Coconut Arroz con Leche Tamales

Lightly sweetened coconut rice pudding provides a custardy contrast to the tender masa in these dreamy dessert tamales. Drizzled with sweet and buttery goat's milk caramel, they also make a festive holiday breakfast.

Coconut Arroz Con Lecha Tamales
Active Time:
1 hr 20 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs 15 mins


  • 2 3/4 cups water, divide

  • 3/4 cup uncooked jasmine rice

  • 2 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks

  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can unsweetened full-fat coconut milk

  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk, divided

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided

  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract

  • 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (8 ounces), softened

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening

  • 2 pounds Homemade Fresh Masa (about 3 1/2 cups) or masa harina prepared according to pkg. directions

  • 24 dried corn husks (about 9 inches long and 7 inches wide at widest point), plus more for lining steamer, soaked at least 1 hour or up to overnight

  • Cajeta (goat's milk caramel) or dulce de leche, for serving


  1. Bring 1 3/4 cups water, rice, and cinnamon sticks to a boil in a large saucepan over medium. Boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until water is mostly absorbed, 6 to 10 minutes. Stir in coconut milk, 3/4 cup whole milk, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla bean seeds, almond extract, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, uncovered, stirring often, until mixture has thickened to a pudding-like consistency, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and transfer to a large bowl. Discard cinnamon sticks. Let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

  2. Meanwhile, combine butter, shortening, 1 cup sugar, and remaining 1 tablespoon salt in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer running on medium-low speed, gradually add masa. Increase speed to medium-high, and beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low, and gradually stream in remaining 1 cup water and remaining 1/2 cup whole milk. Beat on medium-low speed until mixture is well combined and smooth, 3 to 5 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape sides of bowl. The prepared masa should have the texture of cake batter. Cover bowl with a damp paper towel; set aside.

  3. Place 1 corn husk on a clean work surface with narrow end pointing away from you; pat dry. Using the back of a spoon, spread about 1/3 cup prepared masa lengthwise in center of corn husk in a 5- x 4-inch rectangle of even thickness. Spoon about 2 tablespoons arroz con leche pudding in a line down the center of masa rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border of masa above and below pudding. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon sugar over arroz con leche pudding. Fold one side of husk across so that masa encases filling. Fold top end of corn husk down toward the center, and roll to wrap remaining husk around the tamal, leaving bottom end open. Repeat with remaining husks, masa mixture, arroz con leche pudding, and sugar.

  4. Fill a large stockpot with 1 inch of water. Place a steamer insert (at least 7 inches deep) in stockpot, ensuring water does not touch bottom of steamer. Line bottom and sides of steamer with corn husks. Stand tamales vertically in steamer, with open ends up, in a single layer. Tamales should be tightly packed together. If the steamer is too big, use aluminum foil to build a ring inside pot to hold tamales upright.

  5. Heat pot over medium-high until steam is visible, 5 to 8 minutes. Place a layer of corn husks on top of tamales. Cover tamales with a clean kitchen towel, and place lid on top. Reduce heat to low. Cook 45 minutes. To test doneness, carefully uncover pot, and remove 1 tamal. Cover pot, and allow remaining tamales to keep cooking. Let tamal rest 10 minutes before unfolding. If masa sticks to corn husk, rewrap tamal, and return to steamer basket. Continue cooking tamales 5 minutes before checking again for doneness. If corn husk pulls away cleanly from masa, turn off heat, and let tamales rest in pot, lid removed, towel and husks in place, for 15 minutes. Serve tamales warm with a drizzle of cajeta.

Make Ahead

Cooked tamales can be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw in refrigerator overnight. Steam to reheat, or remove husks and sear in a lightly oiled pan until crispy on the outside.

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