Tamales de Elote

These simple, lightly sweet tamales should be served with a drizzle of crema, a sprinkle of queso fresco and lime wedges. Using fresh corn is best, but thawed frozen corn works well, too. Slideshow: More Tamales Recipes 

Tamales de Elote
Photo: Abby Hocking / Food & Wine
Active Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs 30 mins
20 tamales


  • 24 dried corn husks

  • 2 1/2 cups masa harina

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels

  • Crema, queso fresco and lime wedges, for serving


  1. In a large bowl, soak the corn husks in hot tap water until pliable, about 1 hour.

  2. Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the masa harina with 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the baking powder and 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, warm the milk at high power for 30 seconds, until steaming. Pour the warm milk over the masa and stir until just combined. Let cool at room temperature for 10 minutes.

  3. In a food processor, pulse the corn until a chunky puree forms. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the corn puree into the bowl with the cooled masa mixture and stir until combined.

  4. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the butter with the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. At medium-low speed, add the cooled masa mixture in four additions, beating well after each addition.

  5. Remove 1 soaked husk from the water and arrange on a work surface with the narrow end pointing away from you. On the wide end, spread 1/4 cup of the tamale dough in a 5-by-3-inch rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch husk border at the bottom. Fold in the long sides of the husk, overlapping them to enclose the filling. Fold the narrow end toward you, over the tamale. Fold the wide end over the tamale and secure the husk with butcher’s twine. Stand the tamale in a very large steamer insert. Repeat with the remaining corn husks and tamale dough. (Avoid packing the tamales too tightly or the cooked tamales will be dense.)

  6. Fill the bottom of the steamer with 2 inches of water. Place the steamer insert over the base. Place the remaining corn husks on top of the assembled tamales and cover the insert with a lid. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low and steam the tamales for 1 1/2 hours. Using tongs, transfer one tamale to a work surface. Carefully open the husk. If the husk peels away without much sticking, the tamale is cooked. If not, cover the pot again and check the tamales every 10 minutes until the filling no longer sticks to the husk. Uncover and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

  7. Serve the tamales warm with crema, crumbled queso fresco and lime wedges.

Make Ahead

The tamales can be made through Step 5 and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Or freeze for up to 1 month. Freeze them first on a rimmed baking sheet, then transfer to an airtight container to store. Thaw in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe.

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