Chicken Tamales with Pictures!

We love tamales, especially my oldest daughter. I often serve these at parties or get-togethers but I have to warn people not to eat the husks! The yumminess is wrapped in the husk and just needs to be uncovered. I don’t make them very often as it is a bit of a process but the reward is delicious. It seems no matter if I double, or triple, the recipe I never have enough!

There are many ways to make them and I am not an expert. (This is my easy version of tamales.) I will attempt to take some pictures to add to this post to help with making them and the assembly of them. The kids love to help with this and it is so much fun to put them together. This is one of those things when practice makes perfect so don’t give up and just have fun!

You can also use other meats besides chicken. Just make sure the meat is cooked first and then season it to your taste. There are also recipes for sweet versions as well but I have not tried to make any of those.

One important thing to note is that Masa Harina and cornmeal are not the same thing! This will not work with cornmeal. The husks and masa are generally found the ethnic aisle of the grocery store.

See the end of the post for a picture.

Chicken Tamales

Chicken Tamales


  • 20-30 corn husks, usually 1 bag or less
  • 3-4 lbs chicken
  • 3-4 qts. water
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2-15 oz jars of red or green salsa


  • 6 cups masa harina, mix for tamales
  • 2 cup corn oil or shortening ** see note for using shortening**
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder


Soak the corn husks in warm water until soft. I usually let them soak overnight.

Cook the chicken, onion, garlic, and salt in water for 30-40 minutes until done. Remove the chicken from broth. Set the broth to the side to use for the dough. Finely shred the chicken and mix with salsa.

Use a mixer to blend the masa, oil or shortening, salt, baking powder, and the chicken broth to obtain a consistent mixture. (**Note: if using shortening it is best to beat the shortening alone for a minute or two until light and fluffy.)

**Tip: Drop a small amount of dough into a cup of cold water; dough should
float to the top. If the dough does not float, continue beating until
dough is light enough to float.

Drain corn husks and pat dry. Place a corn husk on a work surface with the small end pointing away from you. On the large end, spread about 3 T. of dough to within 1 in. of edges. Top with about 2 T. chicken mixture. Fold long sides of husk over the filling, overlapping slightly. Fold over ends of husk and set on a plate. (Many times the filled tamales are tied with a string to secure but this is not necessary if you are careful with them.)

Repeat until ingredients are used up.

Get your pot ready with a steamer basket. Add about 1 inch of water, I usually add a little salt to the water, and bring to a boil.

Place the tamales, upright with the open end up, in a steamer basket and place in a pot over the boiling water. ** Do not place tamales in the water.**

Cover with extra corn husks and cook tamales for 35-40 minutes.

Check them every 10-20 minutes. Add water as needed.

Tamales are cooked when they separate easily from the corn husk.

We serve them with yellow rice and beans. (You can use some of the leftover broth to add more flavor when cooking your rice as well.)

(makes about 25 or so)

Note: You can also use a store-bought rotisserie chicken and use canned chicken broth to make this a little simpler to make.

Masa mix and husks:

Soaking the husks, I use a small plate on top and weight it down with a water-filled coffee cup.

Boiling the chicken:

Using the stand mixer to shred the chicken:

Mix the salsa into the shredded chicken:


Set up your workspace. I keep a small bowl of cold water for dipping my fingers into. It helps to keep your fingers wet when spreading out the dough.

I make a dough ball and then spread it with my fingers. Then spread a little of the chicken mixture onto the dough.

Note: This may not be the most authentic way to prepare a tamale but this is what works for me.


Next fold the tamale, one side of the other and overlap slightly, then tuck the bottom end over the seam.


I then smooth the tamale out towards the open end. Don’t squeeze too hard or the filling will come out. This is what it should look like if you peeked inside:


I get my pot ready when I am about halfway through with the assembly of the tamales. Let the water start to get hot.


When you are finished assembling the tamales the water should be boiling and you should be ready to start cooking them. (I did cut the heat down to 4 after I placed the tamales in the pan.)


Place them in a steamer basket, or use a pan like I have, and place them with the open end up. Be careful because the steam is HOT!

I then cover them with leftover husks.


Let them cook for 30-45 minutes. Check them every 10-15 minutes to make sure they have enough water and add more if needed.

And Voila! Hot Tamales! They are finished when the tamale pulls away from the husk easily.


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