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Tamales de Pollo

Tamales are my mom's favorite and I really wanted to make them for her. I was a little intimidated by this dish, since I've never made anything like this, but I was lucky enough to have my mom's sous chef assistance (her chopping skills are elite) and my abuelita's help and supervision. It was a lot of work but definitely rewarding and a lot of fun. The tamales came out pretty good for my first time; they may have needed a little more salt, but with some practice I will make sure I master this recipe soon.

Ingredients for 12 Tamales

  • 1 white onion

  • 1 large tomato

  • 1 bell pepper

  • 4 oz of steamed chopped carrots

  • 4 oz of steamed peas

  • 1 1/2 lbs of peeled white corn

  • 1/4 lb of lard

  • 6 chicken thighs

  • Approx. 4 cups of chicken stock

  • Fresh banana leaves

  • 2 tablespoons of achiote

  • abuelita's aliño

  • Salt

  • Pepper

optional ingredients

  • Raisins

  • Hard boiled eggs

  • Spanish manzanilla olives stuffed with red peppers

Corn Prep:

  1. Rinse the corn throughly and ensure all of the seeds and peels are removed; soak in water overnight. Drain and rinse the corn again before cooking.

Chicken Prep:

  1. Prep the chicken thighs by trimming off the excess fat. Season with Abuelita's aliño, achiote & olive oil.

  2. Boil in salted water with 1/2 an onion and garlic for about 15-20 mins or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.

  3. Shred and set aside.

Note: Do not throw out the chicken stock! You will need this for the masa.

Masa Prep:

  1. Boil the corn in salted water either in a pressure cooker or in a deep pot on the stove. The pressure cooker will only take about 20 mins to cook Vs boiling in a pot for 1 hr+, either way works.

  2. Once the corn is cooked, rinse one more time in cold water and blend in food processor with 2 heaping tablespoons of lard and warm chicken stock as needed.

  3. After the corn is blended and the masa begins to form, knead in 1 tablespoon of achiote, Abuelita's Aliño and salt/pepper to taste.

  4. At this point, you may need to add a little more of lard and/or warm chicken stock for the right consistency (it shouldn't be dry). My abuelita let me know that my great-grandmother Herlinda would check the masa by grabbing a piece and rubbing it on the banana leaf to see if it made it shiny from the lard. If it did, then it was ready!

Filling Prep:

  1. Finely chop the remaining half of the onion, tomato and bell pepper and make the refrito with a tablespoon of lard.

  2. Add 1/2 cup of chicken stock, 1 tablespoon of achiote, abuelita's alino, salt and pepper to taste. Mix throughly.

  3. Add in the shredded chicken and cook for 3-5 mins; until the liquid is reduced and has thicken. Let cool.

Putting it all together:

  1. Prep the bananas leaves: lightly toast over a high flame for a few seconds on each side. Make sure the leaves don't burn, but are just lightly toasted. This helps makes the leaves a bit more pliable and easier to work with.

  2. Wipe the leaves down with a dry washcloth.

  3. Grab a small ball of masa and mold into an oval shaped bowl with a pocket left for the filling. Make sure the sides aren't too thick, as the tamale will expand when cooking.

  4. Add the shredded chicken, a few peas + carrots into the pocket; optional ingredients: 1 manzanilla olive, a slice of hardboiled egg and a few raisins.

  5. Close up the tamale and make sure there is no filling showing.

  6. Wrap in a banana leave and steam (baño Maria) in a large pot for 1 hr.

Note: Place a layer of banana leaves under + covering the individual wrapped tamales in the pot while steaming.

TIP: For re-heating, you can steam again or lightly toast in a pan with salted butter.

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