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  • 2 pounds banana leaves for wrapping (one large bundle)

  • 8 Guajillo chiles

  • ½ to 1 ounce Arbol chiles

  • 1 tomato, griddle roasted

  • 1 cup onion, chopped

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 5 allspice pods

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt + 1.5 teaspoon salt to taste

  • 1 teaspoon dry thyme

  • 1 pound cooked shredded chicken thighs 

  • 3 hoja santa or ¼ cup epazote leaves

  • 2 ¼ + 3 tablespoons cups lard or vegetable shortening

  • 3 ½ cups masa harina, Maseca

  • 1.5  teaspoons baking powder

  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth

Have your tamalera, steamer, or stockpot with a steamer basket or upside down strainer inside ready. Fill with water to reach, but not cover the insert. Cover with some of the leftover banana leaves and set aside.

For the banana leaves:

Unfold the pack of banana leaves and wipe with a damp cloth. Cut it into 10X12 inch squares, (they don’t have to be perfect). You need 12 to 14. Cut 12 to 14 pieces of foil about 10X10 each. 

Save some of the trimmed pieces of leaves in case you need to patch some of the leaves when folding the tamales.


For the stuffing:

Remove the stems from the guajillo chiles and toast in a 375-degree oven until lightly crispy for 3 to 5 minutes. Soak the roasted Guajillos and  Arbol chiles in a small pot of boiling water off the heat until soft for about  20 minutes. Griddle roast the tomato. Set aside.


Drain the chiles and place in the blender with the garlic, chopped onion, allspice pods, roasted tomato, thyme, and 1.5 teaspoons of salt. You can use some of the water ½ to ¾ cup from the soaked chiles to puree until you have a smooth puree, pass through a fine-mesh strainer. 

In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm up 3 tablespoons of the shortening carefully, add the salsa and let it cook until slightly thick and boiling, add the shredded chicken, and bring back to a boil. Check the seasoning and add salt if necessary. Transfer to an oiled baking sheet to cool completely in the refrigerator.  


don't panic if the instructions above don't totally make sense yet. This is one of those- it get's easier the more you do it- recipes. Here is a step by step video of the assembly if you run into trouble. 

For the Masa:

In a small pot warm the chicken stock and melt the lard or shortening into it. Remove from the heat and let it cool down, to warm.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment or using your hands mix the masa harina with 1 tablespoon of salt and the 1.5 teaspoons baking powder. With the mixer running, start pouring the chicken/shortening mix whipping until you have a cake batter consistency, and your masa is light and shiny.


To form the tamales:

Briefly hold the banana, leave rectangles over an open flame to soften, or place on a hot griddle for a few seconds on each side. Stack them on a work surface and cover them with a damp dishcloth.

Place about ¼ cup of the masa in the center of the banana leaf rectangle with the foil sheet under it. With the back of a spoon or your fingers, flatten the masa to an oval shape, with a small indentation in the center. Spoon 2-3 spoons of the chicken filling and a small piece of the hoja santa or epazote.

Start by folding the top one-third of the leaf toward the center. Fold the bottom third toward the center, overlapping slightly. Fold the edge back a bit if it is too long, keeping the masa tightly in place, to make a fold on the center of the pouch, hold the leftover flaps with both your hands and gently flip under the tamal, keeping the masa in place by folding the flaps into the center.

Place the tamal in the center of the foil sheet and pack tightly into an envelope with the foil, to secure the folds in your banana leaves.

Place the tamale packs in the steamer lying flat, arranging in layers if necessary. With the seam to the top. Place some extra banana leaves on top to absorb steam, and the damp rag on top, cover with a thigh lid or plastic wrap and the lid on top.

Bring to a hard boil over high heat, as soon as you see steam coming out, turn the heat down to a slow simmer, taking care of not letting the water run out, keep a kettle of hot water in case you need to add some more water. Cook the tamales for 1 hour to an hour and 15 minutes. The tamales will still be soft even though they are fully cooked. Take one of the tamales out from the pot and unwrap it. Carful to let the steam out first. The dough should not stick to the leaves when it is ready. Let the tamales rest for at least 15-20 minutes in the pot with the lid off the heat for them to set.


To serve, remove the foil from the tamales but not from the leaves, your guest gets to unwrap their own.

Serve with crema and queso fresco or cilantro.  

creamy corn and poblano pasta salad (2).

Makes 8-10 servings 

  • 4 cups cooked black beans, drained off most of the cooking juice

  • 1 cup of the cooking juice from boiling the beans 

  • 2/3 cup olive oil

  • 1 large white onion, chopped

  • 6 garlic cloves

  • 2 tablespoons epazote or cilantro

  • ½ a teaspoon of ground coriander

  • ½ a teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium saucepan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, carefully add the onion and garlic, reduce the heat and let them cook until golden brown 4-5 minutes. Add the epazote and coriander cook just enough to make them fragrant. 


Add the cooked black beans and ½ to 1 cup of the reserved bean juice. Let them boil for 5-6 minutes until the liquid has become thick and the beans very soft. Remove from the heat, let them cool down, and puree with an immersion blender or by hand with a potato masher.


Serve with queso Fresco or Cotija as a complement to any meal.

creamy corn and poblano pasta salad (3).

Makes 8-10 servings 

  • 5 tomatillos, husked, washed and quartered

  • 2 to 3  serranos, charred

  • 3 garlic cloves, charred

  • Juice of 1 lime

  • ½ cup cilantro, lightly chopped

  •  1 teaspoon salt

  • ¼ cup of vegetable oil

In the food processor or blender puree all the ingredients, but the oil. With the motor running add the oil. Check for salt and spice and adjust if necessary.

Transfer the salsa to a glass jar and keep refrigerated until ready to serve. It keeps for 2 to 3 days.

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