Vegetarian Tamales

I really miss Mexican-American food when I live in other countries.  For some reason I was thinking about tamales the other day, so I looked up how to make them online.  Unfortunately all the recipes called for masa harina (not sold here), flour, and beef or chicken.  Well, I like to try things out my own way.  Masa harina is ground white corn, and I thought it can’t be that different from cornmeal…except that cornmeal’s gritty.  I came up with the following recipe on my first try.  It was amazing!  The husband loved it.  The kids…not so much.  We make it anyway.

Vegetarian Tamales


1 c. yellow cornmeal (I found mine at Bakery Supply in the freezer)

1/3 c. oil

2 c. water

1 tsp. salt

Place in a sauce pan.  Cook on medium-high until all the liquid’s used up.  Cover and let sit until cool, about 30 minutes.  Proceed with your filling.


1 sweet potato, skinned and chopped small (I prefer the yellow variety, but orange yams work fine as well)

1 onion, chopped small

1 c. chopped mushrooms (I think I used button mushrooms here)

1 tomato, chopped small

1/2 can black olives, cut in half

4 garlic cloves, minced or sliced

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. salt

1 TB oil

Toss it all in a frying pan.  Cook until the liquid’s used up.  Add 1 c. water, cover and simmer on low until the water is all gone, and the potatoes are soft.  About 20 minutes.  Set aside until you’re ready with the dough.

Dough Continued

By now your cornmeal should be firm and cool to the touch.  Crumble it up with your hands and add:

2 eggs (I make mine egg free = 2 tsp ground flax and 1/3 c. water)

3/4 c. buckwheat flour

1/2 c. cornstarch

1 tsp ground flax seed

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

Mix this well by hand.  It will be quite sticky and the consistency of playdough.  Using parchment paper or banana leaves: take about 1/2 c. of the dough, roll it out to 1/4 inch thick on the parchment in a rectangular shape.  Place 1/3 c. of the filling in the center.  Pull up the top and the bottom, and pinch the dough together.  Roll the dough to the top.  Grab both sides of the roll and squeeze gently together.  Twist the ends.  Place in your steamer and steam for 20-30 minutes.  Serve with salsa and sour cream.  I ran out of parchment paper, so made a tamale pie in a ceramic bowl.  This recipe usually makes about 8 rolls.  Serves 4.




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