Homemade Chorizo Tamales are little bundles of Mexican chorizo and ground beef encased in a seasoned masa dough then steamed in little pockets for a moist and delicious treat for special occasions or any time of year.
Homemade tamales are made by spreading a homemade masa dough inside a corn husk, adding the filling of your choice and then rolling it up for steaming. There are so many different types of tamales and this is my second tamale recipe at 24Bite. I’m torn, though. I can’t tell which I like better. Be sure to check out my Homemade Pork Tamales recipe as well and you can decide.
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What is Chorizo?
Mexican chorizo is typically raw and found in the aisle where you’ll find the cheese and luncheon meats, hot dogs and sausage.
The brand that’s readily available here is Cacique. It’s always available here in pork but sometimes I can find it in beef as well.
Remember that this is raw. I recommend that you wash the outer plastic then slice into it lengthwise with a knife. Now, you’ll be able to scoop out the sausage with a spoon.
When cooking the chorizo for your Homemade Chorizo Tamales, you can cook it in a saucepan without oil. It already has a lot of fat in it. It’s definitely not a low-fat food. There is pork and lots of spices, making the meat a reddish brown color.
In addition to the two tubes of Cacique Pork Chorizo, I’ve used a pound of ground beef. The ground beef gives the filling more substance and bulk, making it easier to fold up the tamales in the corn husks.
Is There a Difference Between Spanish and Mexican Chorizo?
Yes, there’s a big difference between these two. Spanish Chorizo is more like Kielbasa or bratwurst. It’s usually fully or partially cooked and can be sliced or cubed.
This isn’t limited to Spain, though. Mom and I just recently bought some El Salvadorian chorizo which was cooked like this. It’s delicious! But, you won’t want to substitute this chorizo for the chorizo in this Chorizo Tamales recipe. I’m sure it would still be delicious but it wouldn’t be the same.
Soften Your Corn Husks the Night Before
For best results, go ahead and soak your corn husks overnight. You can soak them in a large pan, dishpan or even in a clean sink.
Inspect the husks and make sure to have about 60 full pieces without blemish. Wash with a brush to get rid of any debris then soak them all overnight.
Use a heavy bowl, plate or pan on the top to keep the corn husks weighted and in the water. By the next day, they will be more pliable and easier to fold.
Homemade Tamale Sauce with Red Chiles
The homemade tamale sauce can be made the day before. The recipe makes a quart but I only used about ¾ cup in the masa dough to flavor it. It’s not entirely necessary and, if you want to leave it out, you can use more chicken stock. If you do, be sure to add more seasonings to flavor the dough.
I know that it seems like there is a lot of seasoning in the masa dough, in the homemade tamale sauce and in the filling. Remember that you’re not making a meal with only four to six servings. You’re making about 40-50 tamales. All that seasoning will get “watered down” if you don’t bulk it up.
Making the Masa for Tamales
- Whisk together the masa harina, seasonings and baking powder.
- Melt the lard and add it to the masa harina mixture together with the reserved Tamale Sauce. At this point, it will look like wet sand, the kind of sand you can use to make sand castles.
- Add stock, one cup at a time and mix well after each addition until the masa is smooth and has a texture similar to hummus or like cake batter. Let the masa sit there a bit then mix again to see if you need to add another cup of stock.
If you’re not into using lard, you can use vegetable shortening.
How to Assemble Homemade Tamales
Since the homemade chorizo tamale filling is so quick and easy to make, these tamales will come together quite quickly for you.
- Pat dry a husk. Inspect it to find the smoother side and place it smooth side up, sideways with the skinnier side toward your non-dominant hand. Hold it there and smooth about two tablespoons of masa dough as shown, leaving the bottom ¾ inch or so without dough.
- Add about one tablespoon filling at the top.
- Fold the top over so the edges are touching then push down on the top at the open edge, push it back a little and fold over to form a tube.
- Fold over the skinnier end as shown and then set in a tray with the folded side down.
Keep a bowl of cool water nearby so you can dip your spoon in it if the masa dough gets too sticky and difficult.
Steaming Your Chorizo Tamales
To finish your homemade tamales, you will need to steam them. These are open little packets so you can’t put it into water and baking will dry them out. Your goal is moist tamales.
If this is your first time making tamales, you may not want to invest in a big tamale steamer. You can easily use a large stock pot or pasta pot.
Put water in the bottom of the pan then put one of these steamer baskets in the bottom. Stack up your tamales, with the opening facing up. Cover and begin cooking.
When you’re using a steamer basket, check your water level every 10 or 15 minutes and refill as necessary. Don’t pour the water directly on top. You’ll need to move the tamales out of the way and pour down the middle.
If you want, put marbles or a coin in the water. As long as they’re bouncing around in the bottom, you still have water. If they stop making noise, there’s no more water. when you remove the cover to check the tamales, try not to get any water from the lid directly on the tops of the tamales.
Thinking About a Tamale Steamer?
If you’re going to be doing this more than once, you may want to invest in a Tamale Steamer.
It’s really not very expensive and makes it a lot easier to steam the tamales without contantly worrying about the water level.
After about 50-60 minutes, check a tamale by pulling one out of the pan with tongs. Carefully remove the wrapper and check to see if it’s done. You can usually tell if the tamale rolls right out of the wrapper. Taste it to be certain. Repeat this step about every 15-20 minutes or so, as necessary.
After about 60-90 minutes of steaming, you will have your own fantastic batch of Homemade Chorizo Tamales.
How to Store Homemade Tamales
This recipe is going to make about 40-50 tamales. Leave them in the corn husks until you are ready to eat them. You can steam them then store in the refrigerator or freezer. Or, if you prefer, you can freeze them before steaming.
Tamales don’t last very long around here so I usually just refrigerate them and pull out three of them, heat them in the microwave, remove the from the wrapper and enjoy. I especially love them with this Top Secret Recipe Taco Sauce. It’s delicious!
More Tamales, Please!
I’m still working on more tamales. I had no idea that they were going to turn out to be my favorite thing!
- Homemade Pork Tamales
- Homemade Tamale Sauce with Red Chiles
- Homemade Green Tamale Sauce with Anaheims
- Chicken Green Chile Tamales
This recipe was featured in this roundup of 8 Favorite Recipes for Cinco de Mayo.
Chorizo and Ground Beef Tamales
- Stock Pot and Steamer Basket or Tamale Steamer
- 16 ounces Corn Husks, softened in water overnight
- 20 ounces Cacique Pork Chorizo
- 1 pound Ground Beef
- 1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 1 tablespoon Onion Powder
- 6 cups Masa Harina, like Maseca
- 2 tablespoons Baking Powder
- 1 tablespoon Salt
- 1 tablespoon Onion Powder
- 1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 1 tablespoon Ground Cumin
- 1 pound Lard
- ¾ cup Red Tamale Sauce, from linked recipe
- 6 cups Chicken Stock
Preparing Corn Husks
- Being careful not to rip the corn husks, wash with cool water and a brush to remove all debris and corn silks.
- Place in a large pan or dishpan or even in a clean sink. Fill with cool water to cover the husks. Place a large heavy dish or plate on top to ensure that the husks are all underwater. Leave them overnight.
Preparing Chorizo Filling
- In skillet on medium heat, cook chorizo. Remove to bowl and set aside.
- In same skillet on medium heat, cook ground beef. Remove and drain cooked ground beef. On cutting board, with knife or ulu, cut up cooked ground beef into smaller pieces. Remove to same bowl.
- Add remaining Chorizo Filling seasonings. Stir well and set aside.
Preparing Masa Dough
- Whisk together masa harina, baking powder and seasonings.
- Melt lard. You can melt it on the stovetop. I melted it in a glass measuring cup in the microwave for two minutes.
- Add lard and ¾ cup Tamale Sauce to masa harina mixture. Mix well. It will look like wet sand like you would use to make sand castles.
- Add one cup of stock at a time and mix well until you have FOUR CUPS stock in the masa. Let sit for about 20 minutes for the liquid to soak into the masa harina. You are looking for the consistency of hummus or cake batter. Continue adding stock about ¼ cup at a time, as necessary, to reach the right consistency for spreading easily.
Assembling the Tamales
- Separate and pat dry a few husks at a time. Inspect to ensure that you have the smooth side facing upwards. Turn it vertically and hold the skinnier end with your non-dominant hand. Spread about two tablespoons masa dough as shown in the photos above.
- Spread about one tablespoon of the filling in a line close to the top.
- Fold the husk vertically, edge to edge. With your dominant hand, push the top back a little with the filling and curl toward you to form a tube. Fold over the skinnier end and place in a tray with seam side down. Repeat until you run out of one of the ingredients (husks, masa or filling).
Steaming the Tamales
- In a large stockpot, place a steamer basket and fill with water up to the basket. Stack the tamales straight up in the stock pot with the fold at the bottom.
- Cover and heat to boiling then reduce heat to low to keep the water steaming through the tamales. Check the water level every 10-15 minutes when using a steamer basket since the water level is already low. You don't want the water to dry up. When replenishing water, move the tamales out of the way before pouring so you don't get extra water inside the tamales. When removing the lid to check the tamales, try not to tilt it since this might add water to the inside of the tamales.
- Cook for 60 to 90 minutes. After about 60 minutes, pull out one of the tamales and remove it from the husk to check for doneness. If it comes clean from the husk, it's done. If not, keep going for 15 minutes and try again. If still not quite done, you'll need 15 minutes more.
- Remove from heat. Serve immediately. Allow to cool completely before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. When storing, leave them in the husks.
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