Happy New Year’s Chicken Tamales

Many cultures have special foods for the New Year.

Growing up, our New Years food could be whatever we could eat while spending the day watching college football. Others, however, have more specific requests:

  • Argentina – Beans
  • Austria – Suckling pig
  • France – Goose or turkey, oysters and champagne
  • Germany – Pfannkuchens (jelly filled doughnuts)
  • Italy – A savory pork sausage and lentils
  • Japan – Buckwheat noodles
  • Mexico and Spain – Grapes
  • Phillippines – Round foods

Even within the United States there are traditions:

  • South – Greens and black-eyed peas
  • Midwest – Pork and sauerkraut
  • Southwest – Tamales

Photo Dec 31, 12 04 17 PM copy - Featured Size

This year I decided to make tamales. I made them on 12/31 and we had a few just so I could get this post up for the new year.

Photo Dec 31, 8 03 13 AM

Make sure you get masa harina and not just regular corn meal. I had red salsa in the picture but found the salsa verde in time to make the dish.

Photo Dec 31, 8 03 21 AM

I filled my sink with warm water and tried to keep the husks submerged. I think I was mostly successful.

Photo Dec 31, 9 23 33 AM

Using my Keurig to make the hot water, the ancho chile is re-hydrating in a coffee mug.

Photo Dec 31, 9 43 21 AM

The cilantro is in the food processor with the hot broth.

Photo Dec 31, 9 59 07 AM

The lard, chili paste, salt and masa ready to be mixed.

Photo Dec 31, 10 08 49 AM

The chicken is ready.

Photo Dec 31, 10 10 47 AM

I laid out all my husks.

Photo Dec 31, 10 14 47 AM

And put a scoop of the masa mixture on each.

Photo Dec 31, 10 23 04 AM

Spread it thinly on the husk, leaving some space around the edge.

Photo Dec 31, 10 26 00 AM

Put a bit of the chicken in the center.

Photo Dec 31, 10 29 16 AM

Fold up both ends, rolling it. Fold in the thin end. I like to tie mine off just to keep the end in tact.

Photo Dec 31, 10 58 16 AM

All of them are in my make-shift steamer.

Photo Dec 31, 11 06 19 AM

I put some water in my largest roasting pan and placed a rack inside it. The tamales were put on top and then I covered it tight with foil (and cut a few small holes in the top). The pan went on my cooktop and after boiling turned it down to a simmer.

Photo Dec 31, 12 03 03 PM

Ready to serve.

Photo Dec 31, 12 03 47 PM

Three for me.

Photo Dec 31, 12 04 10 PM

Open it up to find a great meal.

Photo Dec 31, 12 10 22 PM

The key to the tamale is to get a thin layer of masa compared to the filling. I think I did a decent job here. I also like how the outside of the tamale has the grooves from the husk. Have a Happy New Year!

Chicken Tamales

prep 1 H ∙ cook 1 H ∙ makes 24 tamales ∙ difficulty Intermediate ∙ source Foodnetwork.com


  • 24 dried corn husks
  • 1 tablespoon chicken-flavored bouillon powder
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup hot salsa verde
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 dried ancho chile, stemmed and seeded
  • 4 cups masa harina (instant corn flour)
  • 1 1/3 cups lard


Soak the corn husks in a bowl of hot water, using a plate to keep them submerged, until pliable, 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Bring the bouillon powder and 4 cups water to a simmer in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the chicken and simmer until cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and let cool; cut into small pieces. Reserve the broth.

Puree the cilantro and 1 1/4 cups of the reserved broth in a food processor until smooth (save the remaining broth for another use). Transfer to a medium pot. Add the garlic, cumin and salsa and bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook until slightly reduced, about 12 minutes. Stir in the chicken and season with salt. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Make the dough: Soak the ancho chile in hot water until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain the chile, then mince to make a paste. Combine the chile paste, masa harina, lard, 2 2/3 cups warm water and 2 teaspoons salt

in a bowl. Mix with your hands (or use a mixer with the paddle attachment) 10 to 15 minutes, or until a marble-size ball of dough floats in water.

Drain the husks and pat dry. Starting 1/2 inch from the wide end, spread about 3 tablespoons of the dough down a husk, leaving a 1-inch border on the sides. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the chicken filling down the center of the dough, then fold in the sides of the husk, wrapping the dough around the filling. Fold up the narrow end of the husk. Repeat with the remaining husks, dough and filling.

Set a steamer basket in a large pot filled with 1 to 2 inches of water. Arrange the tamales standing up in the steamer, folded-side down. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover and steam until the tamales pull away from the husks, about 1 hour. Remove from the steamer and let cool slightly before unwrapping.

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Categories: appetizer, Chicken2, Lunch3, Mexican, New Years, Recipes, Side Dish, snack

Author:The Ranting Chef

Check out the best recipes at rantingchef.com

11 Comments on “Happy New Year’s Chicken Tamales”

  1. January 1, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    Reblogged this on Take Back the Kitchen and commented:
    Happy New Year’s everyone! Because most of you are either exhausted or hungover, you’re probably not going to stick around and read new material. By the end of this week, I should be back to blogging. In the meantime, enjoy this entry from “Rantings of An Amateur Chef,” another one of my inspirations for this blog.


  2. January 1, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    These look delicious! 🙂


  3. January 1, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    Happy New Year / Bonne Annee! I just had my New Year’s dinner of pork & sauerkraut, a traditional meal from my childhood in Pennsylvania, USA.


  4. January 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    Great! These are quite an undertaking and your’s sound perfect. Happy New Year!


  5. January 1, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    Yes, I will be making these next week.


  6. January 1, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    This is something I always wanted to make, they look so yummy!


  7. January 1, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    These look divine… I’ve always shied away from making tamales… a lot of work, but look at the result!! Just perfect! I just may have to give them a try! Happy New Year!


  8. January 1, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    Reblogged this on Local Sprouts and commented:
    What I would do for a tamale right now!


  9. January 1, 2014 at 8:12 pm #

    Here in Kentucky we have two traditions people choose from. One is Corned Beef and Cabbage and the other is Black-eyed peas.


  10. January 1, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    Tamales are our Christmas Eve Tradition, they are delicious!


  11. January 2, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    wow, I never knew so much went into making these. I love tamales, and now maybe I’ll actually make my own. (I can still get some good new year’s luck eating them a few days later, right?)


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