Tamales are a sign of celebration at holiday gatherings in Mexican households on both sides of the border, especially for occasions like Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve dinner. Here we stuff them with creamy winter squash, black beans and tangy goat cheese.

EatingWell Test Kitchen
Source: EatingWell Magazine, November/December 2007


Recipe Summary

2 hrs 30 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • To prepare wrappers: Place cornhusks in a large bowl, cover with hot water and weight with a heavy plate or pan to completely submerge them. Let soak for 30 minutes.

  • To prepare batter: Put masa and 1 1/4 cups hot water in a large bowl; stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Beat ricotta, oil, baking powder and salt in another large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add grits (or cornmeal) and mix until combined. Add the ricotta mixture to the masa mixture and stir until smooth. Stir in broth 1/4 cup at a time until the batter is very moist and spreadable, but not runny.

  • To prepare filling: Place squash puree in a fine-mesh sieve and gently press on it to extract excess liquid. Transfer to a medium bowl and add beans, chiles and salt; stir until combined.

  • To assemble tamales: Drain the cornhusks and pat dry. Sort through and pick out 16 large, unblemished husks to use as wrappers. Cut about 2 dozen thin, long strips from the remaining husks to use as ties (or use kitchen string instead). Cover the husks and ties with a damp towel to keep moist.

  • Working on a clean surface, unfold one of the large cornhusks so it's completely flat. Spread 1/3 cup of the batter in the center of the husk in a 4-inch square, leaving a wide border at the top and the bottom. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the filling in a thin strip down the length of the batter. Top the filling with 1 rounded teaspoon goat cheese.

  • Bring the two long sides of the cornhusk together, causing the batter to completely surround the filling--but don't fold the sides over the tamale yet. Fold the cornhusk ends in, then fold the sides around the tamale. If a cornhusk splits while you're folding the tamale, just wrap a second husk right over the first and finish rolling. Tie the tamale closed using a thin strip of cornhusk. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 15 more tamales. (You may have a little batter and/or filling left over.)

  • To steam tamales: Fill a large Dutch oven with 1 inch of water. Place a steamer basket in the pot and loosely place the tamales upright in the basket. Cover and steam over medium heat for 1 hour. Check the water level periodically and add more boiling water if necessary. The tamales are done when the batter is firm and easily pulls away from the wrapper.


Make Ahead Tip: The batter (Step 2) and filling (Step 3) will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Steamed tamales will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat tamales in a steamer or in the microwa

Notes: Cornhusks are traditionally used as tamale wrappers. They are sold dried and need to be reconstituted in water to make them pliable enough for tamales.

Masa is ground dried corn treated with lime, sometimes called masa harina or instant masa mix; it is used for making tamales and tortillas. Masa can be found near the cornmeal or flour and dried cornhusks in the produce department of most well-stocked supermarkets or Mexican grocers; both can be found on amazon.com.

Tip: To make your own squash puree, halve and seed one medium acorn or butternut squash. Place, cut-side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven until soft, about 50 minutes. Cool, then scrape out the flesh with a fork. Or simply use frozen (thawed) or canned squash puree. Find frozen squash puree near other vegetables in the freezer section and canned squash near the canned pumpkin.

Nutrition Facts

237 calories; protein 7.8g; carbohydrates 34.9g; dietary fiber 4.8g; sugars 1.2g; fat 7.8g; saturated fat 2.5g; cholesterol 10.5mg; vitamin a iu 1336.3IU; vitamin c 3.4mg; folate 21.1mcg; calcium 125.2mg; iron 1.4mg; magnesium 20.8mg; potassium 195.2mg; sodium 623.4mg; thiamin 0.1mg.

Reviews (2)

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6 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 4
  • 4 star values: 1
  • 3 star values: 1
  • 2 star values: 0
  • 1 star values: 0
Rating: 3 stars
Not traditional but worth a go I've made a lot of tamales and i like these ingredients so i thought they would be great. The texture of the dough is a bit too grainy for my tastes never had to include grits in the mix before so I assume that is why. The squash is great but it nearly melts into the dough when steaming. They don't have enough cheese. I think this is good jumping off point but i won't make this exact recipe again mainly because of the dough not being my favorite. There are other ways to lower the fat in the dough. Pros: goat cheese vegetarian gluten free Cons: texture grits Read More
Rating: 4 stars
Delicious! These are amazing! I did change the recipe around because I didn't have the time or the set-up to make tamales so I used the recipe to make a casserole. I doubled the filling and kept the corn mixture the same and had enough for two 8-inch dishes one for the freezer. It's so versatile. I customized it to my preferences. I used pumpkin because that's what I had (and love the best). I added a little more liquid to the corn mixture to get it spreadable and added garlic smoked paprika and onions to the filling. The addition of goat cheese was genius. I was leaning either way until I added the goat cheese and the goat cheese put it firmly on the side of delicious and brightened up the dish. Goat cheese could make cardboard taste good and the other ingredients are not slouched. Tip: I froze my goat cheese to make it easier to cut. Read More
Rating: 5 stars
These are fantastic. Made them for New Year's Eve dinner with a bunch of friends-- everybody helped which was fun and social plus they tasted divine. Big hit doing it again this year! Read More
Rating: 5 stars
These are the best tamales ever! They taste amazing are relatively simple to put together and are a big crowd pleaser:) I have made them twice and used fresh squash both times... Read More
Rating: 5 stars
Being a native New Mexican I can honestly say that these tamales seduced the palate. We already have plans to make more. Read More
Rating: 5 stars
Dito! This is my second time to make this recipe. Roasted fresh winter squash makes them extra special. Using ricotta in masa mix makes for a light tasty steamed cornmeal wrap. Yum! Read More