In the photo, the tamales were filled with Tex-Mex seasoned shredded beaf brisket from my Crafting Seitan cookbook (available through Amazon). Vegan carnitas (from the same cookbook) would be delicious too. Other filling suggestions might be refried beans, or chopped and cooked mixed vegetables, with shredded vegan cheese; Tex-Mex seasoned textured vegetable protein or soy curls. Yields about 20 tamales.

Ingredients for the Masa Dough

  • 4 cups masa harina (do not use regular cornmeal)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 3 cups broth (vegan beef, vegan chicken, or vegetable broth)
  • 1 cup refined coconut oil, melted
  • 1/3 cup neutral vegetable oil

Other Ingredients

  • package dried corn husks
  • Fillings of your choice (about 4 cups of filling for one batch of masa dough)


Immerse the corn husks in a large container of very hot water and let stand for a few hours to soften (you will need about ½ the package).

Prepare desired fillings and set aside.

To make the masa dough, add the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Add the broth and oils and mix well to create a smooth thickened batter.

Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap to prevent the dough from drying out.

Assemble the tamales: Lay a corn husk, glossy side up, on the counter with the wide end at the top. Scoop about ¼ cup of masa on to the top center of the corn husk. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and spread the masa using your fingers into a thin layer, about ¼-inch thick (be sure to only spread the dough along the top half of the corn husk to allow plenty of room to fold the bottom husk up when finished filling). Working with the sticky masa takes a little practice, so be patient.

Place about 2 generous tablespoons of desired filling in a line down the center of the dough. Avoid using too much.

Fold in one long side of the husk over the filling. Fold in the other long side, overlapping the first (like folding a brochure). Fold the bottom of the husk up.

Add water to the bottom of your conventional steamer or instant pot (electric pressure cooker). Use 2 cups for the pressure cooker; or a few inches for a steamer pot. In either case, don’t fill above the steamer rack. Lay a few extra corn husks on the bottom rack to keep the tamales from falling through and any boiling water from directly touching them.

Place the tamales standing upright, with their open end up, just tightly enough to keep them standing. If using a steamer pot, lay a few soaked corn husks over the top of the tamales before closing the lid.

Conventional Steamer Pot

Bring the water to a boil (in Mexico it is a common practice to place a coin at the bottom of the steamer and when the coin started to tap in the pot you know the water was boiling.) Set a timer for 50 minutes.

Pressure Cooker

Cook on Manual/High for 25 minutes. Allow pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, and then quick release.

Store leftover tamales in the refrigerator up to 1 week.

To freeze, allow the cooked tamales to cool, then place them in a freezer safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months.


Reheat the tamales in a conventional steamer; or wrap chilled or frozen tamales in a few dampened paper towels and microwave until warmed through.  The wet paper towels will help them “steam” as they are reheated.

Vegan Tamales
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Cuisine Mexican
Cuisine Mexican
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