Tamales de Sinaloa

The seasons at my house have never been defined by the temperature. They have always been defined by what my mom cooks. There are four different seasons at my house: caldo (soup) season, tamale season, carne asada season, and marisco (seafood) season.

My mom grew up in Sinaloa, Mexico and she often makes dishes she remembers eating at a young age. One of her favorite things to cook is tamales.

Tamales are a complete meal available in a portable form. They travel easily and if you’re adventurous you might not even need utensils to eat them.

 Most traditional tamales are made from masa (corn dough) and some sort of filling and wrapped in either a corn husk or banana leaf.

Embed from Getty Images Source: Nicolas Vallejos Photography and Design

Not all tamales are made the same. Different locations make tamales in their own way. My mom’s tamales are jam-packed with veggies and meats – they’re a work of love.

As a child, I would watch my mom prepare the ingredients for the tamales. She would cook the meat and boil it until it was soft and tender, ready to be shredded. As my mom’s star assistant, I would often get the duty of shredding the meat.

Like many young children, I would try my best to make my mom proud and spent a lot of time perfecting the art of meat shredding.

While I attempted to create a work of art out of meat my mom would be busy cutting the veggies, creating the salsa for the meat and soaking the corn husks. She would be a flurry of movement, often looking like the sole participant in a dance only she knows.

Embed from Getty Images Source: Dana Gallagher

After all the ingredients are ready, my mom sets them out in a specific order. First, the big bowl filled with masa, then her choice of meat. Her veggies are laid out from biggest to smallest: carrots, potatoes, jalapenos, peas, green olives. Then she starts her work. She grabs the corn husks from the kitchen sink and begins slathering them with masa. After she’s done, she passes the tamale to me and I tie the end of each one. This holds the tamale together and allows for a much neater presentation.

When we’re done with this little dance, my mom stacks the tamales in a big steamer and covers the tamales with the unused corn husks to help with the steaming and flavor process.

Embed from Getty Images Source: Jupiterimages

To learn my mothers dance, enjoy the recipe below.

Tamales Estilo Sinaloa


Corn husk leaves

1 lb of masa (can be found at most Latin-American supermarkets)

4 california chiles (cooked without skin and deseeded)

 1 ½ lb pork leg

1 onion

3 garlic cloves

Salt to taste

4 potoes julienned

4 carots julienned

1 can peas

A jar of green olives (with pit)

A small jar of jalapenos


Put the corn husks in warm water to soak an hour or two before starting. Separate the small ones from the big ones. The small ones will be used to makes strings and the big ones for the tamale itself.

Put the pork, half the onion, garlic and optional salt in a medium pot filled with water. Boil until soft, about 20 minutes. Shred and set aside.

Boil the chiles in water for 5 minutes and then drain.

Blend the chile with the rest of the onion, and tomatoes. Mix the pork and the salsa together and set aside.

Peel and cut the potatoes and carrots. Put potatoes in water so that they won’t brown up.

To Prepare:

Take one of the corn husks and slather the masa on top with a spoon or with your hand.After add a medium spoonful of the meat covered in salsa. Add veggies inside. Cover with another one of the corn husks.

Shred some of the corn husks and use to tie the end of the tamales.

Arrange the tamales in a steamer, don’t forget to add water to the bottom. Cover with any remaining corn husks. Cook for 10 minutes with high heat then turn down the heat. Cook the tamales on low heat for about an hour or until ready.

If the tamale comes out easily from the corn husk when opened it’s ready.


Current college student and food enthusiast

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