Vegetarian Tamales

Vegetarian Tamales

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  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups masa flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon salsa or chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil, softened, divided
  • 1/2 white or red onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced (remove seeds if you like)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup cooked beans (pinto, black or whatever variety you prefer)
  • 2 (5-ounce) bags baby spinach or other greens, or 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen spinach
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 8 to 10 corn husks or parchment squares (about 7-inches square)


In a small saucepan heat broth and water until warm. In a mixing bowl, combine masa flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, oregano, salsa, 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1/2 cup coconut oil. Mix with your fingers until crumbly. Pour in warm liquid little by little while stirring with a wooden spoon. Mix until all liquid has been incorporated. Rest dough for 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.

To make the filling: in a skillet over medium heat, sauté onions, garlic, jalapeños and cumin in 1 tablespoon coconut oil until soft, about 10 minutes. Add beans, 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and mix in spinach; let cool. Before assembling, add cilantro and grated cheese.

If using corn husks, soak in a large bowl of hot water for a few minutes to make pliable.

Place 1/3 cup dough on a soaked corn husk or parchment paper square. Spread dough evenly to make a 5-inch square. Place 2 tablespoons filling in the center and fold the dough to cover the filling. Roll up corn husk or parchment to enclose the tamale. Repeat until all the dough and filling have been used.

In a steamer with plenty of water, arrange tamales so steam can pass around them. Cover and let steam for 30 minutes; check hot water and add more if low. Steam for another 20 to 30 minutes. Tamales are done when the dough pulls away from the husk or parchment paper. Remove tamales from the steam and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Special notes:

Use a variety of ingredients for the filling, adding or substituting the following: fresh herbs, oregano, coriander, chile peppers, fresh red or green bell peppers, corn, squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, pine nuts, baked marinated tofu, tempeh, cooked pork, beef or chicken.

Tamales can be refrigerated or frozen after steaming. Reheat frozen tamales by steaming them for 20 to 25 minutes.

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