June 1, 2012

Tasty Tamalitos and 10-Minute Chili Sauce~
Party Perfect and Lunchbox Ready!

These two-bite tamales are easy to make and are perfect for parties and lunch on the go!  They can be made with any filling you like, and when paired with the chili sauce you have a perfect meal in minutes!  The chili sauce has a slow-cooked-all-day flavor, but can be made in a snap and is perfect as a dip for tortilla chips, a filling for tacos, or as a topping for chili and cheeseburgers. 

We started making these little tamales because my youngest daughter loves taking tamales in her school lunch, and the smaller size pops right into a thermos.  We make them several dozen at a time and stick them in the freezer.  When ready to serve, we wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave for a few minutes.  For the lunchbox, we stick them right in the thermos, paper towel and all.  When the lunch bell rings, they're warm, delicious and ready to enjoy!

Making these tamalitos is fun for the whole family!

Here's a video showing how it's done!

(Lunchbox Tamales)
makes approx. 3 dozen

1 8 oz. package of dried corn husks (You'll need approx. 48 full husks) 
3 cups Masa Harina
6 tablespoons butter, cold and cubed
1 teaspoon kosher salt (halve the amount if using regular salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups warm water
More vegetable oil for brushing the husks

Your choice of filling

Step 1:  Place husks in a large bowl and fill with boiling water.  Place a plate or bowl in the pot to weigh down the husks.  Let soak for an hour.

Step 2:  Prepare the dough by adding the masa harina, kosher salt and baking powder to the bowl of a standing mixer. With speed on low, add butter cubes one at a time.  Turn speed up to medium and continue to mix until you have a coarse meal.  This can also be done in a large bowl with a pastry blender or two forks.

Step 3:  Slowly stir in the vegetable oil, then add water and continue to stir on low speed until the dough comes together.  This can also be done by hand.  Gently knead the dough a few times in the bowl.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth until ready to use.

Step 4:  Remove husks from water.  Dry with lint-free towel, then cut into 6"h x 4"w rectangles with scissors.  With the remaining husks, cut or shred into strips (approx. 7" h x 1/2" w) to use to tie off the tamalitos.  Set aside.

Step 5:  Set up a workstation with a clean surface for rolling tamales, vegetable oil, a bowl of filling, the dough, the husk rectangles and strips, and a bowl for the finished tamalitos.  

Step 6:  Place a husk rectangle on the work surface.  Rub both sides with vegetable oil. 

 Step 7:  Place 2 Tablespoons dough in the center of the husk and press down with fingers to create a thin area of dough for the filling.

Step 8:  Add some filling.  We used Monterey jack cheese and corn.

Step 9:  Use the husk to gently roll the filling over on itself.  Give it a light squeeze to seal.

Step 10:  Then, unroll the husk.  Fold the bottom of the husk upward over the dough.  Hold in place while you roll the husk over the dough.  

Step 11:  Use a husk strip to tie off the top.  Set aside and repeat until you've used all of the dough.

Step 12:  Place a steamer in a stock pot and fill with water to the level of the steamer.  Line  the steamer and sides of pot with damp husks to prevent the tamales from touching the metal and burning.  Cover and bring water to a simmer.  Add tamalitos.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from pot and cool on a plate.  

 Tamalitos can be eaten immediately, refrigerated or frozen.

10-Minute Chili Sauce

2 slices bacon, chopped, or 2 Tablespoons oil
½ medium onion chopped
1 pound 96% lean ground beef
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon Chili powder (mild)
4 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon vinegar based hot sauce (Frank’s)
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons masa harina

Step 1: In a large saucepan, brown bacon (*2 minutes). Add onion and cook over medium heat until onion is transluscent (2 minutes).

Step 2: Add ground beef, salt, cumin, and chili powder and cook till beef is no longer pink (2 minutes).  Use a spatula or spoon to break up the meat into smaller pieces as it cooks.

Step 3:  Add tomato paste, hot sauce, and water and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.  

Step 4:  Stir in the masa harina and cook for a remaining minute, until the sauce thickens slightly (1 minute).

Step 5:  Use a stick blender to pulse the chili mixture to desired consistency (1 minute).  You can also do this in the bowl of a food processor.  The idea is to give the chili a smoother consistency without going so far as to make it a paste. 

Chili sauce is ready to enjoy!

*Times are approximate

This post has been shared with:
Whole Food Wednesday @ Beyond the Peel


  1. This is great Jenn! I have to say I have been wanting to try for sometime. You made it look so easy now I have no excuse. Tamales are Sammie's favorites & I can see her loving to help me make these. I am pinning your tutorial. Feel free to link up your projects anytime in my link up that is weekly. Looks like your besties are in for a great summer! How cute. I never knew there was edible sand, those projects were so cute too! &(I love baking) Theresa @ DearCreatives.com

  2. My hubby loves tamales, but I didn't know how to make them so I've never even attempted it. Thanks for the super simple video and tutorial! I can totally do this at home. Now to source out some corn husks...


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