Chicken Tamales

Total Time

Prep: 2-1/2 hours + soaking Cook: 45 min.


20 tamales

Updated: Jun. 30, 2023
I love making these homemade tamales. They take a little time to make but are so worth the effort. I usually make them for Christmas, but my family wants them more often, so I freeze a big batch. —Cindy Pruitt, Grove, Oklahoma


  • 24 dried corn husks
  • 1 broiler/fryer chicken (3 to 4 pounds), cut up
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 3 quarts water
  • DOUGH:
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 3 cups masa harina
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cans (2-1/4 ounces each) sliced ripe olives, drained
  • Hot water


  1. Cover corn husks with cold water; soak until softened, at least 2 hours.
  2. Place chicken, onion, salt and garlic in a 6-qt. stockpot. Pour in 3 qt. water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, until chicken is tender, 45-60 minutes. Remove chicken from broth. When cool enough to handle, remove bones and skin; discard. Shred chicken. Strain cooking juices; skim off fat. Reserve 6 cups stock.
  3. For dough, beat shortening until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in small amounts of masa harina alternately with small amounts of reserved stock, using no more than 2 cups stock. Drop a small amount of dough into a cup of cold water; dough should float. If not, continue beating, rechecking every 1-2 minutes.
  4. For filling, heat oil in a Dutch oven; stir in flour until blended. Cook and stir over medium heat until lightly browned, 7-9 minutes. Stir in seasonings, chicken and remaining stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 45 minutes.
  5. Drain corn husks and pat dry; tear 4 husks to make 20 strips for tying tamales. (To prevent husks from drying out, cover with a damp towel until ready to use.) On wide end of each remaining husk, spread 3 tablespoons dough to within 1/2 in. of side edges; top each with 2 tablespoons chicken filling and 2 teaspoons olives. Fold long sides of husk over filling, overlapping slightly. Fold over narrow end of husk; tie with a strip of husk to secure.
  6. Place a large steamer basket in the stockpot over water; place tamales upright in steamer. Bring to a boil; steam, covered, adding hot water as needed, until dough peels away from husk, about 45 minutes.
Test Kitchen Tips
  • Step-by-Step: How to Make Tamales»
  • If you’re looking for a beef filling, we like the brisket from this burrito recipe. It's prepared in a slow cooker and there may be some beef left over for another meal.
  • Look for dried corn husks and masa harina in the international foods aisle.
  • Nutrition Facts

    2 tamales: 564 calories, 35g fat (7g saturated fat), 44mg cholesterol, 835mg sodium, 43g carbohydrate (2g sugars, 7g fiber), 20g protein.