost up to the level of the rack, but not touching the tamales. For smaller batches, a stacking bamboo steamer or an electric steamer work beautifully.

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