The holiday season in Latin America means that it’s tamale time!  Join the fun and learn how to make your own tamales this year!. If you have never made them before, no worries!  Carolina® Rice will help you every step of the way with step-by-step instructions. Before you know it, you’ll be an expert!

Before we share our favorite both savory and sweet tamale recipes, let’s start by explaining what tamales are.

What are Tamales? 

Tamales are made from a corn-based dough and stuffed with a combination of meat, cheeses or vegetables. After the dough has been stuffed they are then wrapped up in a corn husk and tied together with twine.  Opening a tamale is like unwrapping a present, so it’s a fitting food to serve during a holiday party.

Typically In Latin America, tamales are commonly associated with specific times during the year like the The Feast of our Lady Guadalupe on December 12th and the Three Kings Day on January 6th. However, after you realize how easy making a tamale really is, you will be enjoying them all year long. 

Tamale Fillings

The beautiful thing about tamales is that you can customize them with a large variety of ingredients depending on your mood. You can decide between pork, beef or chicken.  Get creative with your mix-ins and don’t hesitate to unfollow the recipe. Here are some ideas for inspiration:

  • Vegetables:  If you are a vegetarian, tamales are a great option since you can easily replace meat with vegetables like peppers, zucchini or tomatoes. 
  • Cheese: Cheese makes everything better. Tamales are no exception. If you enjoy gooey cheese try adding in some cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack.
  • Chiles: Red chiles are best when mixed with beef and pork while green chile are best with vegetarian tamales and chicken. 

Different Latin American traditions have you wrapping your tamales in different options.  In Mexico, for example, they choose to wrap in the traditional corn husk while plantains are the wrap of choice in Venezuela.  Another great option to wrap your tamale are banana leaves.

Tamale Preparation

Traditionally, tamales are prepared using a masa of corn or a conventional dough. However, for  Chorizo Rice Tamales made with Carolina® Rice, turkey and chorizo you can follow these instructions for a tasty twist on this Latin American classic:

Firstly, in a bowl, combine CarolinaRice® Jasmine Rice, chicken broth water and leave to sit. After approximately  2 hours, blend together the rice mixture along with lard, butter, salt and pepper until you see a paste texture begin to form.

In a skillet, heat up some red peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes. Once tender, add turkey, chorizo, and sazon seasoning and cook until the meats are browned. Continue adding chicken broth and once it is boiling, leave to simmer until the liquid has been absorbed.

Tying Your Tamales

Once your rice paste is finished you can now spread some evenly across a corn husk and top with meat mixture.  Tie up your tamale.

If this is your first time tying a tamale, simply fold the sides of your corn husks inwards over the filling. You then fold over the top and bottom ends of the husk and tie together with a string.

Steam Your Tamales

Now that your tamales are tied, heat some water in a deep steamer and add your tamales to the rack.  If you want to avoid the water touching your tamales, a good trick is to cover the rack with a banana leaf.

Continue to cover and steam your tamales until they are firm, this should take around approximately one hour, but can take longer.

Serving Tamales 

Since tamales come naturally packaged they are the ideal portable food. You won’t even need to pack a plate since the husk can be used for this purpose. 

For a flavor boost, chop up some tomatoes, red onion,and cilantro for a quick and zesty pico de gallo.

Looking for even more oomph?  Serve your tamales with a spicy sauce like tabasco or chili sauce.

Perfect Latin American Sides 

If you are looking for a yummy accompaniment to serve with your tamales, combining it with another traditional Latin American dish is a great idea. Make an unforgettable Mexican meal by pairing tamales with this Cilantro Lime Rice recipe made with Carolina® Jasmine Rice. This recipe includes: lime zest, lime juice, olive oil, salt, cilantro and two cloves of garlic. The best part of this recipe? You probably already have all of the ingredients in your pantry!

Cilantro lime rice with jasmine

Ideas for Holiday Dessert 

While there is an ample selection of holiday goodies made with rice, it may be fun to try out some non-traditional recipes this year.  Here are some of our favorite ideas.

Keep the tamalada alive by making a sweet variation of this Latin American staple. These Sweet Rice Tamales contain blueberries and Carolina® White Rice– a perfect way to finish a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast.


For a festive and fun new twist for a holiday season dessert idea you can check out these Christmas Cake RiceFritters made with cheery favorites like cinnamon and rum syrup.

Thanks for relying on Carolina® Rice for fun and festive recipe ideas.

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