I had been preparing my mom’s version of chicken tamales for years, but I was lucky enough to have my cousin Patricia share fine details of the tamales de pollo recipe of my family. I share it with you now, to keep the family legacy going….
This is one of the many tamale recipes I hold near and dear to my heart.
In 2011 I was blessed with the opportunity to return to Monterrey, Mexico, the home of my parents Ramiro and Blanca. I had been without my parents for a few years already and had resigned myself that I would never return to Mexico. It was not until early 2011 that I finally came out of the dark ages and purchased a personal computer. I quickly connected with all my family in Mexico and a return trip to Mexico was inevitable! Of my Mom’s siblings, she still has four sisters, Amelia, Minerva, Rosa and Elvia. They are all awesome Mexican cooks.
Tomatillo salsa with chile de arbol is a must for tamales! Tomatillo Salsa Recipes link below! Keep Scrolling!
My Family's Chicken Tamales
For the Chicken Filling:
- 4 bone-in chicken breasts 5 cups shredded chicken
- Avocado or Olive oil
- 1 cup white onion diced
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 5 roma tomatoes add 1/2 cup water and blend, set aside
- 1/3 cup of pickled jalapenos minced
- 1/3 cup of jalapeno brine from pickled jalapeños
- 1/2 cup carrots diced,previously cooked
- 1/2 cup potato diced, previously cooked
- 3/4 - 1 teaspoon ground cumin or to taste
- Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Reserved chicken stock
For the Masa
- 2 1/2 cups masa harina
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock, broth room temperature
- 3/4 cup pork lard or shortening
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- salt to taste
*You will also need 30 cornhusk, plus more for steaming and covering the tamales.
- Start by poaching the chicken breast in a pot filled with salted water for a good 40 minutes at a light boil. After the chicken is cooked, removed from broth onto plate and let cool.
- Once chicken has cooled, shred all of the meat and set aside.
- In a pot, heat 3 tablespoons of oil to medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients listed above for the chicken filling into the pot,, including the shredded chicken.Wait for it to come to a boil, reduce heat, then taste for salt. Add about 1/3 cup of reserved stock. Let it cook down and reduce for a good 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool.
- Combine the masa harina, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the chicken broth and using your hand, work it into a soft dough. In another bowl, melt the lard or shortening in the microwave. let cool. Add the cooled lard(or shortening) to the masa and work it in with hands until you get a thick frosting consistency. This is where you will add volume to your masa. It does require a bit of mixing to achieve a lighter, fluffier masa. If masa is too thick, add a little more chicken broth. Taste the masa for salt. Keep masa covered with plastic wrap until ready to use. If you have a stand mixer, it will be a lot faster!
- Prepare your tamale station. Soak the corn husk in extra hot water for a good 40 to 60 minutes. The longer they soak, the better. Place a heavy dish or pot to keep them submerged in water.
- Take a few of the husks, shake off excess water. Tear the husk so they are only about 4 inches wide. Place the corn husk lengthwise in the palm of your hand with wide side closest to you. Spread about 2 to 3 tablespoons of masa all over the bottom half of husk. Place 2 tablespoons of filling down the center of masa. Fold one side in, then the other so they are slightly overlapping. Fold the top flap down and lay the tamale seam-side down
- Depending on how big you prepare your tamales, the quantity will vary. I typically make 24 tamales with this masa recipe.
- Prepare large steamer pot and fill with water, at least 2 to 3 inches deep. Place tamales open side up around the the edges of pot. Cover tamales with extra corn husk. Cover tightly and turn heat to high to get a quick boil going. Once it begins to steam rapidly, reduce heat to medium. Set timer for 45 minutes.
- Keep a tea kettle or saucepan with warm water on a separate burner. After 45 minutes, remove lid from pot and pour in 1 cup of hot water to one side of the pot, careful not to wet the tops of the tamales.
- Cover and continue steaming for another 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let tamales sit for 30 minutes to 45 minutes before serving. They will firm up as they cool.
Tips~ If you want to add a little color and more flavor to your masa, add some chile ancho sauce or adobo while mixing the masa. When cooking a smaller batch of tamales, you will naturally use a smaller pot to steam them in. The tamales should fit slightly snug together so they don’t move around during the cooking time. If they fit too loose, the tamales may fall apart. Cooking times may vary, depending on your stove and also how crowded the pot is with tamales.
Salsa Taquera de Chile de Arbol!
Simple Mexican-Style Rice https://pinaenlacocina.com/simple-mexican-style-rice-arroz-estilo-mexicano/
Tomatillo Salsa Recipes https://pinaenlacocina.com/tomatillo-salsa-recipes/
[…] On the plate above covered in a warm tomatillo salsa and smoky corn salsa is a big chicken tamal! Click the link to see my family’s chicken tamal recipe. I get a craving and that’s all it takes for me to pull out my steamer and prepare a small batch of tamales! https://pinaenlacocina.com/my-familys-chicken-tamales/ […]
Janet Lynn Treviño Cervantes Mendez
Hey Sonia! I’m going to make these for some out of town company this weekend. Love you sis…..Janet Lynn Treviño Cervantes Mendez (sounds pretty cool huh?)
Hahhaha! Yes, I love it…Hhmmmmmwonder if we are Cervantes down the line too! LOL! Love you more!
Janet Lynn Treviño Cervantes Mendez
UPDATE: OMG! I had one ear of corn in the fridge and since it’s Hatch Pepper season i had about 10 of those. I grilled/charred both of those and added them into the recipe above…and OH YEAH they were super delicioso! That’s probably wrong, but they were A-MAZING! You know we like our stuff super spicy so I did put all 10 of the hatch peppers (hot), and yes your brother did have to put more salsa on the tamales. Thanks again for documenting all of our recipes that our families never did. love you. janet lynn
Yum, I can’t wait to try your version! I would have added more salsa too, lol!
Thanks for sharing this wonderful family recipe, the best ones! Can’t wait to make this! Joy
I am happy to share the recipes that I love so much. Thanks for the feedback Joy.
Hello!! These Chicken a Tamales sound amazing!! I think i will try making good these.. can you use the prepared masa? Can you share your Salas recipe? Thanks for sharing
Hi Linda! Thanks for the feedback. Here is the link where you can find the recipe, plus many more salsa recipes prepared using tomatillos. https://pinaenlacocina.com/tomatillo-salsa-recipes/
Chicken and cheese tamales, how would you work that in?
Hi Corinne! All you have to do is add a strip of cheese(Oaxaca, manchego, fresco or muenster) donw the center after adding your chicken filling.
IM COOKING YOUR TAMALES NEXT WEEK WHAT KIND OF MASA..(CORN)??
Yes Lydia, the masa is corn masa. This recipe is prepared with masa harina. No place to get ready made masa where I live.
I have always wanted to try and make tamales. I am going to try this one. I’ll let you know if I was a success.
Oh good Tammy!! Let me know if you have any questions when you get ready to make them.
Ok I just want to make sure I understand. When I think Masa marina I think Masa to make flour tortillas (like white wing)where all you do is add water and all the other ingredients are already included. Here in Texas I also have maseca which is the Masa to make corn tortillas all ingredients already mixed in just add water. They also have a maseca just for tamales. Do I use one of these or am I totally off?
Hi Brook, I understand how it can be confusing. Whenever I refer to masa harina in any of my recipes, I am referring to corn flour masa harina, like Maseca brand. I don’t use any mix for flour tortillas, except all purpose flour for my flour tortilla recipe. I use Maseca masa harina for tamales in all my tamal recipes for a few years now. Before it was not available and just used the regular kind that is all purpose for corn tortillas.
Thank you so much! I married into a Mexican family and unfortunately my mother in law passed away before she taught me to make tamales. We have now been together 18 yrs and I’ve pretty much learned everything else, I feel like this is the holy grail lol
Hi, can you explain step 2. I’m a little confused when you say:
“Add all of the remaining ingredients, minus the salt. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat, taste for salt and add about 1/3 cup of reserved stock.”
Which ingredients do I add and do you mean add to the chicken? When am I suppose to add the carrots and the potatoes? This is my fist time making tamales so I am trying to find a recipe that I like and I came across yours.
Hi Monica, Sorry it sounds a bit confusing. I went it and tried to word it a little more clearly. When I state add all of the remaining ingredients, I am referring to all the ingredients listed for the chicken filling. So yes that would include the carrots, potatoes, jalapeños, blended tomatoes, spices…Hope this helps you better. If you have any other questions send me an email or a message on either instagram or facebook.
I’m so excited to try this recipe for Christmas since we won’t be able to visit our family in Los Angeles. I was wondering if I could assemble the tamales and freeze them uncooked and steam them on Christmas Eve or if you recommend cooking them first and then freezing them.
Hi Karina! I am excited for you to try this recipe as well. It’s near and dear to my heart and I love these tamales! You definitely want to freeze them uncooked. What I do is line a baking sheet with wax paper, then lay out the tamales in a single layer. I freeze them like this for a few hours. Then I gather however many I want to store in a freezer bag. Flash freezing them ahead of time will prevent them from sticking together once bagged and frozen. The tamales can be steamed frozen, but they will take longer to cook, almost double the time. Or you can let them defrost and steam them as usual.
I know this is an old post, but I was searching for a similar tamale recipe to what my family makes to get an idea of ingredient quantities to buy, and this is the closest! I’m not sure where it’s from precisely, but my family is from Tijuana. We do shredded chicken with carrots and potatoes, all the sautéed ingredients, the pickled jalapeños and brine (the secret ingredient, I think!), and then as we are assembling each tamal we add a green olive, a sliver of potato, and a pickled jalapeño. I have never tasted purchased tamales quite as good! Gracias por la receta!
My parents were from Monterrey, Nuevo Leon and this recipe has been in my family forever. I don’t recall olives ever being added. I am happy you came across the recipe!
How did you cook the carrot and potatoes? How many does this make?
I have added to my blog post to answer your questions. 24 tamales depending on how big you make them. Carrots and potatoes can be cooked ahead of time by placing them in boiling, salted water for up to 10 minutes.
I am excited to try this recipe! A mom from my kids’ school made tamales like these with chicken, jalapeno and carrot to sell at the school fair a few years ago and I have been thinking about them ever since.
I was looking for a similar recipe because my son asked for store bought tamales for his birthday dinner (a few days after Christmas!); I am going to try to make these myself instead.
That’s so wonderful that you will be preparing tamales for your son’s special day! I really enjoy this tamal recipe since I was a kid!