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Chicken Tamales

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
  • Total Time
    Prep: 2-1/2 hours + soaking Cook: 50 min.
  • Makes
    20 tamales


  • 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


  • Cover corn husks with cold water; soak until softened, at least 2 hours.
  • 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 fat. Reserve 6 cups stock.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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    • okwinddancer
      Nov 12, 2018

      In reply to Dana, If you have steamed the tamales, you need to let them cool and place them in freezer bags. Don't over pack them. I usually pack them in 1 row so they will lay flat. If you have not steamed them, just place them in freezer bags and when ready to steam, remove them from the bags and place in the steamer. It will take a bit longer to steam from the frozen state. You can let them thaw first if you wish. Hope this helps!

    • Dana
      Jun 24, 2018

      I haven't tried this yet but I have a question. How do you freeze them? I guess my question is do wrap them in the corn husk or just freeze the stuffing?

    • maryannet
      Dec 17, 2017

      I got brave enough to try this recipe because the directions in Taste of Home Magazine were easy to follow. I adjusted the spices to my taste. With easy to follow directions you can add to your family traditions.

    • I_Fortuna
      Oct 12, 2017

      For char3bc : You do not eat the husk. Use the husk to wrap the tamale in so the tamale will stay together. You can buy dried corn husks at the market or Online. You merely soak them so they are pliable, then prepare by smearing the corn husk with a layer of masa then put in a filling and wrap, and steam.Traditionally, we use pork roast, pull the pork and add cumin, oregano, and chili powder. Make sure you use some of the gravy from the roast otherwise your tamales will be dry. Put a lot of filling in for the best tamales.

    • Dany
      May 9, 2017

      Use ALL the 3/4 cup chili powder for flavor. It's not a typo. I followed the advice of a few and put in only 1/4 cup. Next time, I'll do it right

    • cindiak
      Apr 12, 2017

      I only used 1/4 cup chili powder and it was perfect. I also made a batch with shredded beef and everyone loved them.

    • digestable
      Feb 22, 2014

      Hi, I had made this recipe with the chicken. It was really good!. Everyone loved them!:-). I just think that I took way to long in the kitchen trying to figure it out. I think that the time this recipe takes should be adjusted for more than it posted. But I really am grateful for this wonderful recipe. Thanks you for posting this. God bless you:-)oh by the way, the dough is the tricky part. Even though it floated, it was still not ready. So I am going to do this again soon. I will let you know how everything goes. Thanks

    • michi007
      Dec 27, 2013

      I add the broth from the chicken I cooked to the masa and add butter instead of lard this adds wonderful flavor! Also add a some cumin to your chicken para sabor delicioso. Another tip...I have a Ninja food processor...this is awesome for shredding your pork or chicken...use the dough blade!

    • SusanneM
      Jun 15, 2013

      These are absolutely wonderful and I will definitely be making them again. I did cut the chili powder back to just under 1/4 cup for us, and added a couple teaspoons salt to the dough. So good, can't wait to have them again. Thanks for sharing!

    • kristinscotth
      Apr 20, 2013

      Let me start off by saying I did not make actual tamales. I just made the chicken filling. I did not get a broiler chicken; I just used 3 chicken breasts, and boiled it with the onion and garlic like the recipe indicated, and I probably used half the water. All the other reviews made me nervous to put in all the chili powder, so I only put in 1/4 cup. I thought it was a good amount of flavor. We put the chicken filling in homemade flour tortillas instead of making tamales. SO, this is 5 stars for the chicken filling. I will make this again.