Tamales aren’t difficult, but they may seem intimidating if you’ve never made them before. Visit a Mexican grocery store or the ethnic section of your supermarket to find bags of dried corn husks and masa harina (a special cornmeal used for making tortillas) and start out with this small batch.

  • Yields: 12 tamales

Ingredients (8)

  • 4 ounces dried corn husks
  • 2 cups instant masa harina
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup nonhydrogenated shortening
  • About 1 1/8 cups warm “no-chicken” or vegetable broth, plus more as needed
  • 2 cups refried black beans (or use any canned vegan refried beans)
  • Salsa


  1. Start the dried corn husks soaking in a sink full of warm water about 15 minutes before you begin so they can soften (put a lid or plate over the husks to keep them submerged).
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the masa harina, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld beater or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the shortening until it is light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the masa to the shortening, alternating with the broth, until a light, nonsticky dough is formed. Use only as much broth as needed. Continue beating for 1 minute more.
  4. To shape the tamales, pat a large corn husk dry and lay it out with the tapered end facing you. Scoop out a 2-inch round ball of masa, and spread it into a 4-inch square in the middle of the husk about 3/4 of an inch down from the top of the husk.
  5. Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons of refried beans down the center of the masa dough. Pick up the sides of the corn husk and fold them in, closing up the refried beans in masa. Fold up the tapered section of the husk to form the sealed bottom of the tamale (the top remains open). Tie up the tamale loosely using kitchen twine or a strip of corn husk.
  6. Set all the tamales upright on their folded bottoms in a large steamer basket with a bit of room between them for the steam to circulate. Steam over boiling water for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tamale dough pulls away easily from the corn husk.
  7. Serve tamales with salsa for dipping.
  8. Tamales refrigerate and freeze well. Reheat by steaming them for a few minutes or popping them in the microwave.

From the book Vegan Lunch Box by Jennifer McCann. Reprinted by arrangement with Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2008.