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Jalisco-Style Chicken Tamales

16 tamales
Tamales Tapatíos


Tamal dough:

  • cups (326g) masa harina
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (184g) lard or vegetable shortening
  • cups (738g) chicken broth


  • 3 poblano chiles
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, or one 14.5-ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup (71g) chopped white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 whole cloves, stemmed and crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (70g) chopped manzanilla olives stuffed with pimentos
  • 1/4 cup (46g) coarsely chopped capers
  • 1/4 cup diced pickled jalapeños
  • 3 cups (330g) shredded cooked chicken

For assembly:

  • 30 to 36 dried corn husks

To Prepare

To make the tamal dough:
  • Whisk together the masa harina, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
  • Place the lard or vegetable shortening in a mixer set with the paddle attachment and beat on high until very light, about 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the speed and add the chicken broth and masa harina mixture alternately, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Once it has all been added, raise speed to medium and continue beating for about 4 to 8 minutes, until the dough is homogeneous, very fluffy, and aerated.
  • To test if the dough is ready, drop 1/2 teaspoon into a cup of cold water. If it floats, it is ready. If it sinks, beat longer to aerate further.
To make the filling:
  • Place poblano chiles and tomatoes (if using fresh) on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Place under the broiler and char for 8 to 10 minutes, flipping a couple times in between, until charred, soft, and wrinkled.
  • Remove the poblanos and tomatoes from the oven. Place the poblanos in a plastic bag, close the bag, and set aside to allow the poblanos to steam and sweat for at least 10 minutes, and up to 2 hours. Remove the poblanos from the bag and in a bowl of water, or under a gentle stream of running water, peel away the charred skin. Next, cut a slit down the side of each poblano and remove the seeds and stems before cutting into strips of about 1” x 1/4”. Set aside.
  • Chop the broiled tomatoes into 1/2" pieces. If using canned tomatoes, simply chop them.
  • In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, a minute or two longer.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes (including the skins, seeds, and juices), cumin, crushed tops of the whole cloves, and salt. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the mixture is dark red and thickened. Add poblanos, olives, capers, pickled jalapeños and chicken, stirring to combine. Cook for 5 more minutes.
To assemble tamales:
  • In a large bowl, soak the dried corn husks in hot water for at least 10 minutes, or until soft and pliable, drain.
  • Working with one corn husk at a time, lay it out with the tapered end pointing towards you. Portion about 1/4 cup (50g) masa onto the husk – a scone or muffin scoop works well here. Spread the masa into a rectangle, about 3” x 5”; the layer should be about 1/4” thick, leaving a border of at least 1/2” on the sides and at least 1” on the bottom. Place 2 tablespoons of the filling (about 40g) in the middle of the rectangle.
  • Pick up the two long sides of the corn husk and bring them together (the masa will start to swaddle the filling). Fold the joined sides of the husk together to one side of the tamale, wrapping them in the same direction around the tamal. Fold up the empty section of the husk, with the tapering end from the bottom up and spread the tamal gently so it is evenly distributed. This will form a closed bottom and the top will be left open. Place the tamales as vertically as you can in a container (open side up) and repeat the assembly with the remaining masa and filling.
To steam tamales:
  • Fill a steamer with water right up to the bottom of the steaming base or basket and bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Line the steamer base or basket with a layer of soaked corn husks. Place the prepared tamales as vertically as you can into the prepared steamer with the open end facing up. If there is space left in the steamer, tuck in some more corn husks, so the tamales will be snug and not shift around. Cover the tamales with more soaked corn husks and steam, covered with a lid, for about an hour.
  • Turn off the heat and let them rest and settle in the steamer for at least 10 minutes. You can test the tamales for doneness by unwrapping one and checking to see that it releases easily from the husk. If it doesn’t, return the steamer to the heat, checking them at 5-minutes increments. Finished tamales will stay warm for about 2 hours in the steamer.
Storage information:
  • Tamales can be made ahead several days before and stored in the refrigerator, well wrapped. They can also be frozen for months. In either case, reheat in a steamer; for refrigerated tamales, it will take about 20 minutes and about 45 minutes for frozen tamales.