Casero-Style Tamales Recipe

Bring Mexico into your kitchen with these squash and cheese-filled tamales.

by Wesley Avila
Apr 13 2015, 10:47pm

Servings: 3
Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes

10 pounds masa preparada, or prepared
About 40 corn husks

for the filling:
1 4-6 pounds butternut squash
2 pounds Monterey Jack cheese

for the sauce:
1 pound lard
2 pounds tomatillo milperos
1 pound Roma tomatoes
4 chile guajillos
2 chile Pasillas
8 chile de Arbol
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/8 cup pumpkin seeds
6 whole allspice
2 whole cloves
1 head garlic
2 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
kosher salt, to taste


1. Purchase masa preparada from a Latino market. (If they sell masa, they will have dry husks as well.) Soak dry husks in hot water in sink for about 45 minutes or until soft. Rinse well.

2. Cut the squash in half and wrap with plastic wrap very well. Nuke in microwave on high for about 15-20 minutes or until done.

3. Next, wash and peel the tomatillos really well. Cut tomatoes in half.

4. Melt the lard in a separate sauce pan over medium heat. De-seed the chilis and add them to the pan with the bay leaves and garlic. Lightly roast for 2-3 minutes. Add the sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, allspice, and cloves and toast for 3 more minutes. Add water to the pan (approximately 1 cup), the tomatillos, and tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt to help it break down and let it simmer for ten minutes.

5. While the sauce is cooking, cut the cheese and squash into long, rectangular pieces large enough for the tamales. I like to put a fat little slice in mine so that you really taste the cheese and squash.

6. Next, take the sauce off of the heat and carefully pour into a blender. Make sure to get everything in there (including the bay leaves). Blend until smooth and set aside.

7. Assemble the tamales: Drain the water out of the corn husk. Add about a tablespoon and a half of masa to the husk. (I use a small spatula to smear the paste across the husk). You don't want it to be too thin because then it will taste like a dried out tortilla chip, but if you add too much, it's gross. Add just the right amount.

8. Add the filling and top with a little bit of sauce. Now, fold once over, give it a little pinch, and then fold the other side over. The opposite side will act as glue. Squeeze towards the tip and fold over.

9. Steam the tamales in a steamer. Stack them together (but not too tightly) so that the open part of the tamale is sitting upright in the pan. Steam for 45 minutes on the stove-top. Serve with sauce and enjoy!

From How-To: Make Tamales with Wes Avila