Welcome to Paulina Cocina and to a classic that is the basis for many other recipes. Tamales are a typical Mexican recipeand today we are going to talk about the dough to make tamales. It is important to use a specific mass for tamalesbecause it has a texture and consistency suitable for preparation.

The dough for tamales It takes time, skill and process, but it is worth achieving the authentic Mexican flavor. We advise you to have the ingredients on hand and make this recipe and once you try it you will not want to stop making it. We already know how this is.

About the dough for tamales

The dough for tamales has its origin in Mesoamerican culturesspecifically in what is now Mexico and Central America. Corn, the main ingredient in the dough, has been essential in the diet of these cultures for centuries.

The corn dough was used to make different foods, including tamales. Tamales were and still are an important part of the cuisine of Mesoamerican cultures. They were preparing for special celebrations, rituals and festive occasions.

GIVEN: Although tamale dough is commonly associated with Mexico, it is also found in different variants in other Latin American countries, such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Colombia, each with its own distinctive style and flavors.

You can’t miss the recipe for Zacahuil, the giant Mexican tamale!

What is tamale dough made of?

The tamale dough is made mainly of nixtamalized corn dough.

PARENTHESIS: The nixtamalization technique consists of cooking corn with water and lime (calcium oxide). This process had multiple benefits, such as softening the corn and allowing the husk to fall off, thus improving its nutritional value, since the lime allows the human body to better absorb the nutrients in the corn.

Then, the cooked corn is ground to obtain the dough used in the tamales.

A dough with nutritional and flavor characteristics

  • The corn dough used in tamales is considered one of the oldest and most emblematic foods of the region. It has been one of the fundamental food bases in Mesoamerican cultures for more than 3,000 years.
  • The nixtamalization process used to produce the masa for tamales has benefits beyond texture and flavor. This process was very useful for Mesoamerican cultures, which had corn as their main source of food.
  • Depending on the region and the recipe, the dough for tamales can vary in ingredients and techniques. For example, some recipes use chicken broth or beef broth to flavor the dough, while others may incorporate ingredients such as achiote, epazote, or chili peppers to give it a special touch.
  • The dough is wrapped in corn or banana leaves before being steamed. This not only adds flavor and aroma to the tamales, but also helps maintain moisture and protect the masa during cooking.
  • The versatility of tamales not just limited to massbut also to the fillings. They can be sweet or salty, with ingredients such as pork, chicken, beans, cheese, chili peppers, fruits and more. Each region and each family has its own favorite recipes and combinations.

Tips for Making the Best Masa for Tamales

Although the dough is made in a few steps, there are some facts to keep in mind to achieve the best preparation, here are some key facts to make this dough well:

How much butter is put in the tamale dough?

The amount of butter used in the dough for tamales it can vary based on personal preference and the specific recipe being followed. However, as a general reference, it is recommended to use around 200-250 grams of butter for every kilogram of dough for tamales. This provides a good proportion of fat to obtain a soft and tasty dough.

Does the dough need resting time for tamales?

The dough rest time for tamales can vary, but in general it is recommended to let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before using it. This allows the ingredients to blend and the dough to absorb the flavors. In addition, resting helps the dough acquire a softer and more manageable texture, which makes it easier to manipulate when assembling the tamales.

What is the texture and consistency that the dough for tamales should have?

The tamale dough should have a smooth and homogeneous consistency to be able to spread it easily on the corn or banana leaves. Traditionally, the dough is worked by hand to achieve the desired texture before assembling the tamales.

Dough recipe for tamales

Over time, the preparation and ingredients used in the dough for tamales have evolved and adapted to different regions and culinary traditions. However, its origin dates back to ancient Mesoamerican cultures that valued corn as a staple and versatile food. This is the original recipe.

Yield: 12 servings

Preparation time: 3 hours


  • 4 cups of corn dough (nixtamalized corn flour)
  • 1 ½ cups of chicken broth or meat broth (can be homemade or from a cube)
  • 1 cup lard or melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder (chemical yeast)
  • Salt to taste (approximately 1 teaspoon)
  • Optional: achiote paste or food coloring to color the dough

How to prepare masa for tamales

  1. In a large bowl mix the corn dough, baking powder and salt well. Add the lard or melted butter to the dough and mix everything together until the fat is well incorporated and the dough is smooth.
  2. Gradually mix in the broth and make sure that with the liquid the dough has a smooth and manageable texture. If necessary, add more broth to obtain the desired consistency.
  3. Optionally, to give color to the dough, add annatto paste dissolved in a little hot broth or use food coloring.
  4. Once the dough is ready, let it rest for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and the dough to settle.
dough for tamales

Source: www.paulinacocina.net

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