When we first decided to make tamales, it was a little intimidating. Any dish that is often made for holidays that involves a lot of steps and just as many people was bound to be a challenge.
Tamales are actually not that difficult to a make. And happily, since we used an Instant Pot, no special large pot for steaming was needed. The resulting tamales are a little smaller than traditional ones I have had, but they taste just as good. And these, because they are filled with our homemade barbaocoa beef (also made in the Instant Pot) are absolutely delicious!
If you have never tried barbacoa beef, you are in for a treat. It is slow cooked chuck in a fragrant sauce made with cumin, oregano, cinnamon, smoky chipotles in adobo, aromatic vegetables and beef stock. Perfect for our favorite Mexican inspired dishes, such as tacos, taco salads, nachos, enchiladas and …. tamales!
We often make it in big batches and freeze it to use in recipes later. For the tamales, we took the frozen barbacoa and strained the meat from the broth. We used the meat for the filling and the broth to mix in with the tamales.
For this tamale recipe you can substitute other fillings, such as pulled pork, black beans or green chiles and cheese. In any case, using a stock rather than plain warm water to make the masa dough will result in a more flavorful tamale.
Regarding the fat for the dough: we used fat that was rendered when we make bone broths using the Instant Pot. This again will result in more flavor. You can, however, substitute other fats, such as crisco or even vegetable oil with good results.
Here are some additional Instant Pot Recipes you might enjoy!
- 4 Cups Masa Harina (corn flour) for Tamales
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
- 1 1/4 Cups Fat*
- 2 Cups Beef Stock**
- 16 Ounces Prepared Barbacoa Beef
- 25 Corn Husks
Soak husks for about 30 minutes in warm water until they are supple.
Rinse each leaf to remove any grit and set aside.
Instructions for Preparing the Masa
Heat the fat and stock (or juice strained from the Barbacoa) in a small sauté pan or in a microwave. Once the fat is melted, stir in the baking soda and salt.
After making sure the mixture is cool enough to the touch, combine the fat mixture with the Masa Harina using your hands in a large bowl or use a pastry blender if available.
When a dough is formed check the dough by slapping your hand on the surface. If any dough sticks, add additional fat (about 1 - 2 tablespoons at a time) until your hand comes away clean.
Assembling the Tamales
Place 1 cup of water in the bottom of the Instant Pot.
Place a steamer basket or metal steaming pan inside the instant pot. If using a steaming pan, make sure to place a trivet with a handle inside the pot or make a 4" sling using folded tin foil so that you can remove the pan when the tamales are done.
Use one corn husk to test what size each tamale can be inside the steamer, so that after the husk is filled, the lid of the Instant Pot will be able to close. Cut the husk to this size and use it as a guide.
Put 2-3 tablespoons of the Masa dough inside of the smooth side of a tamale husk. Spread the dough evenly to the top and sides of the husk, and down to the level of the corn husk guide you created.
Place 2 tablespoons of barbacoa meat in the center of the tamale and spread it evenly along the center of the tamale.
Fold each side of the tamale inward to create a tube shape. Fold the bottom of the tamale up to create a little envelope and tie with a small strip of corn husk.
Place the tamale in steamer in the Instant Pot, opened end facing upward.
Continue until all of the dough is used or the instant pot is full.
Seal the lid of the Instant Pot (make sure you remembered to put 1 cup of water inside the pot.
Set the venting knob to "sealing" and set the pot to "Manual" or "High" for 38 minutes.
Immediately release the pressure when the cooking time is complete.
Let stand 15 - 30 minutes before serving.
* We used fat that was previously rendered and frozen when making bone stocks using the Instant Pot. This will result in more flavor. You can, however, substitute other fats, such as crisco or even vegetable oil with good results.
**For this recipe, we recommend straining the juice from the barbacoa beef recipe, which can be made and even frozen for months in advance. If you use plain beef stock, add 1 teaspoon of oregano & cumin and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon for additional flavor.