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Vegan Potato Adobo Tamales

This week I learned how to make delicious tamales and learned that making tamales is a Christmas Eve tradition among many Hispanic families and other folks in the South West. I love discovering delicious new holiday celebrations! Dora Stone made my first experience of making home-made tamales easy with her new ebook, Vegan Tamales Unwrapped: A Step-by-Step Guide to Savory and Sweet Tamales. I'm delighted to have received a copy for being on her blog tour and to be able to share her recipe with you. They were so good I couldn't stop thinking about them last night and can't wait to make another batch. I shared some with friends from Texas and here's what they said:

We just finished eating your tamales and we couldn't get enough! They were delicious! They were some of the best ones I've had! How are they vegan?? The texture was on point and seasoning superb!

platter of vegan tamales for traditional Christmas feast

Making this recipe is an event, one that can easily be shared with others. Have family and friends over to help spread the corn batter on dried corn husks, spoon in the rich filling, and then roll up and tie the tamales like little presents. If you make them on your own, it's a great chance to mediate on gratitude and generousity. Make tamales for party food, dinner, breakfast, or as a thoughtful gift from the kitchen.

Make-ahead or party tip: I made this recipe up to step 7, then drained the corn husks, refrigerated everything overnight, and finished the assembly and cooking the next day.

Recipe for Vegan Potato Adobo Tamales

by Dora Stone from Vegan Tamales Unwrapped with permission, modified slightly for Cook for Good readers by Linda Watson

Active time for one cook: 2 hours and 30 minutes. Total time for one cook: 4 hours and 30 minutes.  Makes 18 to 24 tamales. Vegan and gluten-free.

Vegan Tamales Unwrapped book coverWrappers
30 to 36 dried corn husks

1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening (8 ounces or 227 grams)
4 cups masa harina (1 pound 2 ounces or 510 grams)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (I used just 2 teaspoons)
4 cups vegetables stock (I used broth from cooking white tepary beans)

Adobo Sauce and Filling
1 1/2 cups water
3 dried ancho chiles, destemmed and deseeded
1 1/2 dried pasilla chiles, destemmed and deseeded
2 garlic cloves
1/4 white or yellow onion
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano or 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 whole clove or 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup white vinegar

1 1/2 pounds potatoes, cut into small dice (680 grams)
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen (135 grams)

  1. Soak corn husks in hot water in a large pot. Place a plate over them to weigh them down so they are completely submerged. Let them soak for at least an hour.

  2. Make dough. Beat the vegetable shortening on medium-high speed with an electric mixer until it has doubled in size and is nice and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add baking powder and salt and then beat for 1 minute to blend.

  3. At low speed, beat in half the masa harina and half of the vegetable stock. When it is completely blended, add the other half of masa harina and vegetable stock. The dough should have the consistency of a thick cake batter. If it doesn't, beat in more vegetable stock. Taste dough and add more salt if necessary. It should be a little bit salty. For lighter and fluffier tamales, let dough rest for an hour in the refrigerator.Ingredients for tamales: corn masa dough, potato adobo filling, and soaked corn husks

  4. Make the adobo sauce. Bring water to a boil over high heat in a covered medium pot. (You will use this pot later to make the filling, so do use a medium pot.) Put destemmed and deseeded chiles into boiling water. Turn heat down to low setting and let the chiles sit in the water for 10 minutes.

  5. Put garlic, onion, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, clove, and white vinegar into a blender. When chiles have finished soaking, add chilies and 1/2 cup soaking liquid to blender and process until smooth. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed. Save remaining soaking liquid in your broth jar to use in other recipes.

  6. Make filling. Place diced potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in pot used to soak chiles and cover with cold water. Cover pot and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low so potatoes barely simmer. Cook for about 6 minutes or until the potatoes are slightly tender. When potatoes are cooked, remove from heat and add peas to potatoes. Cover pot and let rest for 30 seconds. Drain broth into your broth jar. Stir adobe sauce into potato mixture.

  7. Assemble and steam tamales. Remove dough from the fridge and rebeat it, adding enough liquid so it resembles cake batter again.

  8. Remove corn husks from water and set on towels (clean kitchen towels or paper towels). Reserve largest husks to wrap tamales and small ones to line the steamer.lining pot with corn husks to steam tamales

  9. Put a cup or so of water in the pot used to soak husks, then put in your steamer. Make sure water is not touching the steamer. Line the steamer and sides of the pot with corn husks.

  10. To wrap tamales, pull 24 pencil-thin strips off corn husks and set aside. Take a husk and dry off excess water with towel. Place husk in your hand with tapered side away from you and smooth side up. Using a spoon, spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of dough, 1/4 inch thick, onto a corn husk, forming a square 3 to 4 inches across. Leave a border of uncovered husk at least 3/4-inch wide on each side.wrapping a tamal in a corn husk

  11. Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling in the center of dough square. Bring the two long sides of corn husk together, causing masa to surround filling, and roll them in the same direction around the tamal. (If the husk is too small, fold one of the long sides towards the center, and then fold the other long side on top.) Fold down the empty tapered section of the corn husk, forming a closed bottom. This will leave the top of the tamal open. Tie with a corn husk strip to secure the bottom of the tamal. how to wrap tamales in corn husks step by step

    finished wrapped tamales

  12. Place tamal in the steamer vertically leaning against the side of the pot, with the open end on top. Repeat this process until you run out of dough and all tamales are in the steamer. Cover them with a layer of corn husks. If the steamer is not full, fill empty spaces with more corn husks. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to medium and cook for 40 minutes. Check to see if tamales are done. They should separate easily from the corn husks. If they don't, steam for 10 more minutes and check again.

  13. Remove steamer from heat and let it sit covered for 10 minutes. Uncover and let cool for at least an hour. Don’t be alarmed if tamales seem really soft. As they cool, they will firm up.

  14. Serve warm. Slide off tie and remove cornhusk before eating. Keeps refrigerated for four days and frozen for a year.steamed tamal showing corn dough outside and potato adobo filling

Chef's Notes

  • To make tamales with fresh masa, replace masa harina with two pounds of fresh masa and reduce the vegetable stock to 3/4 cup.
  • Substitutions. Instead of vegetable shortening, use 8 ounces of refined coconut oil or 8 ounces of cooked, unsweetened pumpkin. Using pumpkin instead of shortening or oil makes for fat-free tamales. If you don't have kosher salt, use a little less table salt (see chart).

Cook for Good Tips

  • What do you call just one: tamal or tamale? I used to say tamale but Dora's recipe made me look up the controversy. It's tamal for me from now on.
  • Masa harina is a flour made from lime-treated corn meal used to make tamales, tortillas, and more. The lime makes it easier for us to digest the niacin in the corn meal. If you can find it, use the slightly more coarsely ground masa harina for tamales. Do not substitute regular corn meal or corn flour.
  • Here in North Carolina, I found the masa harina, dried peppers, and corn husks on the Hispanic aisle at the Food Lion and organic dried anchos at Whole Foods. We also have great Hispanic grocery stores in the area. All the ingredients are probably easier to find in the South West. Please share your experience in the comments.
  • The how-to grid photo above is from Vegan Tamales Unwrapped, used with permission.

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