Nopales Tamales

Nopales Tamales

Vegetarian Tamales

Holy Tamale it’s a recipe for Nopales Tamales! The long awaited nopale tamale recipe is recorded and being written down on The Vegetarian Blog! After the 5th Annual Nopales Festival, the doors have opened for me to a whole new business opportunity, which I will briefly narrate. But first I want to thank those that patiently have been waiting for this recipe and I’m grateful for your continuous support!

After the successful recipe contest that I won first place for my tamales, I decided to to sell my tamales at the upcoming Tequila & Taco Festival in Santa Cruz. I made nopales tamales and soy ceviche (both vegan) and Wowawiwah! I couldn’t have asked for a better response, people were loving my Mexican food and were in shock that it was not only vegan but also gluten free! I got all kinds of positive feedback like how I should sell them in stores and even made it on the Santa Cruz Waves website. And well to make the story shorter, I am working on my permits to label and package my tamales for wholesale manufacturing and I also have a contract with a store to start selling them locally in Santa Cruz! So if you wonder why would I give out my recipe of which I am creating my future business out of? Cooking is simply my passion and addiction in life. I put all my love into preparing, cooking and serving it and what better way to share something so special to me than posting it online. Maybe some of you will like to buy my tamales here in Santa Cruz or make them at home yourselves, either way a meal is something I have never taken for granted and so here I am sharing my love and passion with you. Enjoy!

Nopales Tamales

Corn & Nopales Tamales

Makes 25-30 tamales
Prep & Cooking time approx. 3 hrs

Masa for tamales

2 lbs of harina Maseca, or any corn flour (approx. 7 cups)
2 cups of semolina or farina
3 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt
2 cups oil or butter (vegetable, canola, coconut, safflower)
4-9 cups water
1 lb bag of dried corn husks or 40 fresh corn leaves

Nopales & Corn Filling

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 red onions, quartered
2 cups cilantro, chopped
15-20 “penkas” of nopal (whole green cactus leaf) thorns removed and sliced lengthwise ¼ – ½ inch (most mexican stores sell them already prepped and sliced, or even jarred), in that case buy a 2 lb bag of sliced Nopales
1 lb corn kernels, frozen, canned or fresh
salt to taste

Don’t forget you need a Tamale Pot or any large steaming pot!

Directions for filling:

  1. In a large frying pan add ⅛ cup of oil, ¼ cup of cilantro and half of the chopped red onions. Stir on high for 30 seconds and add 1 lb of nopales. Continue to stir on high for about 2 minutes or until the cactus turns into a deeper green. Add ½ cup of corn, mix for 1 more minute and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the nopales are tender. Remove from pan and transfer to a bowl. Repeat the instructions to finish the remaining ingredients. When finished cooking the rest of the nopales, add the remaining ½ cup of fresh chopped cilantro to the mix.
  2. Wash and soak the dry husks in hot water. Since they are light, they will have the tendency to rise to the surface. Place a heavy plate or bowl on top to submerge them. If you happen to have fresh corn leaves, wash each one individually and place in a towel to dry. Since they are still green, they are most likely flexible and don’t need to be soaked in hot water.
  3. While your husks are soaking, empty half of the Maseca bag into a large bowl. Add the semolina, baking powder and salt. Mix thoroughly and then add oil slowly in a spiral way. Mix with your hands until it resembles a ground course. Add warm water and mix quick. Corn flour quickly absorbs water so you can add 4 cups of water instantly, then start mixing. If you get too tired to mix with your hands (you do need a lot of strength to mix for 5 minutes!) then you can mix with a wooden spoon. If the masa feels too hard to toss and mix, add more water. When the masa is at its peak, you should hear the spongy-ness of it, as it is being mixed. FOOD speaks to you! you just have to pay attention to it :), or you can also make a little ball and drop it in a glass of water, if it sinks you still need to whip it more.

If you have a Kitchen Aid Mixer, mix the dry ingredients first, add the oil at a speed of 4, mixing for 30 seconds, and empty half of the flour mix into a separate bowl. Add warm water to the mix in the Kitchen Aid and mix on a speed of 5. Slowly add 5 cups of water (otherwise it will splash you in the eye!) and mix for one minute. The masa is ready when it is fluffy and aerated, make sure you poke it and its not sticking to your finger (otherwise it’s too wet). It should grow double in size hence we only add water to half of the mix. Repeat the same steps for the remaining corn flour mix.

  1. Next is tamale prep and folding! Add 4 cups of water to the bottom of the steaming pot. Set the steamer tray and place corn husks to cover the base. Get a cutting board or a plate that can hold water that drips from the husks. So the leaves or husks have a soft side and a rough side and my mother taught me to place the masa in the inside of the husk leaf which is the softer side with less ridges.
  2. Place the narrow end of the husk in your palm, and the wide end of the top. Spoon about ¼ cup of masa and spread in the middle of the husk. Leave about 2 inches on the sides and 4 inches on the narrow bottom end (this is used for folding) Using an outward motion spread across a ¼-½ inch thick masa across the husk. Spread 1 ½ tablespoons of the nopal corn filling down the center of the masa. Fold both sides to the center to seal the filling with the masa; open the sides and finish off by bringing the pointed end of the husk toward the filling, then close with the sides. Make sure it’s well wrapped so the tamale will not spill out while it steams. Place the tamales in the steamer pot. If the husk is not flexible to wrap, tie the tamale with a husk strip. Most people place them standing up with with the opening facing upwards, but I like to set them flat down and pile them neatly on top of each other. Place any remaining husks over the tamales and cover. Boil water on high for 15 minutes then, then lower to medium and steam for 1 hour. With the fresh corn leaves fold a leaf into a cone shape and then drop a 1/4 cup of masa into the folded leaf, and wrap to cover with the rest of the leaf. Pile them neatly to steam in the pot. These type of tamales are from the state of Michoacan, Mexico, known as Corundas.
  3. To check if they are cooked, remove a tamale, place on a plate and open the husks (careful not to burn yourself). If the husk comes off without sticking to the tamale, they are done! Take out as many tamales as you are serving and let cool for 5 minutes with husks. Then to serve, remove tamale from husks, set on a plate and and drizzle with salsa and sour cream/crema.


Note: In the past i have set up a really guetto steamer with forks entwined and then placed a bunch of husks over them, and it works! Just make sure they hold up strong and your tamales won’t fall into the water. The filling for tamales is unlimited and one of my favorites is “La Morena” pickled jalapeños with queso Oaxaca or monterey jack, chipotle beans, mole, or even a sweet potato tamales. Feel free to experiment your tamaladas!


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