Delia’s Tamales Recipe: A Flavorful Tradition in Every Bite

Who can resist the allure of tamales, those savory packets of masa and filling wrapped in corn husks? Delia’s Tamales Recipe brings together tradition and flavor in a delightful culinary experience that’s perfect for gatherings or cozy family meals. Let’s explore how to recreate this cherished dish at home, step-by-step.

The Tradition Behind Delia’s Tamales Recipe

Delia, a passionate cook with a deep-rooted connection to her Mexican heritage, developed this recipe to honor her family’s traditions. Tamales hold a special place in Mexican cuisine, often prepared during holidays and celebrations. Delia’s recipe combines authentic techniques with a touch of personal flair, making it a favorite among her loved ones.

Essential Ingredients You’ll Need

To make Delia’s Tamales at home, gather the following key ingredients:

  • Masa Harina: This is a finely ground corn flour specifically used for making tamales.
  • Corn Husks: Dried corn husks are used to wrap the tamales during cooking.
  • Pork Filling: Pork shoulder or pork butt, seasoned and cooked until tender, then shredded.
  • Chicken Stock: Provides flavor and moisture to the masa dough.
  • Spices: Including chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and salt for seasoning the pork and masa.
  • Optional Additions: Sliced jalapeños, olives, or raisins for extra flavor in the filling.

Cooking Instructions for Delia’s Tamales

Now, let’s dive into how to prepare Delia’s Tamales step-by-step:

  1. Prepare the Corn Husks: Start by soaking the dried corn husks in warm water for about an hour, or until they become pliable. This step ensures they are flexible enough to wrap the tamales without breaking.
  2. Prepare the Pork Filling: Season the pork shoulder with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and salt. Slow cook it until tender, either in a slow cooker or on the stovetop with chicken stock. Once cooked, shred the pork into small pieces.
  3. Prepare the Masa Dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine masa harina with chicken stock and a bit of the rendered pork fat (if available) to create a smooth, spreadable dough. The consistency should be similar to peanut butter—firm yet pliable.
  4. Assemble the Tamales: Take a soaked corn husk and spread a thin layer of masa dough onto the smooth side of the husk, leaving space at the top and sides. Place a spoonful of the shredded pork filling in the center of the masa. Optionally, add a slice of jalapeño, a few olives, or raisins on top of the pork filling.
  5. Fold and Steam: Fold the sides of the corn husk towards the center, then fold up the bottom to enclose the filling completely. Place the tamales upright in a steamer pot with a small amount of water at the bottom. Steam them for about 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the masa becomes firm and easily separates from the husk.
  6. Serve and Enjoy: Once cooked, unwrap the tamales from their husks and serve them warm. They can be enjoyed on their own or with a side of salsa, guacamole, or Mexican crema.

Tips for Perfect Tamales

  • Consistency of Masa: Achieving the right consistency of masa dough is key to making delicious tamales. It should be spreadable but not too thick or too thin.
  • Filling Distribution: Ensure each tamale has an equal amount of filling to masa ratio for a balanced flavor in every bite.
  • Steaming Process: Keep an eye on the water level while steaming to prevent it from drying out, which can affect the texture of the tamales.


Delia’s Tamales Recipe is more than just a dish—it’s a celebration of culture and flavor wrapped in every husk. Whether you’re continuing a long-held tradition or starting a new one, these tamales are sure to bring joy and satisfaction to any gathering. Embrace the process of making tamales as a labor of love, and enjoy the delicious results with family and friends.

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FAQs About Delia’s Tamales Recipe

How do I know when tamales are done steaming?

Tamales are ready when the masa dough is firm and easily separates from the corn husk. Test by gently unwrapping one tamale—if it pulls away cleanly, they’re ready.

Can I freeze tamales?

Yes, tamales freeze well. Once cooled completely, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and then foil before placing them in a freezer-safe container. They can be reheated by steaming or microwaving when ready to eat.

What can I use instead of pork for the filling?

You can substitute shredded chicken, beef, or even beans for a vegetarian option. Adjust the seasoning accordingly to match your filling choice.

How long do tamales last?

Stored in the refrigerator, tamales can last up to one week. In the freezer, they can be stored for up to six months if properly wrapped and sealed.

Can I make tamales ahead of time?

Yes, tamales can be made ahead of time and reheated when needed. They are a great make-ahead dish for parties and gatherings.