Chicken Birria Tamales

Rating: 4.00
(1)
By Dave
June 19, 2021

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.

Masa Flour, Lard and Water
Masa Flour, Lard and Water

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 1/3 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.

Overlap the Corn Husks and Add a Scoop of Masa
Overlap the Corn Husks and Add a Scoop of Masa

Spread the masa to the edge of the wide end but only to within about 2″ of the narrow end.

Spread Out the Masa
Spread Out the Masa

Gently fold both long edges together. Fold the narrow end without masa up and roll the tamale to finish.

Roll it Up and Fold in the End
Roll it Up and Fold in the End

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.

Tamales

Want Something to Go With Those Poblano Pepper & Cheese Tamales?

Watch How to Make Chicken Birria Tamales on YouTube

Tamales

Chicken Birria Tamales

4 from 1 vote
Chicken Birria tamales are made with boneless chicken breast and birria sauce made from dried chiles and a hint of cinnamon.
Servings 12 servings
Prep Time 2 hrs 45 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 20 mins

Equipment

  • Steamer

Ingredients
  

Masa Dough

  • 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
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 8 guajillo chiles dried, stemmed and seeded
  • 12 chiles de árbol dried, stemmed and seeded
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 cloves whole
  • 4 allspice berries whole
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 28 oz canned diced tomatoes with juices
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar

Instructions
 

  • 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.
    Masa Flour, Lard and Water
  • 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.
    Boil the Chicken in Hot Water With Onions and Bay Leaves
  • 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.
    Add the Toasted Cinnamon Stick and Spices to the Blender
  • 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.
    Add the Toasted Cinnamon Stick and Spices to the Blender
  • Shred the chicken into small pieces. Add enough sauce to moisten the chicken. Keep remaining sauce to serve with the finished tamales.
    Add Birria Sauce to the Chopped Chicken
  • Overlap two corn husks. Spread 1/3 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.
    Spread Out the Masa
  • Add 1/4 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.
    Using the Corn Husk, Fold the Tamale to Seal
  • 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.
    Tamales

Video

Notes

PAID AFFILIATE LINKS
 
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Nutrition

Calories: 204kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 11gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 762mgPotassium: 461mgFiber: 5gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 3021IUVitamin C: 39mgCalcium: 242mgIron: 4mg
Calories: 204kcal
Cost: $14
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: tamales

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