Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lentils + Red Sauce Tamales

I know, I know, I have been horrible about blogging recipes lately. I'm not sure if it was the summer heat stifling my creative writing juices or what, but I am excited to get back into this fall and have tons of exciting recipes I am working on to share with you guys! The first is this terrific vegan tamale recipe (from scratch) that was inspired by lovely Brooke over at Cheeky Kitchen. The masa recipe below is hers, and was just too good to alter in any way! However I did experiment with my own filling recipe and it blew our socks off. But for you who see this recipe list and instructions and grow weary of ever making homemade tamales - hang on, don't quit reading just yet. Go buy your favorite jar of enchilada sauce and a package of pre-cooked lentils, stir them together, and skip to the masa making step. YOU CAN DO THIS. It will be so worth it, trust me. 

Yields 16 large or 24 smaller tamales.


Red Sauce
2 cups roasted tomato sauce
3 ancho chili peppers dried
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
5 large cloves of garlic minced
1 teaspoon pink salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 cup water

4 cups masa de harina
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut oil melted
6 cups veggie broth 

1 cup french lentils dry
3 cups veggie broth or water

Corn Husks

Begin by cooking the lentils. Combine the lentils and broth, or water, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Let cook for about 35 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed by the lentils. Turn off the heat and let sit, still covered, for 15 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking bring a smaller pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and place the dried ancho chili peppers in the pot, submerging them as best you can and re-covering with the lid. Let them soak for 10-15 minutes, flipping them halfway through, to rehydrate and soften. Then slice in half, remove the stems and seeds, and place in a blender. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the blender and puree until smooth. Take a taste and add any additional seasonings that you desire at this point.

In a large bowl combine the lentils and red sauce, set aside.

Fill another large mixing bowl with hot water and submerge the cornhusks to soften.

In a third large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the masa and stir in the coconut oil and veggie broth. The consistency should be that of cookie dough. If it is too dry, add an additional tablespoon of veggie broth at a time until it reaches this consistency. I had to add about 1/4 cup extra to my mixture this time.

Ready to get wrapping!? Brace yourself, I struggled to adequately describe my methods here:

I made my tamales a good size, using two cornhusks per tamale. I laid the fatter ends overlapping each other with the pointy ends pointing away from one another (super technical terms, feel free to use them). Then I spread the masa all the way across width-wise, and up and down to form a large square in the center about 1/4 inch thick. I then spooned about 2-3 tablespoons of the lentil + red sauce mixture into the center. Lifting up one side of the husk at a time, I folded the masa mixture over the filling and separating it from the husk until my filling was totally wrapped in a rectangle shaped blanket of masa in the center of the two husks. I then folded over each side of the husks and then the top and bottom pointy ends over one another. You can leave it at this point and place the folded side down when cooking if you wish. I decided to take one of the soaked tamale husks and tear it into strips and use these to tie around each of the tamales to secure them closed (like in the picture above). This is not a pretty or perfect ordeal. Things will get messy and they will not be uniform - embrace the chaos!

If you own a roasting pan, pre-heat your oven to 400 F. Lay the wrapped tamales on the rack in your roasting pan and fill the bottom of the pan with about 2 cups of water, making sure the water does not reach the tamales. Cover the top of the pan tightly with aluminum foil and steam-bake them for about 35-45 minutes (or until firm to the touch). 

Now, if you are like me and do not own a roasting pan, get out a large pot and place a steamer basket at the bottom. Fill with 1/2 cup of water or so, and start layering your tamales on top of one another (or at a slant if they fit standing up). I could only fit about 8 of my larger tamales in my pot, leaving me with enough extra filling and dough to roll 8 more afterwards or the next day. Cover and place on the stove to steam. Cook on medium to medium-low heat for an hour or so, checking halfway through to make sure there is still water simmering to steam (if not add more water). You will know that the tamales are done when they are firm to the touch. Keep in mind that if you are layering the tamales on top of one another the ones at the bottom will cook faster. Check them after 35-40 minutes or so and if they are firm remove them and place the ones that were on top back in the pot to continue steaming.

Remove the tamales from the pot when they have fully cooked and lay out to cool. If eating right away, let them cool and set for about 15 minutes before serving. If cooling to store away and eat at another time, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and reheat by steaming in a pot on the stove for 10 minutes before serving. If freezing, place in a freezer safe zip lock bag in the freezer for up to one month. When ready to eat, transfer frozen tamales to the refrigerator to fully thaw before reheating. Steam them on the stove for 10 minutes before serving. You could also reheat them by covering the tamales with a paper towel on a plate and microwaving for a few minutes too.

Serve with guacamole and salsa.


  1. Yay! Tamales are one of my favorite food groups. :)

  2. These look delicious Jessie! I'm down for the long haul from scratch so count me in. :)

    1. Thank you Julie :) I bet you are! You would make awesome variations of these too!

  3. I made these tonight with a friend and they turned out awesome! We did have a Mexican friend helping us a bit with the consistency of the masa dough (we only used 4 cups of veggie broth and had to add about 2 tablespoons more masa de harina flour. We were so proud of ourselves after we tasted them! Thanks for an awesome recipe!

    1. That is so awesome! I'm so happy to hear that! Thanks for passing along your luck with altering the dough proportions too. So so happy to hear you made and enjoyed them!