Tamales – with your crockpot’s help!

Every year for Christmas Eve dinner, I make homemade tamales – and I have done so for many years.  It took me quite some time to come up with that ‘perfect’ recipe.  I made different recipes I found in cookbooks & online, and even though they were quite good, they just weren’t the one.

These, however….this little gems are by far the one.  The best recipes come from trial & error – and baby, I had many errors before these came about. From a dry tamale to a tamale that the masa wasn’t cooked through on – heck, I’ve even ran people out of my house with tears pouring down their face with the bright idea of boiling dried peppers to add to the mix.  

My apologies to that poor cable man.

Now, these do take some work – but they make a lot, and once you taste them you will know that the time and effort that goes into these is well worth it.  If you have leftovers, please send them to me they freeze beautifully.  Making the meat in the crockpot takes away a lot of that work though. 

 Gotta love the slow cooker! 

Chicken Tamales – Just swap out the beef for chicken & use chicken broth

I like to make the meat the day before I assemble the tamales.  You can sub out the beef for chicken too.  The meat is SO GOOD, and it is great used in a variety of Mexican recipes – like tacos & enchiladas.  Don’t just limit the meat recipe to these tamales.  I don’t.

Tamales - with your crockpot's help!
For the The Meat Filling:
  • 1 (4 pound) beef chuck roast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 (7oz) cans diced green chiles
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 (5oz) bottles hot sauce (I like Franks)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • *water & 1 beef bouillon cube
For the Masa Dough:
  • 3 cups lard (or vegetable shortening, although it won't be as moist)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 9 cups masa harina
  • 5 cups beef broth
For the wrapping:
  • 3 (8oz) packages corn husks
  1. Salt & pepper the chuck roast on each side. Heat the olive oil in a skillet, and brown the roast on each side. Place the roast in a slowcooker & top with the onion, green chiles, chili powder, garlic powder, & hot sauce. Pour in enough water to cover ⅓ of the roast & toss in the beef bouillon cube.
  2. Cover & cook on high for 6 hours, checking to be sure there is always at least a small amount of liquid in the bottom. Reduce heat to low & continue cooking for another 2 hours.
  3. Shred the meat, and let it cool. Taste it, and add more hot sauce if you want it spicier. I like mine plenty spicy. I refrigerate mine overnight & assemble the tamales the next day.
  4. Soak the corn husks in a large container full of warm water & allow to soak for 3 hours.
  5. Now, for the masa. Place the lard & salt in a large mixing bowl & beat on high speed until fluffy. Add masa harina & beat at a low speed until combined. Pour in beef broth a little at a time while mixing until the masa is the consistency of soft cookie dough.
  6. Drain water from husks. One at a time, flatten out each husk, with the narrow end facing you, and spread about 2 tablespoons of prepared masa mixture onto the top ⅔ of the husk. Spread about 2 tablespoons of meat mixture down the middle of the masa. Roll up the corn husk starting at one of the long sides. Fold the narrow end of the husk onto the rolled tamale & tied with a piece of cooking twice or a small strip of corn husk.
  7. Place tamales in a steamer basket in a stockpot. Steam over boiling water for 1 hour, or until masa is firm & holds it shape.
  8. Make sure the pot doesn't run out of water!

Make sure the pot doesn’t run out of water!  



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  • MiracleMakin’Mommy

    I haven’t made tamales in ages, but I think I will try this recipe and make a big batch soon. Anyway, the recipe I use has some of the spicy cooking liquid from the meat mixed into the masa. Have you tried that with this recipe?

    • I have, and it works great that way too!

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  • JenC

    Sounds yummy! I’ve never attempted to make them, but your recipe sounds doable. Thanks!

    • Nik

      I have 2 packages of corn husks and I am one short…about 72

  • Michelle

    uummm…I hate to tell you, but these are NOT authentic. I’m from New Mexico and we know authentic! Authentic tamales contain red chile (fr Hatch, NM).

    • Nora

      I agree, authentic tamales are made with pork roast, cumin, garlic cloves, black pepper, red Chile and the the broth that you use to boil the pork roast you use it in the masa, my 84 year old mother who was born in Mexico taught me how to make them, we make them every year for Christmas.

      • so how do you make yours??

      • Richard

        Again, pork is great, if making pork tamales. Beef is great for beef tamales, and chicken is great for… well, I hope you get the idea. I’ve had all three in the homes of Mexicans. In addition, a chunk of jalapeno and cheese makes a nice filling, as well as hardboiled egg with veggies, and dessert tamales made with shortening, brown sugar broth, and raisins in the masa (a lady from Sinaloa made the last two-excellent!). Mexico is a big country with lots of variety.

      • Kay

        Hi Nora going to try these tonight..I was curious how many about will the recipient make? Please and thank you. And Happy New Year.

    • Denise

      Ummmmmm …. I hate to tell you, but NEW Mexico is anything but authentic.

    • Melody

      hmmm, lets get on a cooking blog where someone is trying to show you a nice recipe, and bash them b/c they’re not ‘authentic.’ Snob

    • Sonia

      I’m from NM as well, born and raised. We can be very snobby when it comes to our food, lol! However, all my tias make their tamales different, from pork to vegetarian, chile rojo to chile verde. I’ve even heard of them being made with fruit filling! My favorite are my abuelita’s — pork and chile rojo. There are good recipes everywhere online, to suit anyone’s taste. If you’re going to use chile, though, definitely invest in some from Hatch that isn’t canned! 🙂

    • Nik

      My grandmother gonzales didn’t have any chili in her’s. The is authentic you add your own spice!

    • Boofrickinhoo

      Lol!!! NM, authentic?! Bahahahahahaaaaaa!!!! That is all! I’m going to try this recipe and LOVE it! 😛

    • Richard

      Authentic in NM? I’ve eaten many tamales in the cocinas of actual Mexicans, and the one thing that holds true is that they are all different. Just because someone taught you to use a particular chile doesn’t mean that it’s the only way. Frankly, I would have no hesitation using green chiles, anaheims, poblanos, or any other chile (consideration taken for desired level of heat!).

    • stella

      This recipe sounds GREAT and like Christa, I can’t wait to make them! Ummmm…I really hate to tell you, Michelle, this is Crystal’s recipe which makes it authentic! Richard is right! Mexico, the authentic Mexico not New Mexico, is big country with a wide variety of foods.

    • Valkyrie Ziege

      ; Except for the corn, corn-husks, and chilies, the rest of the ingredients come from the Old World. So much for ‘auténtico’. Basically, the meat came from chihuahuas, or hamsters.
      The More You Know!

    • Aaron

      Thanks for the recipe! Can’t wait to try it.
      As to the “authenticity” comments, they were particularly inane since the author clearly said this is her own recipe which she developed. It is “authentically” hers. 😉

  • Christa

    These sound great! Can’t wait to make them! And to the girls below, authentic is authentic to whoever is making them. Everybody has their own favorite recipe. Do you really need to post that?

  • Janis

    I’ve looked and looked on this recipe but I’m not seeing anything that tells how many tamales this recipe makes. Could someone give me an idea of how many this makes?

    • About 5 dozen tamales, depending on how thick you stuff them.

      • Janis

        Thanks, Crystal. Can hardly wait to make them!

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  • Kathleen Truluck

    Thanks for sharing your perfected recipe. Our family is making tamales together for Christmas. I have been searching for a recipe and this looks so good. And I love that I can make the meat the day before in the crock pot!!

  • Tani

    Thank you for the easy to follow steps. Cannot wait to make them.i have not had tamales since I left Chicago.

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  • Krystal

    How many tamales does this make?

  • Thank you for this wonderful post! I am going to try and use pork this time. It has been a goal of my to make Tamales for years and I wish I had my grandmother watching my back (I miss you Grandma Gonzales). I want to rock my family reunion in July (outside San Antonio) with your inspirational backing. Thank you!

  • Allyson

    Can u freeze the extras?

  • Melissa

    Wow, these were hot! And I only used one bottle of hot sauce!

  • rach.tills

    Thank you thank you! Ihave been searching for a crock pot recipe for tamales. I m currently staioned in Germany and do not have access to the mom and pop mexican shops we have in the states. I cant wait to make these this week!

  • Sanchez

    Truth is: EVERY COOK has their own technique for making “authentic” Mexican dishes, including tamales. But I MUST state my firm belief that NO tamales, be they beef, pork, chicken, red, green, sweet, etc. can be considered “authentic” unless each one contains ONE whole black olive!

  • Lawren

    Just wondering… if you’re going to make chicken tamales… how many boneless, skinless chicken breasts would you need? Also, how would you cook it? Chop it up before or leave them whole and then shred them? I love chicken tamales 🙂

  • Jacquline Brault

    Can you use a nestco as a steamer?

  • Laly

    I agree, —-May not be Authentic– comparing to the Mexican natives recipe, and that also depends, South or North Mexico…….Regardless I like the recipe, its deli.

  • janice

    can i use pork roast instead

    • Sure! I’ve used chicken, pork, & beef for this!

  • Susan

    The recipe header says you can do these in the crock pot. Yet in the directions it calls for a stockpot. Can these be done in the crock pot? If so could you let me know how long they need to steam?

    • Yes, these are done with a crockpot – but can also be used in a crockpot. Please feel free to do it either way!

  • MssKnowItAll

    Sorry to troll here but dough means masa in spanish

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  • linda

    Are you guys kidding me??? We have this great site and you would rather argue about which is authentic or not?? Give me a break you big bunch of ungrateful babies!!! Get cookin’ and be quiet!!!

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