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Chicken Tamales Recipe

Chicken Tamales Recipe

I love making tamales. They’re fairly time-consuming but worth the effort. I usually make them for Christmas, but my family demands them more often, so I freeze a big batch. —Cindy Pruitt, Grove, Oklahoma
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 2-1/2 hours + soaking Cook: 50 min. YIELD:10 servings


  • 24 dried corn husks
  • 1 broiler/fryer chicken (3 to 4 pounds), cut up
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 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


  • 1. Place corn husks in a large bowl; cover with cold water and soak until softened, at least 2 hours.
  • 2. Place chicken, water, onion, salt and garlic in a 6-qt. stockpot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, until chicken is tender, 45-60 minutes. Remove chicken from broth; cool slightly. Remove bones and skin; shred chicken. Strain and skim fat from stock; reserve 6 cups stock for dough and filling.
  • 3. For dough, in a large bowl, beat shortening until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. In small amounts, beat in masa harina alternately with 2 cups stock. Drop a small amount of dough into a cup of cold water; dough should float to the top. If dough does not float, continue beating until it becomes light enough to float.
  • 4. In a Dutch oven, heat oil; stir in flour until blended. Cook and stir over medium heat until lightly browned, 7-9 minutes. Stir in seasonings, chicken and 4 cups stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • 5. Drain corn husks; tear four of the husks to make 20 strips for tying tamales. On the wide end of each remaining husk, spread 3 tablespoons dough to within 1/2 in. of side edges; top each with 2 tablespoons chicken mixture 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 a 6-qt. stockpot over 1 in. of water; place tamales upright in steamer. Bring to a boil; steam, covered, until dough peels away from husk, about 45 minutes, adding additional hot water to pot as needed. Yield: 20 tamales.

Recipe Note

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.
  • Nutritional Facts

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

    Reviews for Chicken Tamales

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    Dany User ID: 9164366 265770
    Reviewed 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 User ID: 221828 264595
    Reviewed 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 User ID: 7632177 149153
    Reviewed 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 User ID: 7560964 149144
    Reviewed 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 User ID: 45352 193968
    Reviewed 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 User ID: 2609242 190453
    Reviewed 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."

    squirrelwidow User ID: 700520 177096
    Reviewed Jan. 11, 2011

    "My family absolutely love these. It was my first attempt at making them. The recipe was so easy to follow. I only had a 1/4 cup of chili powder and added taco seasoning to it. If I do that again I will omit all salt in the recipe. Other than that I would definitely recommend this recipe to others. Talked to a friend after I made them, and she wants the recipe, too."

    char3bc User ID: 1038035 131525
    Reviewed Jan. 7, 2011 Edited Apr. 3, 2017

    "Where could a person get corn husks in the off season?? Do you actually eat the corn husk?? I love mexican foods, but this is somthing I have never seen or tasted before."

    jillneal User ID: 1160782 177134
    Reviewed Jan. 7, 2011

    "These were really good. I added 1/4 c. chili powder instead of the 3/4 c. suggested and they turned out perfectly. I'd shudder to think what 3/4 c. would taste like."

    daisy designer User ID: 5729645 115670
    Reviewed Jan. 6, 2011 Edited Apr. 3, 2017

    "I love this recipe! I made these for New Years Day and they were a hit. It was the first time I had made tamales...I thought it would be dificult and it was so simple that we were even able to finish in the dark after the power went out! I'm definately making these again."

    esh2 User ID: 3732671 131524
    Reviewed Jan. 1, 2011 Edited Apr. 3, 2017

    "This are a lot of work ,but are so good. You do need some salt in the dough.maybe 1 t,"

    jillneal User ID: 1160782 124045
    Reviewed Dec. 21, 2010

    "has anyone made this with 3/4 c. chili powder? i'm making these for Christmas eve and i'm thinking this must be incorrect!"

    WDWdreamer30 User ID: 3389792 115669
    Reviewed Nov. 27, 2010

    "I tried making these-not had too much luck in the past with tamales. These are awesome! My husband doesn't usually like tamales but he was singing his praises with these! I only difference I did was only put in 1/4 c. of chili powder - I wondered if the amount was correct like the person posted before me. I think it was just enough chili powder. I am hooked and will be making these for the rest of my relatives!"

    Trinatella User ID: 2976435 177094
    Reviewed Nov. 23, 2010

    "3/4 cup of chili powder?"

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