Vegan Tamales

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Learn how to make these flavorful vegan tamales that are so easy to prepare. Masa Harina dough, stuffed with rich savory lentils,  vegan cheese, and steamed until soft and moist. These cute parcels of tamales are incredibly tasty, and filling, served with vegan sour cream and salsa, this tamales recipe is a definite game-changer, everyone will love them. They are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free.

Vegan Tamales

Vegan Tamales are a flavorful addition to your holiday menu, served as a main or a side, these easy to prepare tamales will be a huge hit.

Last week, my friend Roena visited and taught me how to make tamales.  Us deciding to make the tamales was very impromptu, so we didn't have corn husks. Instead, we wrapped them in parchment paper and foil before steaming them. They were so delicious that I had to share them with you all, once I got some corn husks from the store.

I also got to learn more about Roena: we have been friends for more than 10 years, we both have a passion for cooking vegan foods, she attended one of my cooking classes way back when I lived in Virginia and traveled to do cooking classes in New Jersey. I have even attended an event that Roena catered for back in New Jersey. 

Vegan Tamales on cutting board

Now fast forward to today, although we have both moved to different states here in the USA over the years, now Roena and I are practically neighbors. We recently did a catering event together here in Florida which had rave reviews.  Roena's family are from Costa Rica, she told me that her mom makes vegan tamales around Christmas, she makes enough for the family, friends and the community. It is usually an all-day event. 

Today I made a second batch using corn husks and a little modification of the filling and the results were so delicious. My hubby who doesn't love tamales couldn't have enough of these. To be honest, all the tamales I have tasted in the past were very bland and tasteless but I must say these are the best tamales ever.

Cornhusks can be purchased at your local health food stores, or online on Amazon.

vegan tamales on a white plate topped with sour cream cream and salsa

What Is A Tamale?

Tamales are a traditional meal of Mexico, made with corn dough that is traditionally stuffed with seasoned meat, beans, cheese, wrapped with corn husks and steamed or baked. 

For a vegan version, we made the dough using organic masa harina.

I used vegan butter to replace the lard used in traditional recipes, you can substitute with olive, coconut or avocado oil.  I added corn kernels to the dough and nutritional yeast flakes to give the dough that buttery taste. 

For the filling, we prepared a savory seasoned lentil cooked until all the liquids evaporated and you are left with thick well-flavored cooked lentils, remove bay leaves, we used store-bought shredded cheddar cheese but my Vegan Cheddar Cheese or Vegan PepperJack Cheese would be perfect.

How to make tamales step by step

How To Make Tamales?

Learn how to make homemade tamales with the easy steps listed below.

Prepare The Filling

  1. Place corn husks in a bowl of warm water and soak for 30 minutes. Add weights to keep the husks beneath the water.
  2. Sort lentils removing debris, rinse under cold water, drain and add to a medium saucepan. Add vegetable broth, bay leaves and bring to a boil.
  3. Cover saucepan and reduce to simmer lentils for about 20 minutes.
  4. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic, green onion, basil, chili powder, maple syrup, salt, bring to a simmer and allow to cook for another 20 minutes or until lentils are cooked and the sauce is thick and liquid evaporated.
  5. Remove from heat and set aside, in the meantime, prepare the dough.

Making tamales, tamales in corn husks on a cutting board

Prepare the Dough

  1. Add masa harina, nutritional yeast flakes, cumin, baking powder, salt, in a large bowl or a food processor. Mix to fully combine or process if using a food processor.
  2. Add vegan butter, if using your hand, mix until it resembles breadcrumbs or process in the food processor until the dry mix looks crumbly.
  3. Add vegetable broth, and form into a dough using your hands, make sure the dough is moist and slightly sticky, if using a food processor, mix for about a minute until a smooth dough is formed, stir in the corn kernels. 

Assemble The Tamales

  1. Take a cornhusk, drain it and tear into 15 thin strips and set aside for wrapping the tamales. Remove a corn husk from the water, shake off excess water, lay the corn husk on a cutting board, with the shiny side facing up and the wider end at the top.
  2. Add a large heaping tablespoon of dough to the center, flatten the dough to form a round disk using the back of a spoon or hand.
  3. Add a spoonful of lentils, topped with vegan shredded cheese. Fold both ends of the corn husks up towards the center, this will cause the dough to cover the filling. Fold tamal into a cone with a tapered end, at the base fold it upwards, taking the strip of the cornhusk and tie the folded end into a knot. Repeat until all the tamales are done.
  4. Add a steamer basket to a large pot, add enough water just below the base of the steamer, make sure water will not be touching the tamales Bring water to a boil.
  5. Add tamales to the steamer basket, cover and steam tamales for about 40 minutes. 
  6. Remove steamer basket, tamales get firmer as they cool, remove corn husks and serve tamales topped with vegan sour cream and salsa.

How To Make Tamales Without Corn Husks

If corn husks aren't available where you are located, use parchment paper and foil as the wrapper instead.

  1. Cut out parchment paper about 4 inches wide, add dough in the center and flatten. Place filling in the center. 
  2. Fold edges to the middle to cover dough over the filling. Fold edges along the center and wrap edges at both ends.
  3. Wrap in foil paper and place it into the steamer. 

Can You Freeze Your Vegan Tamales?

Yes, tamales can be frozen, you can freeze the wrapped uncooked or steamed tamales, place into a freezer bag or container and place into the freezer for up to 6 months.

How To Reheat Vegan Tamales?

Reheat tamales by thawing in the refrigerator, steam in a steaming basket or bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes if they were already steamed before freezer, 40 minutes if they were not steamed.

Other Amazing Recipes To Try

  1. Venezuelan Arepas
  2. Vegan Pupusa Recipe
  3. Jamaican Lentil Patties (Gluten-Free, Vegan)
  4. Easy Black Bean Enchiladas
  5. Gluten-Free Flatbread

best tamales recipe. tamales on a white plate

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Categories

Categories: ,
Course:
Cuisine:

Nutrition

Energy:
146 kcal / 610 kJ
Fat:
7 g
Protein:
4 g
Carbs:
16 g
Per serving

Cooking Time

Preparation:
20 min
Cooking:
40 min
Ready in:
1 h
For:
15 Servings

Ingredients

Filling

For The Dough

Garnishes

Instructions

Prepare The Filling

  1. Place corn husks in a bowl of warm water and soak for 30 minutes. Add weights to keep the husks beneath the water.
  2. Sort lentils removing debris, rinse under cold water, drain and add to a medium saucepan. Add vegetable broth, bay leaves and bring to a boil.
  3. Cover saucepan and reduce to simmer lentils for about 20 minutes.
  4. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic, green onion, basil, chili powder, maple syrup, salt, bring to a simmer and allow to cook for another 20 minutes or until lentils are cooked and the sauce is thick and liquid evaporated.
  5. Remove from heat and set aside, in the meantime, prepare the dough.

Prepare the Dough

  1. Add masa harina, nutritional yeast flakes, cumin, baking powder, salt, in a large bowl or a food processor. Mix to fully combine or process if using a food processor.
  2. Add vegan butter, if using your hand, mix until it resembles breadcrumbs or process in the food processor until the dry mix looks crumbly.
  3. Add vegetable broth, and form into a dough using your hands, make sure the dough is moist and slightly sticky, if using a food processor, mix for about a minute until a smooth dough is formed, stir in the corn kernels. 

Assemble The Tamales

  1. Take a cornhusk, drain it and tear into 15 thin strips and set aside for wrapping the tamales. Remove a corn husk from the water, shake off excess water, lay the corn husk on a cutting board, with the shiny side facing up and the wider end at the top.
  2. Add a large heaping tablespoon of dough to the center, flatten the dough to form a round disk using the back of a spoon or hand.
  3. Add a spoonful of lentils, topped with vegan shredded cheese. Fold both ends of the corn husks up towards the center, this will cause the dough to cover the filling. Fold tamales into a cone with a tapered end, at the base fold it upwards, taking the strip of the cornhusk and tie the folded end into a knot. Repeat until all the tamales are done.
  4. Add a steamer basket to a large pot, add enough water just below the base of the steamer, make sure water will not be touching the tamales Bring water to a boil.
  5. Add tamales to the steamer basket, cover and steam tamales for about 40 minutes. 
  6. Remove steamer basket, tamales get firmer as they cool, remove corn husks and serve tamales topped with vegan sour cream and salsa.

Michelle Blackwood, RN

Hi, I’m Michelle, I’m the voice, content creator and photographer behind Healthier Steps. I share vegan and gluten-free recipes because of past health issues. My goal is to help you make healthier choices and show you how healthy eating is easy and delicious.

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4 Comments
  1. Carmen
    August 27, 2019

    These tamales were very delicious, the best I have eaten!

  2. Asha
    August 7, 2019

    This looks really good! I’ve never made tamales but I plan to at some point. Trying to pin this recipe but don’t see the option. Am I missing it?