Sweet Potato Tamales

Sweet potatoes and fresh corn kernels are added to the filling of these easy vegetarian tamales. Serve them with a tangy tomatillo sauce.

Sweet Potato Tamales
Photo: © Sara Forte
14 tamales


Sweet Potato Tamales

  • 2 large ears of corn, husks carefully removed and kept whole, silk discarded

  • 2 cups (about 11 ounces) precooked cornmeal (See Note)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 cup cooked, diced sweet potato

  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

  • Fresh tomato sauce, for serving

Tomatillo Sauce

  • 10 medium tomatillos, husked and cored

  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped

  • 1 small garlic clove, minced

  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

  • Kosher salt


Make the Tamales

  1. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs; you should have about 2 cups. Cook the kernels in 4 cups of boiling salted water until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain in a colander set over a bowl and let the corn and liquid cool completely.

  2. In a large skillet, toast the cornmeal over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

  3. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal with the salt. Blend in the butter with your hands. Stir in the corn kernels, sweet potatoes, and hot sauce. Using a wooden spoon, beat in about 2 cups of the reserved corn liquid, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well to incorporate as much air as possible; the dough should be very moist and light.

  4. Separate the corn husks. Overlap 2 to 3 of the husks to make a 6-inch-wide wrapper for each tamale. Mound 1/3 cup of the dough in the center of the husks and pat down slightly, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border all around. Wrap the husks around the filling to completely enclose it; allow room for the tamale dough to expand during cooking. Pinch the ends and tie tightly with string, leaving 1 inch of husk sticking out at each end.

  5. Light a grill or preheat the oven to 500°F. Grill the tamales over moderate heat, turning often, for about 8 minutes, or until browned and crisp outside and heated through. Alternatively, roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes. In either case the cooked tamales should feel firm and the husks should puff.

Make the Tomatillo Sauce

  1. In a small saucepan of boiling water, cook the tomatillos until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and cool. Coarsely chop the tomatillos.

  2. In a food processor, process the tomatillos for 5 seconds. Add the onion and process to a coarse puree. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and stir in the garlic and cilantro. Just before serving, season with salt.

  3. Serve the tamales at once with the Tomatillo Sauce and fresh tomato sauce.


Precooked cornmeal, ground from cooked corn kernels, is the key to quick tamales. Don't confuse this with standard cornmeal, which is made from dried uncooked corn kernels. Goya's precooked cornmeal, also called masarepa, is the most widely available. P.A.N., from Venezuela, is another good brand.

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