So, it appears that I’ve attracted Vegan Tamales in my life! Weird, right? I know. Let me explain. For years, I’ve been wanting to learn how to make tamales, but I always had this idea that tamales are hard to make. I don’t know why I thought this, I didn’t really research it, I just didn’t know what to do. I’ve picked up the wrappers at the store, looked at them, and put them down. I had a mental block! Around Christmas time I really started thinking about them a lot. We live in Southern California, and all during December, you see signs on restaurants that say ‘order your Christmas tamales’, and there’s even a tamale factory that gets a line around the block for the whole week before Christmas. I know that, because one year, a very pregnant, tamale craving me, sent my husband down there to get some, only to find out later that they don’t sell vegan tamales, but that’s a whole other story… (Tamales are traditionally made with lard, butter, and chicken stock, and filled with other, mostly, non-vegan ingredients). Anyway, I was thinking about tamales a lot, when I was presented with an awesome opportunity! A fellow vegan food blogger, Dora, from Dora’s Table, asked me if I was interested in reviewing her new book, Vegan Tamales Unwrapped. What?! Perfect timing! So of course, I said YES! I’m so glad I did too, because this book is awesome! Oh, and it’s only $7.99There are detailed, step by step instructions for assembling the tamales, with lots pictures, and a whole variety of fantastic recipes to choose from. I knew that tamales came in savory varieties, usually stuffed with vegetables or meat, and sweet tamales (my favorite), but I had no idea that you could make CHOCOLATE TAMALES, or fruit flavored ones, like Dora’s recipe for blackberry tamales! (That one is next for me!) The best part, is that this book really demystified the whole process, and now I know that, not only are tamales actually very EASY to make, they are really fun too! Seriously, I really wish that I had this book years ago! I’m definitely going to be making up for lost time!
All of Dora’s tamale recipes are vegan, and like all of the recipes on her blog, they all look amazing, so I had a hard time picking one to try for my first time. I finally decided on the Zucchini and Black Bean tamales. Tamales are traditionally made with lard, so Dora substitutes healthy vegan fats such as coconut oil or vegan butter, for the lard in her recipes, and she even gives the option to cut that out completely and substitute it with pumpkin puree!
Being as it’s January, and everyone is atoning for their Holiday indulgences right now, I decided to make the low fat option, and the results were nothing less than incredibly delicious. I was amazed that you don’t taste or see the pumpkin! The tamales tasted and looked like the full fat version, and the flavors for the filling were so spot on! They seriously tasted like something that you would order at a really amazing restaurant! My whole family LOVED them!
Check out these photos of the tamale prep! It’s so much faster and easier than you’d think!
Another great thing about Tamales, is that they freeze really well, so you can make a bunch, and pull them out when you need a quick meal or snack!
Tamales should be served with salsa. Since this was my first tamale making adventure, I decided to buy some yummy salsa, but if you want to make some fresh salsa, Dora has a recipes for a lot of amazing salsas on her blog, including this one, for easy 5 minute salsa!
I’m so grateful to Dora, for writing this amazing book, and for the motivation to cross ‘learn how to make tamales’ off of my culinary bucket list! I can’t wait to make more, and explore all of the varieties out there! I might even have a little Tamale making party and invite some friends to help! More people = more varieties = more tamales for everyone! Yay!
Click here to get a copy of Vegan Tamales UnWrapped!
- 1 Tbsp. Vegetable oil (optional)
- ½ White Onion, thinly sliced
- 3 Garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Mexican zucchini, large, diced
- 1 can (14.5 oz) Black Beans
- ⅓ C Sesame seeds, toasted, ground
- 1 C (8oz.) Pumpkin Puree, unsweetened
- 4 C (1lb. 2 oz) Masa Harina
- 1½ tsp. baking powder
- 1½ Tbsp. salt, kosher
- 4 C Vegetable Stock or broth
- 30 Corn husks
- To prepare the corn husks: Soak the corn husks in hot water in a large pot or in your kitchen sink. Place a plate over them to weigh them down so they are completely submerged. Let them soak for at least an hour.
- To make the filling: Heat vegetable oil to medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add onion and sweat for 2-3 minutes or until the onion is tender and translucent. Add the garlic cloves and cook for 1 minute. Add the zucchini and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add the black beans and ground sesame seed and mix well. Let cook for 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper.
- To make the dough: Beat the pumpkin puree on medium-high speed with an electric mixer for about 1 minute. Add the baking powder and salt. Beat for 1 minute to incorporate into puree.
- Add half of the masa harina. Then add half of the vegetable stock. A er it is completely incorporated, add the other half of masa harina and vegetable stock. Beat at low speed until thoroughly mixed. It should have the consistency of a thick cake batter. If necessary, add more vegetable stock until you reach that consistency. Taste the dough and add more salt if necessary. It should be a little bit salty.
- For lighter and flu ier tamales, let the dough rest for an hour in the refrigerator. Remove the dough from the fridge and beat it again, adding enough liquid to get it to the consistency it had before.
- Remove the corn husks from the water and set on paper towels. Reserve the largest husks to wrap the tamales and the small ones to line the steamer.
- To set up your steamer: Fill the bottom with water, making sure the water is not touching the steamer rack. Line the rack and sides of the steamer pot with corn husks. Set aside.
- To wrap the tamales: Pull 24 pencil-thin strips o of the corn husks and set aside. Take a husk and dry o the excess water with a paper towel. Place the husk in your hand with the tapered side away from you and the smooth side up. Using a spoon, spread 2-3 tbsp. of the dough (1⁄4 inch thick) onto the corn husk, forming a 3-inch to 4-inch square. Leave a border of at least ¾ inch on each side of the square.
- Place 1 1⁄2 tbsp. of the zucchini filling in the center of the dough. Bring the two long sides of the corn husk together, this will cause the masa to surround the filling, and roll them in the same direction around the tamal. (If the husk is too small, fold one of the long sides towards the center and then fold the other long side on top.) Fold down the empty, tapered section of the corn husk, forming a closed bottom. This will leave the top of the tamal open. Tie with a corn husk strip to secure the bottom of the tamal.
- Place the tamal in the steamer vertically, leaning against the side of the pot, with the open end on top. Repeat this process until you run out of dough and all the tamales are in the steamer. Cover them with a layer of corn husks. If the steamer is not full, fill the empty spaces with more corn husks. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and cook for 40 minutes. Check the tamales. When they separate easily from the corn husks, it means they are done. If they are not done, steam for 10 more minutes and check again.
- Remove steamer from the heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Uncover and let cool for at least an hour. Don’t be alarmed if the tamales seem really so . As they cool, they will firm up.