Tamales (c) 2015. Judy Barnes Baker

After I published the new recipe for Picadillo with a picture showing it with a side of Pumpkin Tamales, many of you asked me to share the tamale recipe too. Since this is Cinco de Mayo, I thought it would be appropriate to post it today. I realize that I may be generating requests for even more recipes by posting just the basic tamales. The recipe first appeared in Carb Wars; Sugar is the New Fat along with a lot of variations. (Related recipes from Carb Wars include: Tamale Pie, Sweet Tamales, Tamale Pancakes, and recipes for several different fillings, including Carnitas, Chicken, and Pork Fillings for savory versions and Mincemeat, Cranberry, and Jam fillings for dessert tamales.) Since including all that would make a very long post, I’m going to take the opportunity to get in a plug for the book, which contains these recipes plus many more of my favorites that have not appeared here or in any of my other books.

Masa harina (Mexican cornmeal made from hominy), the main ingredient in tortillas, is generally something to avoid or use sparingly at twenty-one net carbs in one-quarter cup. This recipe, a take-off on the traditional fruit tamales of Mexico, also includes pumpkin purée, butter, and cheese, which cuts down on the carbs. I’m including a recipe for a savory one and a quick pancake version. They are both delicious and very easy to make.

For wrapping:
Dried Cornhusks (or cooking parchment)

For the dough:
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces (one-half of a 4-ounce can) diced green chilies
1 cup canned pumpkin or cooked and puréed fresh pumpkin
3/4 cup masa harina (recipe was tested with Maseca Instant Corn Masa Mix)
1/4 cup (11/4 ounces) grated Cotija cheese
2 tablespoons cream

Optional Fillings: fill each tamale with 2 teaspoonfuls of meat from Carnitas recipe (see p. 199), or with chicken or pork filling for Tamale Pie (see p. 174), or with cooked and drained ground beef.

Use purchased cornhusks if possible, as they are larger than what we typically get from fresh corn on the cob. Cover the husks with hot water and let them sit for several hours or microwave for a few minutes to soften. Choose a few of the longest husks and tear into narrow strips to use as ties. Cut off the narrow ends of the remaining husks so that they are more square in shape. Blot the husks with
paper towels to dry thoroughly. Four- by eight-inch pieces of parchment paper can be used in place of the cornhusks, if desired.

Combine the butter, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a mixer and beat until fluffy. Add the chilies, pumpkin, masa harina, cheese, and cream and beat to incorporate.

Spread about ¼ cup of the dough on each husk. Make the layer in the shape of a rectangle about ¼ inch thick that comes all the way to the edge on one side. Leave at least 1 inch on the other side and 2 inches or more on each end of the husk uncovered. If using a filling, place 2 teaspoons of filling down the center of the masa-covered section.

Fold the masa-covered part of the husk in half so that the filling is enclosed, leaving the extra inch or more of husk to overlap the seam. Fold the two ends toward the center and tie in place with the husk strips, leaving it loose enough for the dough to expand. (For quicker preparation, fold up and tie one end only and stand the tamales to steam with the open end up. If your steamer is too large for them to stand upright, crumpled foil can fill in the open spaces to keep them stable.)

Put a few inches of water in a large pot or steamer with a rack and heat on low. The rack should not touch the water. Place the tamales upright on the rack or in a single layer. Cover the pot and steam for
about an hour. Check the pot every 15 minutes or so to be sure it doesn’t boil dry. When done, the dough should be firm and it should pull away from the husk cleanly. Unwrap one to check for doneness.

Serve the tamales with salsa verde or enchilada sauce. Unfilled tamales are a nice accompaniment for chops or steaks; the filled ones can serve as a main dish for lunch or dinner.

Servings: 14
Total Carb: 6.5g Fiber: 1.1g Net Carb: 5.4g

Masa harina is flour made from a kind of dried, fermented corn, similar to hominy. The hard corn is treated with a solution of lime and water, called slaked lime, to remove the hulls. The lime also softens the corn and makes its niacin content bio-available so that it can assimilated by the body.

Cotija cheese may be called queso añejo or añejo de Cotija. It is a dry, salty, crumbly, aged
cheese. Cotija was the name of the town in Mexico where it was originally made. Look for it in
the cheese display or with the Mexican foods at the grocery store. If you cannot find it, substitute Romano cheese.

Salsa is always a carb bargain, but the green kind is especially so. It is made with tomatillos, the little green “tomatoes” encased in a papery husk. Embassa brand Salsa Verde claims to have one gram of carbohydrate with one gram of fiber, which cancels it out, for a net carb count of zero. (See Sources.)

Tamale Pancakes
If you don’t have time for filling the cornhusks and steaming the tamales, here is a shortcut. Form the dough into balls about the size of a walnut. Flatten into small pancakes and fry in butter or oil until brown and crunchy. Turn and brown the other side. Serve as a side dish or top with shredded cooked meat, cheese, chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and salsa as for tacos.

Servings: 28
Total Carb: 3.3g Fiber: 0.6g Net Carb: 2.7g

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(c) 2015. Judy Barnes Baker, www.carbwars.blogspot.com

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Judy Barnes Baker

The working title for my first book was, “You’ll Never Know What You Are Missing.” It summed up my goal: to make eating for health synonymous with eating for pleasure. Once you discover the secret, you will find that the very best food for weight management, longevity, the treatment and prevention of disease, and over-all health and happiness is also the most sumptuous, satisfying, and indulgent way of eating the world has to offer. You are invited to the feast. Enjoy!
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Judy Barnes Baker
8 years ago

You are welcome, Judith. Thanks for the comment!

8 years ago

Thanks for posting this. I even have your cookbook and I enjoy checking your blog for recipes!