Christmas Tamale Recipe

Think of Christmas Tamales as little presents with a lot of little surprises. In addition to masa harina, the staple of any tamale, the ham and date adds a festive element. Along with the supporting roles of the red pepper and raisins, along with the tangy sauce, this tamale offers a contrasting between sour, sweet, and salty with a little spice.



  • 1 1/2 pound tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 guajillo chiles
  • 2 oz pumpkin seeds
  • 2 oz sesame
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup chicken stock

Tamale Filling

  • 3 cups masa harina
  • 3 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup lard
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 lb ham
  • 2 red bell pepper
  • Red vinegar
  • 12 green olives
  • 36 almonds
  • 36 capers
  • 12 dates, one for each tamale
  • 36 raisins

Banana leaves


  • Chop olives in half.
  • Chop ham in 1/2 in dice
  • Core and seed bell peppers. Slice peppers into long strips and soak in red vinegar for 15 minutes.
  • Peel garlic.
  • Toast chiles on open flame and then soak in boiling water.


  • Prepare Salsa
    • Set oven to broil and roast garlic and tomatoes until tomatoes are have black spots.
    • Meanwhile, toast seeds and pumpkin seeds until fragrant.
    • For salsa, puree roasted tomatoes, garlic, chiles (without liquid), and 1/2 cup of chicken broth. If too thick, add more broth.
    • Strain salsa through fine sieve.
  • Prepare masa
    • Bring stock to boil.
    • Add masa to boiling stock gradually, whisking constantly to get rid of lumps. Continue stirring for 10 minutes.
    • Add lard and salt and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir as needed to prevent lumps.
    • Take off heat.
  • Assembly
    • Cut banana leaves into 8 x 10 sheets.
    • Blanch banana leaves for 45 seconds each.
    • Place 1/4 cup masa one third of the length from the right and in the middle in terms of top and bottom.
    • Use hands to flatten masa and make into rectangle.
    • Add ham, olives, capers, and raisins, leaving an indention for the date. Distribute raisins and caper evenly for contrast.
    • Add strip of red pepper at bottom of masa.
    • Add date to masa.
    • Wrap tamale by folding 1/3 from the right. Then fold in sides from top and bottom. Finally fold last third from left.
    • Tie tamale using strips from spare banana leaves or using twine.
  • Steam
    • Bring pot of water to boil.
    • Add tamales to steaming tray and cover. Steam on low heat for 75 minutes.
    • Let tamales rest for 10 minutes and serve.

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