Tamales Made with Chicken and Birria Sauce
Chicken Birria tamales are made with boneless chicken breast and birria sauce made from dried chiles and a hint of cinnamon. So good.
Chicken Birria Tamales
Chicken birria tamales are a twist on the normal, run of the mill tamales. The rich sauce is made from dried chilis that have been roasted, reconstituted and ground into perfection. This is an awesome chicken tamale recipe.
Soak the Corn Husks
Dried corn husks are available at most markets. It will seem like you are buying a lifetime supply of corn husks. That's OK because you will only use about 80% of them. The other 20% will be defective and unusable. Some will be way to small to use, others will be stained with something that likes black spray paint. Throw all of those away.
Pick through the corn husks and find the biggest and cleanest ones. Soak them in cold water for 30 minutes to soften. This step help prevent tearing when you roll up the tamales. Be aware that dried corn husks will float. So you will have to weigh them down with something heavy like a dinner plate or perhaps a ceramic bowl.
Make the Masa Dough
Let's talk about lard for a moment. Many people are reluctant to cook with lard. In tamales, the lard actually creates little spaces between the ground masa flour that melts and drain away during the steaming process leaving fluffy masa. There is actually very little lard remaining in the final tamales. So don't be afraid of lard and give it try. This is an authentic way to make the masa dough so generations of tamale makers can't be wrong. I have tried making tamales with shortening instead of lard and, in my humble opinion, they are not nearly as good as the tamales made with lard. The reason may have something to do with the fact that shortening has a higher melt point than lard, That means more shortening stays in the tamales. Stick with the lard.
In a large bowl, add salt to the masa flour and stir. Then add the water and stir to combine. Finally, add the lard to a stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, mix at medium speed for 5 minutes. The lard should be light and fluffy. Add the masa flour mixture to the lard and mix at medium speed until well blended, about 5 minutes. You are now ready to make some tamales.
Make the Tamales
Let's start by saying this step is a ton of fun for kids. They love to get their hands dirty. You did put a drain in the middle of your kitchen floor, didn't you?
Overlap two corn husks. Spread ⅓ cup of masa on the corn husks into a rectangle, about 4" by 6". Just get it close, making tamales are not about being exact. Making tamales is about being hungry.
Spread the masa to the edge of the wide end but only to within about 2" of the narrow end.
Gently fold both long edges together. Fold the narrow end without masa up and roll the tamale to finish.
Set Up the Steamer
Add about an inch of water to the bottom of the steamer. Place the tamales in a steamer basket on end, with the folded end down. Cover and steam the tamales for 35 minutes. Make sure that you have a good seal. IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: Place a dime in the bottom of the steamer. It will rattle as the water boils. Add water if the rattle stops because it means you are about to burn the tamales.
Want Something to Go With Those Poblano Pepper & Cheese Tamales?
- Chicken Birria Tamales
- Smoked Charro Beans
- Carnitas Tacos
- Pork Belly Tacos
- Carnitas Empanadas
- Fire Roasted Salsa
- Kicked Up Refried Beans
Watch How to Make Chicken Birria Tamales on YouTube
Chicken Birria Tamales
- 3 cups masa flour for tamales
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup lard
- 1 tbs kosher salt
- 36 corn husks
Chicken Birria Mixture
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- ½ yellow onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 8 guajillo chiles dried, stemmed and seeded
- 12 chiles de árbol dried, stemmed and seeded
- 3 bay leaves
- ¼ cinnamon stick
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 4 cloves whole
- 4 allspice berries whole
- 2 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 28 oz canned diced tomatoes with juices
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- In a large bowl, add salt to the masa flour and stir. Add the water and stir to combine. Add the lard to a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix at medium speed for 5 minutes. The lard should be light and fluffy. Add the masa flour mixture to the lard and mix at medium speed until well blended, about 5 minutes.
- Soak corn husks in water for 30 minutes to soften. Cut the chicken breast into 2 inch pieces. Add to a pot of boiling water along with the onion, garlic and bay leaves. Cook until done, about 40 minutes.
- Add the dried chiles to a bowl and cover with hot water. Let the chiles soak for 30 minutes. Drain the chiles and discard the soaking liquid. Add all dried spices to a cast iron skillet. Gently toast the spices over low heat until they start to develop a little color, about 9 - 10 minutes.
- Transfer the soaked chiles and toasted spices to a blender. Add the tomatoes and vinegar and blend until smooth, about 6 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a small sauce pot and bring to a boil. Lower the temperature and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Shred the chicken into small pieces. Add enough sauce to moisten the chicken. Keep remaining sauce to serve with the finished tamales.
- Overlap two corn husks. Spread ⅓ cup of masa on the corn husks into a rectangle, about 4" by 6". Spread to the edge of the wide end but only to within about 2" of the narrow end.
- Add ¼ cup of the chicken mixture to the center of the masa. Gently fold both long edges together. Fold the narrow end without masa up and roll the tamale to finish.
- Place the tamales in a steamer basket on end, with the folded end down. Cover and steam for 35 minutes. Hint: Place a dime in the bottom of the steamer. It will rattle as the water boils. Add water if the rattle stops.