My Family's Chicken Tamales

I remember when I was making wedding plans and we decided to have a small reception at my parents home. When Mom asked me what I wanted on the menu, I quickly answered, "Chicken Tamales!"
Course Chicken, Main Course, Tamales
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 30 minutes


For the Chicken Filling:

  • 4 bone-in chicken breasts 5 cups shredded chicken
  • 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 warm chicken stock
  • 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 warm chicken broth and using your hand, work it into a soft dough. In another bowl, melt the shortening in the microwave. Add the shortening to the masa and work it in with hands until you get a thick frosting consistency. 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.
    • 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
    • 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.