Chicken Tamales with Tomatillo-Cilantro Salsa


Anna Zepaltas, whose husband, Ryan, makes wine at Siduri and his own Zepaltas wines, learned to prepare these light and fluffy tamales from her Mexican-born mother. Zepaltas carries on the teaching tradition by giving her friends a tamale tutorial on Harvest Widow Fridays; everyone goes home with several ready-made meals for the week ahead. Slideshow: Wine Pairings for Mexican Food 

Chicken Tamales with Tomatillo-Cilantro Salsa
Photo: © Eric Wolfinger
Active Time:
2 hrs
Total Time:
6 hrs
30 tamales


  • 6 ounces dried corn husks (about 35; see Note)

  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked and halved

  • 1 Spanish onion, cut into 1-inch wedges

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled

  • 2 serrano chiles, stemmed

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice

  • 1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • One 4 1/2- to 5-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces

  • 6 cups Tamale Dough

  • Tomatillo-Cilantro Salsa Recipe


Soften the Corn Husks

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the corn husks, remove from the heat and let stand, turning the husks once or twice, until softened, about 2 hours. Drain the corn husks and shake off as much water as possible.

make the filling

  1. Preheat the oven to 500°. In a medium roasting pan, toss the tomatillos, onion, garlic and chiles with the oil. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring twice, until the vegetables are very soft and browned in spots. Transfer the vegetables and any juices to a blender or food processor. Add the lime juice and cilantro and puree until smooth. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°.

  2. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven, pour the sauce over the chicken. Cover and braise in the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pot and let cool slightly.

  3. Set the pot over moderately high heat and boil the sauce, stirring frequently, until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes.

  4. Discard the chicken skin and shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Add the chicken to the sauce and let cool completely.

Fill, fold and steam the tamales

  1. Select 30 of the largest husks without tears or large holes. Arrange 1 husk on a work surface with the narrow end pointing away from you. On the wide end, spread 3 tablespoons of the Tamale Dough in a 5-by-3-inch rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border of husk at the bottom. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the cooled filling in the center of the Tamale Dough. Fold in the long sides of the husk, overlapping them to enclose the filling. Fold the narrow end toward you, over the tamale; it will be open at the wide end. Stand the tamale, open end up, in a very large steamer insert. Repeat with the remaining corn husks, Tamale Dough and filling.

  2. Fill the bottom of the steamer with 4 inches of water and bring to a boil. Add the tamales, spread some of the remaining corn husks over the top and cover with the lid; wrap foil around the edge if necessary to make a tight seal. Steam the tamales over moderately low heat for 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead

The uncooked tamales can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month; steam them while still frozen.


Dried corn husks are available at specialty food shops, Latin American markets and online at

Suggested Pairing

Bright, concentrated Chardonnay.

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