How to Fold Tamales

Learn how to fold tamales and make the most delicious homemade tamales. This easy to follow guide will show you a very easy and the best way to fold tamales.

How to Fold Tamales
How to Fold Tamales

What Are Tamales: A Quick Rundown

Tamales are a traditional dish from Mexico made with fresh masa or masa harina which is a corn-based flour. It’s whipped with a fat, broth, salt and baking powder to create a creamy masa flour.

Sometimes the dough also has red chile sauce added to it. These are common of Northern Mexican style tamales.

Corn husks are hydrated and the masa dough is then spread on the corn husks, then it’s filled with variety of fillings. It can be traditional meat-based ones like chicken tamales, pork or beef,

There are also lots of authentic tamales stuffed with vegan and vegetarian fillings, for example like the rajas ones and yes there’s even ones with refried beans added to them!

But it’s not just savory fillings, there are lots of traditional tamale recipes with fillings to make sweet tamales. One of my favorites are the pineapple ones, so delicious!

Once the tamales have been filled, and wrapped they are ready placed in a large pot called a tamalera. The pot has warm water added to it then extra corn husks are placed on the steamer rack and the wrapped tamales are placed on it and steamed.

If a tamalera isn’t available then a large pot with a vegetable steamer basket, or an instant pot can be used for steaming the tamales

I really think you all should try making homemade tamales…even if at least once. It’s not difficult, it just needs some time dedicated to it. But trust me amigos all the effort is very much worth for this traditional Mexican dish!

Before You Begin

Before you begin with this step make sure to read through the other steps in my tamales making series.

How to Fold Tamales

Once you’ve soaked corn husks, made the fillings, made the masa dough and it’s passed the float test then you can spread the masa on the corn husks.

Next comes adding the filling and folding the tamales so you can get them ready for steaming.

This procedure is the same whether you’re using sweet or savory fillings for your homemade tamales.

But please notice these instructions are for corn husk tamales, ones made with banana leaves are folded differently.

How to Spread Masa on Corn Husks for Tamales
How to Spread Masa on Corn Husks for Tamales

Begin with a corn husk that has had the masa spread on it.

Tamale filled With "Chicken" Salsa Verde
Tamale filled With “Chicken” Salsa Verde

Add a small amount of the filling, about a couple of tablespoons should do, and place it in the center of the masa.

The exact amount of the filling will depend on the size of the corn husk. Large wider ones you’ll be able to add more and of course, more narrow ones will require less filling.

A common mistake is to add too much filling to the center of the dough.

For best results, don’t over stuff the tamales. Notice in the photo below that I didn’t add the filling all the way to edge nor the top or bottom sides of the masa.

Tamale Ready to Wrap
Tamale Ready to Wrap

Now you’re going to use both of your hands and grab either sides of the filled tamal.

How to Wrap Tamales
How to Wrap Tamales

Grab the right side of the corn husk and fold toward the center.

Wrapping a Tamale
Wrapping a Tamale

Now you’re going to repeat for the left side by grabbing that part of the corn husk and bringing it to the center of the tamal. It should overlap the bottom or right side previously folded in.

How to Fold Tamales
How to Fold Tamales

Use your fingers to smooth out the folded or sealed tamale and if you need to wrap the excess corn husk around the side.

How to Fold and Tuck Tamales
How to Fold and Tuck Tamales

Next grab and fold up the narrow end or bottom of the tamal up towards the wide end or top of the husks. Be careful and try not to squeeze it too hard so that neither the tamale dough or filling spill out.

That’s it, your tamal is folded and ready to be stacked in the tamalera or tamale steamer, steamer pot or the pressure cooker for cooking.

If you want to add an extra touch keep reading.

Pro Tip

The best tip I can give you when making tamales is to get some help — specially if you’re making a lot of them. You can have a tamalada or tamale making party.

Be it if you’re getting help or going it alone, the best pro tip I can give you is to create a sort of assembly line. Assign everyone to a specific tasks or if it’s just you, have everything in a work station setup to make the work flow faster.

How to Wrap bow around corn husk tamales.
Folded Tamal

How to Wrap Tamales

Some people like to go the extra mile and create elaborate wrappings for the tamales.

There are a few different ways to wrap the tamales, some are more decorative than others. The more decorative ones can be just to make them look pretty or to help you distinguish one tamale flavor from another.

Perhaps the most common way is to simply fold them and leave them as is. This is also the easiest way to fold tamales.

If this is your first time making tamales then I suggest you leave them like this. No need to complicate things and add an extra step.

As you can see in the photo above, I’ve wrapped a small bow around the folded tamale. This is one by taking a thin strip of hydrated corn husk and wrapping it around.

It can be tricky if you have medium to large tamales. The reason is that if the strips aren’t long enough they can rip easily when tying the bow.

Some people will use different color threads or kitchen twine to easily be able to tell the tamales apart. You can dedicate one specific color to a particular filling, this is specially helpful if making lots of different flavors of tamales. But it’s all completely optional too.

How to Wrap Tamales
Step-by-Step Filling and Folding Tamales

More Tamales Making Tips

Make sure you read through all of the helpful tamales making tips in my series. If I haven’t answered one of your questions don’t hesitate to reach out.

How to Wrap Tamales

How To Spread Masa for Tamales

Nancy Lopez & MexicanMadeMeatless.com
Learn how to fold tamales and make the most delicious homemade tamales. This easy to follow guide will show you a very easy and the best way to fold tamales.
5 from 1 vote
Save Recipe Pin Recipe Leave a Review
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 25 servings
Calories 145 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 25 corn husks hydrated
  • 1 batch masa for tamales
  • filling of your choice

Instructions
 

  • Begin with a corn husk that has had the masa spread on it.
    How to Spread Masa on Corn Husks for Tamales
  • Add a small amount of the filling, about a couple of tablespoons should do, and place it in the center of the masa. The exact amount of the filling will depend on the size of the corn husk.
    Tamale filled With "Chicken" Salsa Verde
  • Now you’re going to use both of your hands and grab either sides of the filled tamal.
    Tamale Ready to Wrap
  • Grab the right side of the corn husk and fold toward the center.
    How to Wrap Tamales
  • Now you’re going to repeat for the left side by grabbing that part of the corn husk and bringing it to the center of the tamal. It should overlap the bottom or right side previously folded in.
    Wrapping a Tamale
  • Use your fingers to smooth out the folded or sealed tamale and if you need to wrap the excess corn husk around the side.
    How to Fold Tamales
  • Next grab and fold up the narrow end or bottom of the tamal up towards the wide end or top of the husks. Be careful and try not to squeeze it too hard so that neither the tamale dough or filling spill out.
    How to Fold and Tuck Tamales
  • That’s it, your tamal is folded and ready to be stacked in the tamalera or tamale steamer, steamer pot or the pressure cooker for cooking.
    How to Fold and Tuck Tamales

Video

Notes

*You can get my masa for tamales recipe here, https://mexicanmademeatless.com/masa-for-tamales-no-lard-recipe
**To learn how to properly hydrate corn husks for tamales read the article here,
***PLEASE NOTICE that the calories are not correct because the filling is not included, it’s just the my masa recipe. 

Nutrition

Serving: 25servingsCalories: 145kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 2gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 158mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 43IUCalcium: 37mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Leave me a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review and tag me on social media @MexicanMadeMeatless or tag #mexicamademeatless!
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