Piquant Tamales

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Editor's Note: These Piquant Tamales are bursting with spicy, savory flavor - it's no wonder that homemade tamales are one of the most sought after Mexican recipes among those who love cooking. Jalapeno peppers give this tasty tamale recipe a bit of a kick, while vegetables such as eggplant and zucchini bring a unique new element that you don't always see in traditional tamale recipes. While tamales often contain meat such as chicken or pork, this happens to be an entirely vegetarian recipe (although it is not vegan.)

Cooking MethodSauteeing, Steaming


Total Timehalf-day

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe CourseMain Course, Side Dish


Five Ingredients or LessYes


MoodAdventurous, Festive

Taste and TextureHot & Spicy, Savory


  • ½ pound dried corn husks
  • ½ small finely diced eggplant
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ cup finely diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup finely diced zucchini
  • ½ cup peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced green chile or jalapeno peppers
  • 1 teaspoon cornmeal
  • ¼ cup lard
  • 3 cups blue corn masa harina
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt


  1. The corn husks: Submerge the husks in a pan of warm water for 2 to 3 hours.

  2. Vegetable filling: In a bowl, combine the eggplant and salt and let stand for 20 minutes.

  3. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat and sauté the onions and garlic until wilted. Squeeze the moisture from the eggplant and add the onion mixture. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, and chile peppers and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in the corn meal and set aside to cool.

  4. Masa mixture: In a mixing bowl, beat the lard with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until soft and light. Add the masa harina and salt and mix thoroughly. Add enough water to make the mixture spreadable but firm. The amount of water will depend on the coarseness of the masa.

  5. Assemble the tamales: Drain the corn husks. Using 3 or 4 of the split husks, pull off ¼-inch strips going with the grain of the husks to tie the tamales, reserve. With scissors, cut off 1 inch of the pointed smaller end of the husk and discard.

  6. Place the husks on a flat working surface; there will be about 1½ dozen. Place a rounded teaspoon of the masa mixture in the center of the husk and spread it out about 1/8-inch thick. Spoon 1 teaspoon of the vegetable mixture into the center of the masa mixture. Carefully wrap the husks around the masa and filling, pulling the sides around first and folding the top and bottom of the husks toward the center of the tamale to make a neat package. Tie each tamale closed with a corn husk strip.

  7. In a steamer, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Cover the base of the steamer container with a layer of the remaining corn husks, and set the tamales over the husks. Cover and steam for 45 minutes, or until the masa mixture pulls away form the tusks of the tamale.

  8. To check for doneness, open one of the tamales. If not completely cooked, re-tie and continue steaming for another 5 minutes.


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Editor, recipes containing lard are neither vegan nor vegetarian!

Hi Pollyanna! Good catch - it looks like these were accidentally tagged as "vegetarian" instead of "vegetable." We'll correct that right away. Thanks so much for reading!


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