There are a lot of ways to make tamales. Most are terrific, but sometimes you just want something a bit lighter that won't make you feel like you ate too much. Welcome to Poblano Pepper and Cheese Tamales. While these tamales have no meat inside, they are very light and very deliciouis.
Wrapped in corn husks and steamed to perfection, tamales have been an important part of Mexican culture for centuries. This recipe invites you to experience the art of tamale making with a lighter, Tex-Mex twist that's both comforting and flavorful.
Dive into the heart of Tex-Mex cuisine with a recipe that shows off the vibrant flavors of poblano peppers mixed with the gooey goodness of melted cheese in these Poblano Pepper and Cheese Tamales.
This recipe pays tribute to the traditions of Mexican cooking, bringing a burst of flavor and warmth to your dining table.
While tamales are terrific all year round, they are a Christmas Eve tradition in many homes.
- Masa Dough
- Masa harina
- Kosher salt
- Poblano Cheese Mixture
- Poblano peppers
- Jack cheese
- Dried corn husks
See recipe card for quantities.
Soak the Corn Husks
Dried corn husks are available at most markets. They typically come in a bag and it will seem like you are buying a lifetime supply of them. That's OK because you will use about 80% of them. The other 20% will be defective and unusable. Some will be too small to use, others will be stained with something that looks 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 helps prevent tearing when you roll up the tamales. Be aware that dried corn husks will float. 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 when it melts and drains away during the steaming process leaving fluffy masa. There is actually very little lard remaining in the final tamales. 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 melting point than lard. That means more shortening stays in the tamales. Stick with the lard.
In a large bowl, add salt to the masa harina and stir. Then add the water and stir to combine and set aside. Next, place the lard in the bowl of a stand and whip at medium speed for five minutes using the paddle attachment. 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.
Soak the corn husks in water for 30 minutes.
Whip the lard using a paddle attachment for 5 minutes before adding the masa flour mixture.
Roast the Poblano Peppers
Roast the poblano peppers on a grill until blackened on all sides. Remove the peppers and place them in a paper bag. Close the bag and allow the peppers to rest for 10 minutes. This will allow the tough outer skin to soften and make it easy to rinse away under running water. Don't ever put hot peppers in a plastic bag. I did that once and ruined them all because the bag melted and fused to my gorgeous peppers. Ugh.
After 10 minutes, remove the peppers and rinse them under running water. Gently remove all of the charred skin. Stem and seed the peppers and slice them into ⅛" slices.
Char the poblano peppers on a hot grill.
Make sure as much green area is charred as possible. This will make peeling the skin off easier. Place the charred peppers in a paper bag to rest for 10 minutes.
Stem and seed the peppers.
Cut the poblano peppers into ⅛" strips.
Make the Tamales
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.
Place a small ball of masa mixture on two overlapping soaked corn husks. Spread the masa to the edge of the wide end but only to within about 2" of the narrow end.
Add several strips of roasted poblano pepper to the center of the masa. They are not hot so load them up.
Add ¼ cup of grated cheese on top of the poblano pepper strips.
Gently fold both long sides of husk together. Fold the narrow end, without masa, up and roll the tamale to finish.
Set Up the Steamer
Add about an inch of warm water to the bottom of a large pot over medium heat. Place tamales upright in the steamer basket, 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.
Be adventurous and experiment with different fillings. You really can't go wrong when you are making tamales.
The tamales in this recipe were cooked on end in a steamer insert that fits inside a large pot. I use the same basket for making pasta. It fits inside the pot and comes to within an inch or two of the bottom of the pot.
Tamales need to be cooked on end with the wrapped side down. This position helps the lard drain out while they steam.
Leftover tamales can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Whip the lard in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment at medium speed for 5 full minutes. This makes the lard light and fluffy, and that's perfect for tamales.
As you unwrap the steamed Poblano Pepper and Cheese Tamales, take a moment to appreciate the simplicity of this dish. The smoky, but mild heat of the Poblano peppers, combined with melted cheese, creates a tamale experience that's as comforting as it is flavorful.
So, gather your ingredients, roll up your sleeves, and make some tamales. Here's to the joy of creating a wonderful handmade dish that honors the simplicity and vibrancy of Mexican cuisine.
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These are my favorite dishes to serve with this recipe.
Poblano Pepper and Cheese Tamales
- 3 cups masa flour for tamales
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup lard
- 1 tbs kosher salt
- 36 corn husks
Poblano Cheese Mixture
- 2 poblano peppers
- 1 cup jack cheese grated
- 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.
Poblano Cheese Tamales
- Soak corn husks in water for 30 minutes to soften. Roast poblano peppers on a grill until blackened on all sides. Remove and place in a paper bag. Close the bag and allow the peppers to rest for 10 minutes.
- Remove the peppers and rinse under running water. Gently remove all of the charred skin. Stem and seed the peppers then slice into ⅛" slices.
- 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 several strips of roasted poblano pepper to the center of the masa. Add ¼ cup of grated cheese. Gently fold both long edges together. Fold the narrow end without masa up and roll the tamale to finish.
To Cook the Tamales
- 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 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.