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Green Chile Chicken Tamales

Green Chile Chicken Tamales

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  • 1 8-ounce package dried corn husks
  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed
  • 4 3-inch-long serrano chiles, stemmed, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 4 cups (packed) coarsely shredded chicken (about 1 pound; from purchased rotisserie chicken)
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Recipe Preparation


  • Place husks in large pot or large bowl; add water to cover. Place heavy plate on husks to keep submerged. Let stand until husks soften, turning occasionally, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.

  • Preheat broiler. Line heavy baking sheet with foil. Arrange tomatillos on prepared sheet. Broil until tomatillos blacken in spots, turning once, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer tomatillos and any juices on sheet to processor and cool. Add chiles and garlic to processor and blend until smooth puree forms. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add tomatillo puree and boil 5 minutes, stirring often. Add broth. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until sauce coats spoon thickly and is reduced to 1 cup, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes. Season with salt. Mix in chicken and cilantro. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.


  • Using electric mixer, beat lard (with salt and baking powder, if using) in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in fresh masa or masa harina mixture in 4 additions. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in 1 1/2 cups broth, forming tender dough. If dough seems firm, beat in enough broth, 2 tablespoons at a time, to soften.

  • Fill bottom of pot with steamer insert with enough water (about 2 inches) to reach bottom of insert. Line bottom of insert with some softened corn husks. Tear 3 large husks into 1/4-inch-wide strips to use as ties and set aside. Open 2 large husks on work surface. Spread 1/4 cup dough in 4-inch square in center of each, leaving 2- to 3-inch plain border at narrow end of husk. Spoon heaping tablespoon filling in strip down center of each dough square. Fold long sides of husk and dough over filling to cover. Fold up narrow end of husk. Tie folded portion with strip of husk to secure, leaving wide end of tamale open. Stand tamales in steamer basket. Repeat with more husks, dough, and filling until all filling has been used. If necessary to keep tamales upright in steamer, insert pieces of crumpled foil between them.

  • Bring water in pot to boil. Cover pot and steam tamales until dough is firm to touch and separates easily from husk, adding more water to pot as necessary, about 45 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool 1 hour. Cover and chill. Before serving, re-steam tamales until hot, about 35 minutes.

Reviews Section

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken
  • 3 ounces can of diced green chiles
  • 10 ounces green chile sauce
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or crema
  • 16 ounces queso fresco (or jack cheese, shredded or crumbled)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 40 Corn Husks
  • For the Masa HarinaTamale Dough:
  • 6 cups masa harina
  • 5 cups warm water (or low-sodium chicken broth)
  • 2 cups lard
  • 3 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoon cumin
  • 3 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Boil or bake the chicken until it is cooked through.

Let the chicken cool and then use forks or your fingers to pull it apart to shred it.

Add the shredded chicken and the diced chiles to a large bowl and add in the green chile sauce, queso fresco, cumin, chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Use a large spoon to smash the cream cheese into the mixture to begin mixing it.

Once the filling is made, set it aside.

Note: You can make the filling the day before and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

History of tamales

Making chicken green chile tamales certainly isn’t new. It’s hard to know when tamales originated since it was so long ago.

According to The Spruce Eats, they are a pre-Columbian dish from Mesoamerica. Almost all the Central and South American cultures have adopted tamales to their own style of cooking.

Since homemade tamales are wrapped in a corn husk, it makes them completely portable and you can eat them right out of the wrapper.

Just pull it down a little on the sides like you would the paper on a hamburger.

Of course, eating them on a plate is more standard these days. Whatever you do, don’t eat the corn husk, for goodness’ sake.

What Are Tamales?

Tamales are traditionally made of a corn-based dough and some sort of filling. Its Nahuatl name is a Tamale, meaning wrapped corn.

Homemade tamales are usually steamed in a leaf wrapper. The most common wrapping is a corn husk, banana leaves, avocado leaves, hoja santa, and other non-toxic leaves used in some regions of Mexico.

We made tamales with different types of fillings in Mexico, the stuffing could be chicken, pork, ground beef, shrimp, vegetables, and cheese. Just to mention a few of them. The salsas that we add to the stuffing range from Mole poblano sauce, Mole Oaxaqueño, red dried peppers, tomatillo salsa, also known as green salsa or salsa verde. And, every region has its own version of fillings for the tamales.

We also have the sweet tamales, some with raisins, coconut, pineapple, nuts, chocolate tamales. Nowadays, cooks are creating new flavors, like Guava, Dulce de Leche, and even flan flavored tamales.

There are more than 500 varieties of tamales but like a sandwich, the different variety of options are endless!

Remember, Tamales can be filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chiles, or anything really.

Green Chile Chicken Tamales

Every region—honesty, every state, every community—of Mexico has its style of tamales. They can be wrapped in lots of different leaves, though cornhusks and banana leaves predominate. The masa can be seasoned with salt alone or with spices, herbs and sauce. And the texture can very from rather dense and pudding like or light and fluffy. For a dish that’s so simply described as corn masa around a filling and steamed in a leaf, there is more variety in Mexican tamales than in any other dish.

Masa: Though not everyone will have access to fresh-ground masa, most everyone can get masa flour (masa harina). There are two varieties sold in most Mexican groceries and on line: a fine-ground one for making tortillas and a coarser one for tamales. The second is the one you want the first works in a pinch, but will produce much denser tortillas. If you see prepared masa for tamales (masa preparada para tamales) in the refrigerated case of your Mexican grocery, I recommend passing it by. Almost all are made with vegetable shortening and preservatives and, to me, have an off taste.

Lard: I recognize that there are people who can’t imagine bringing pork lard into their kitchens. For some it is for religious reasons and I certainly respect that. But for most people, it’s simply that they were taught it is bad for you or low-class or “not something our people would eat.” Well, it’s no worse for you than butter (actually, from a nutritional perspective, it’s not as bad as butter) and from a sociological point of view, we need to put those kinds of biases behind us. All food is good if we open our minds to it and the culture that created it. We simply have to recognize our prejudices and give ourselves time to get accustomed.

Look for good lard at a Mexican grocery store (often at the butchers’ counter) or a butcher shop (which often will have render duck fat—which works here in a pinch—before they have rendered pork fat). I don’t recommend the national brands of lard (Armor is a common one) because most are pretty tasteless as well as hydrogenated.

Steamer: Corn husk-wrapped tamales have to stand up as they steam, which means you need a steamer that is tall enough to accommodate them—about 6 inches of clear space between the steamer “shelf” and the top. The Mexican tamal steamers available at Mexican groceries and on line leave about a foot of clearance, but you don’t have to have one of those to make tamales. A collapsible steamer basket will work if you have a deep pot to fit it snuggly in an 8-inch diameter pot that’s at least 8 inches high will work perfectly for this recipe. (Unfortunately, Chinese bamboo steamers are too shallow.) There are deep steamer baskets available for Instant Pots that are actually perfect for up to a couple dozen tamales.

Pro Tip: some of our restaurant cooks like to refrigerate the batter overnight, then rebeat it the following day, adding a little more broth to create the moistest tamales

Soak the corn husks. Lay the husks in a bowl, cover with hot tap water, weight with a plate (to keep the husks submerged), and soak for a couple of hours, until pliable.

Make the filling. On a rimmed baking sheet, roast the tomatillos, unpeeled garlic and chiles about 4 inches below a hot broiler until soft and blackened in spots, about 6 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side. If the garlic or chiles are soft and blackened quicker than the tomatillos, remove them. Cool for a few minutes, then slip the skin off the garlic. Combine everything (including any juices) in a blender or food processor and run the machine until everything is reduced to a coarse puree. Scrape the salsa into a medium bowl and stir in the cilantro and chicken. Taste and season with salt, usually a generous teaspoon.

Make the masa. With an electric mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment if there is one), beat the lard or shortening, salt and baking powder for a couple of minutes until fluffy looking. In 3 additions, beat in the masa . Continue beating on low speed as you add 1 cup of broth in a slow stream. At this point, the mixture should look like thick cake batter if it is more the consistency of a paste, add additional broth to give it that thick cake batter-like texture. Beat for a couple of minutes more, until a ½ teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of ice-cold water.

Set up the steamer. Drain the corn husk and select 12 of the largest, nicest-looking ones to use for forming the tamales. Fill the bottom of your steamer with at least an inch of water. Since you have to steam tamales for an hour or more, it’s customary to drop in a coin to jangle around, letting you know that the pot hasn’t run dry. Set in your steamer basket or shelf and use some of the corn husk leftovers to line the bottom.

Form the tamales. Dry off your 12 good corn husks, then 1 at a time, form the tamales: with the flat side toward you, smear ¼ cup of the masa in a 4-inch square right in the middle, close to the flat-side “front” edge—I smear the batter to within about ½ inch of that “front” side. Scoop a portion of the filling right down the center, then pick up the two sides so that the batter encases the filling. Holding the two sides together, gently fold them around the tamal, then pinch your tube of corn husk at the point where the batter/filling ends (where the pointy, unfilled cornhusk begins) and fold the empty part under. It takes a lot of words to describe something that is really very simple. You’ll get the hang of it right away. Stand the tamal on its folded end in the steamer, turned up, unfilled part of the husk toward the edge to keep it in place. Continue until all tamales are made and stood in the steamer. If there is unfilled space in the steamer, lightly wad up a piece of foil to fill the space and keep the tamales from sliding down as they steam.

Steam the tamales. Cover the steamer and set over high heat. When steam comes puffing out from under the lid, reduce the heat to keep the water at a steady, gently rolling boil. Steam the tamales for an hour, then use a pair of tongs to gently remove one and test for doneness. If the corn husk pulls away cleanly, they are done. If it’s still sticking, return the tamal to the steamer and give them another 10 minutes or so, until husk and wrapper separate easily. Turn off the pot, let them stand for 10 to 15 minutes for the masa to firm up and you’re ready to serve these aromatic beauties.

Homemade Sauce Step by Step

This is so easy. You’ll love it!

Start off by getting your food service gloves. You fingers can burn for hours, if you aren’t careful.

Remove all the seeds and membranes from the peppers then cut into chunks. The garlic can go right in the pan without any cutting. Cut an onion into 4 pieces. Cover everything with water and let it cook for about an hour until everything is soft.

In the meantime, remove the husks from the tomatillos and clean them to get rid of the sticky residue. Cut the tomatillos in half horizontally and place cut side down to bake. I usually roast tomatillos for 20 minutes but I guess it’s the time of year that tomatillos aren’t very big. These only took 15 minutes.

Be careful when you’re roasting tomatillos. I’ve had them burst so be sure to use a baking pan with an edge to catch any liquids.


Step 1

PREPARE the corn husks: Cover the husks with boiling water and keep them submerged for a couple of hours until the husks are pliable. To form the tamales, separate the largest and most pliable husks. Make strips for tying the ends from one of the smaller husks. Pat the husks dry with a towel.

Step 2

PREPARE the batter: use an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment to beat the shortening or butter at medium-high speed until light in texture for about 1 minute. Continue beating the mixture as you add the reconstituted masa in three additions. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add ½ cup of broth. Continue to mix for another minute. Beat in enough of the remaining ¼ cup broth to give the mixture a soft, but not runny, consistency, similar to cake batter. It should hold its shape in a spoon. Taste the batter and season to taste.

Step 3

PREPARE the filling: in a large bowl, mix together the shredded chicken, green salsa, and roasted poblanos.

Step 4

SPREAD about ¼ cup of the masa mixture in the center of a corn husk, and top with about 2 tablespoons chicken mixture. Fold the two sides of the corn husk together, enclosing the filling. Twist together both ends, and use a tie to tie it together. Use a piece of Reynolds Wrap® Aluminum Foil to completely wrap each tamale.

Step 5

PLACE a steamer basket in a large, wide, pot (or use a steamer insert in a pot). Add as much water as possible without coming above the level of the steamer. Layer the tamales into the pot, cover, and steam for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let rest in the steamer, with the lid off, until ready to serve.

How to Make Green Chile Tamales

Cut up the whole chicken and place into a large stockpot along with half the onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 Tbsp salt, and enough water to cover the chicken completely ( I used 12 cups ). Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat, simmer for 45 minutes or until chicken is done.

While the chicken cooks, place corn husks in a large bowl with warm water. Soaking the husks softens them up so they are easy to work with. Make sure to shake off excess water before you start assembling.

Once the chicken is done cooking, transfer it to a plate for shredding. Reserve the chicken broth.

Green Chile Sauce

Place the peppers, tomatillos, and half an onion on a baking tray. Broil in the oven for 5 minutes, turning the veggies over once. *Keep an eye on them. The skin just needs to be blistered.

Once the veggies are done roasting, place the peppers in a plastic bag to sweat for a couple of minutes. Place the onion and tomatillos in a blender. Peel the peppers and remove the stems and seeds. Add them to the blender along with cilantro and 2 cups of reserved chicken broth. Purée until smooth.

Add the salsa to a large pot or pan and place over medium heat. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes to thicken slightly. Add shredded chicken and simmer 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Cover and set aside to cool.

Masa Dough

Place masa harina into a large bowl. Add salt and baking powder, and whisk together. Make a well in the center and add the shortening and warm chicken broth. Beat with an electric mixer or stand mixer until well incorporated. If the masa dough looks too dry, add more broth.


To assemble the tamales, take a corn husk and add about 2 Tbsp masa dough. Spread it as evenly as possible on the smooth side of the corn husk. Add the chicken and salsa filling to the middle of the masa ( going vertically ).

Bring the two edges together and pinch so that the masa dough wraps around the filling. Then fold the top flap down.

Secure with corn husk strips. To make the strips, use the husks that are too thin to use and rip them into strips. Repeat these steps with the remaining masa dough and filling.

Cook the Tamales

Fill the bottom of the steam pot with water. Arrange the tamales around the pot with the bottoms facing up. Cover with a kitchen towel, or more corn husks, then with the lid.

Place over medium heat and steam for 45 minutes to 1 hr. To test if they are done. Remove one tamale from the pot using tongs.

Allow it to cool slightly on a plate. Then open it up, if it loosens from the husk easily, it’s done. If they are still mushy, continue steaming.

Once done cooking, transfer to a dish to cool before serving. Remove the husk and enjoy!

By Kevin Published: September 17, 2012

"These tamales are really moist and the filling is full of flavor. You can adjust the heat to your liking. It is a Rick Bayless &hellip


  • 1 (8 ounce) package dried corn husks
  • 1 lb tomatillo husked and rinsed (10-12 medium)
  • fresh hot green chili pepper stemmed (roughly 2 - 6 serranos or jalapenos)
  • 4 large garlic cloves peeled
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • salt
  • 4 cups cooked chicken preferably grilled, roasted (about 1 lb.) or 4 cups rotisserie chicken, coarsely shredded (about 1 lb.)
  • 2/3 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 10 ounces rich-tasting pork fat slightly softened but not at all runny (or vegetable shortening if you wish)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 lbs fresh coarse-ground corn masa harina flour for tamales or 3 1/2 cups dried masa harina, for tamales mixed with 2 1/4 cups hot water
  • 1 -1 1/2 cup chicken broth


  1. Preparing the cornhusks. Cover the husks with very hot water, weight with a plate to keep them submerged, and let stand for a couple of hours until the husks are pliable. 2 Preparing the filling: On a baking sheet, roast the tomatillos about 4 inches below a very hot broiler until soft (they’ll blacken in spots), about 5 minutes flip them over and roast the other side. Cool and transfer to a food processor or blender, along with all the delicious juice that has run onto the baking sheet. Add the chiles and garlic and process to a smooth puree. Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium high. When quite hot, add the puree all at once and stir until noticeably thicker and darker, about 5 minutes.(I cover the pot with a splatter screen) Add 2 cups of the broth and simmer over medium heat (I use high heat) until thick enough to coat a spoon quite heavily, at least 10 minutes. I keep it simmering while I shred the chicken. (If you are making a double batch of the recipe, make sure to cook the filling for a longer amount of time.) Taste and season highly with salt, usually about 2 teaspoons. Stir in the chicken and cilantro cool completely. 3 Preparing the batter: With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the lard or shortening with 2 teaspoons salt and the baking powder until light in texture, about 1 minute. Continue beating as you add the masa (fresh or reconstituted) in three additions. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add 1 cup of the remaining broth. Continue beating for another minute or so, until a ½-teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of cold water (if it floats you can be sure the tamales will be tender and light). Beat in enough of the remaining ½ cup of broth to give the mixture the consistency of soft (not runny) cake batter it should hold its shape in a spoon. Taste the batter and season with additional salt if you think it needs some. For the lightest textured tamales, refrigerate the batter for an hour or so, then rebeat, adding a little more broth or water to bring the mixture to the soft consistency it had before. 4 For forming the tamales, separate out 24 of the largest and most pliable husks—ones that are at least 6 inches across on the wider end and 6 or 7 inches long. If you can’t find enough good ones, overlap some of the large ones to give wide, sturdy surfaces to spread the batter on. Pat the chosen husks dry with a towel. 5 Forming the tamales. Cut twenty-four 8- to 10-inch pieces of string or thin strips of cornhusks. One at a time, form the tamales: Lay out one of your chosen cornhusks with the tapering end toward you. Spread about ¼ cup of the batter into about a 4-inch square, leaving at least a 1 ½-inch border on the side toward you and a ¾-inch border along the other sides (with large husks, the borders will be much bigger). Spoon about 1 ½ tablespoons of the filling down the center of the batter. Pick up the two long sides of the cornhusk and bring them together (this will cause the batter to surround the filling). If the uncovered borders of the two long sides you’re holding are narrow, tuck one side under the other if wide, roll both sides in the same direction around the tamal. (If the husk is small, you may feel more comfortable wrapping the tamal in a second husk.) Finally, fold up the empty 1 ½-inch section of the husk (to form a tightly closed “bottom” leaving the top open), and secure it in place by loosely tying one of the strings or strips of husk around the tamal. As they’re made, stand the tamales on their folded bottoms in the prepared steamer. Don’t tie the tamales too tightly or pack them too closely in the steamer. They need room to expand. 6 Setting up the steamer. Steaming 24 husk-wrapped tamales can be done in batches in a collapsible vegetable steamer set into a large, deep saucepan. To steam them all at once, you need something like the kettle-size tamal steamers used in Mexico or Asian stack steamers, or you can improvise by setting a wire rack on 4 coffee or custard cups in a large kettle. It is best to line the rack or upper part of the steamer with leftover cornhusks to protect the tamales from direct contact with the steam and to add more flavor. Make sure to leave tiny spaces between the husks so condensing steam can drain off. 7 Steaming and serving the tamales: When all the tamales are in the steamer, cover them with a layer of leftover cornhusks if your husk-wrapped tamales don’t take up the entire steamer, fill in the open spaces with loosely wadded aluminum foil (to keep the tamales from falling over). Set the lid in place and steam over a constant medium heat for about 1 ¼ hours. (depending on the size of the tamales you make, it can take up to 4 hours). Watch carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away and, to keep the steam steady, pour boiling water into the pot when more is necessary. Tamales are done when the husk peels away from the masa easily. Let tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up. For the best textured tamales, let them cool completely, then re-steam about 15 minutes to heat through.
  • Cuisine:Mexican
  • Course:Entrée
  • Skill Level:Easy


For the masa: In the bowl of a food processor, process the grits for 1 minute. In a small saucepan bring 1 1/4 cups of the chicken stock to a low boil. Transfer the grits to a bowl and add the hot chicken stock. Let stand uncovered for 10 to 12 minutes. Add the masa harina and cumin, and mix until evenly combined. Cool to room temperature before proceeding.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the lard until smooth, light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of the masa mixture and whip until well-blended. Add remaining masa mixture, little by little, until mixture resembles a thick cake batter, adding chicken stock if needed. Add the baking powder and add salt, to taste, and whip for 1 to 2 minutes until well incorporated and smooth.

Lay 1 cornhusk on a work surface with the narrow end closest to you. Top with a second corn husk so that the fat ends are in the middle and narrow ends out. Spoon 1/4 cup of the masa batter into the center where the husks join and with the back of a spoon, spread it into a 4-inch square. Place about 1 generous tablespoon each of the chicken, grated cheese and chopped poblano in the center of the masa square.

Fold 1 side of the cornhusk over the filling, pulling it tight and tucking it under the filling. Fold the other side over the filling, and then the top and bottom ends. With a piece of kitchen string or a thin strip of leftover corn husk, tie the tamale together loosely so that it resembles an oblong rectangular package. Repeat with the remaining corn husks and filling.

Once the tamales are assembled, line a steamer basket with any remaining cornhusks and layer the tamales inside the steamer basket, leaving enough room for the tamales to expand slightly while cooking. Cover tamales with another remaining cornhusk, cover steamer with a tight fitting lid and steam for 1 1/2 hours, or until tender and tamale easily pulls away from cornhusk. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.


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