Chicken Tamales

Chicken Tamales

Naturally gluten-free, now your favorite Tex-Mex mini package is onion- and garlic-free, too, making it low-FODMAP! Go ahead, savor every tiny bite. Created for Tamaliday!

By and

We Texan gals love our Tex-Mex fare, especially individually packed tamales. These savory, tasty treats can be filled with chicken, beef, pork, or vegetables, and they are naturally gluten-free due to their corn flour dough (which is called masa, a very fine and fragrant corn meal). As with most Tex-Mex, traditional recipes call for onion and garlic. Of course, those items just will not do for those of us with sensitive stomachs. Fear not, amigo! Here is our Twinkie take on onion- and garlic-free tamales for Tamaliday!

A few things we learned while creating this recipe:

  • Have on the ready lots of kitchen towels and paper towels (go ahead, grab a whole roll).
  • Use as little masa as you can. Adjust the amount to the size of the husks. And corn husks come in all sizes.
  • Cover the steaming pot with a lid. Again, COVER with LID (we missed this step the first time and kicked ourselves)! If your tamales are too tall for the lid to be secure, no worries, simply cover with clean kitchen towel, securing corners at the top so they do not burn.
  • To keep tamales from shifting down in the steamer basket, invert a ceramic mug, place it in the middle of basket, and secure tamales around the mug.
  • Tamales believe there is strength in numbers, so go ahead and tightly pack the steamer basket.
  • Finally, the singular of tamales is tamal. Not tamale. Yo soy Katherine, and I love grammar in any language.


For the Night Before
  • 5 lbs chicken, bone-in and skin-on (for flavor), about 60% breast and 40% thigh
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (canola, grapeseed, olive)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 60 dried corn husks (these are sold in packages of approximately 100 – 120)
For the Day of
  • 6 cups Onion-Free Chicken Stock
  • 6 tsp ancho chili powder (divided into 2 tsp and 4 tsp portions)
  • 2 tsp dried, crushed chipotle chili
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried cilantro leaves
  • 1 - 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 8 cups instant masa (we use Maseca as it is naturally gluten-free; look for the white package in order to avoid gums)
  • 2 cups palm shortening at room temperature (we use Spectrum or Nutiva)


    For Night Before
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Onto a sheet pan, place raw chicken, brush both sides with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place pan into oven, roast chicken for up to 30 minutes or until 165 degrees internal temperature.
  3. Remove chicken from oven, turn off oven, and allow chicken to cool on sheet pan for 30 minutes. Add to large bowl, tightly cover, and place into refrigerator overnight.
  4. Into a second large bowl, place corn husks. Fill bowl with water. Cover with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature overnight.
  5. For Day of
  6. Drain corn husks. Using clean paper towels, gently dry each husk on both sides and set aside onto a plate. Cover with clean, damp kitchen towel.
  7. Place medium saucepan onto stove and turn on stove to medium-high heat. Add stock, warm to a simmer (do not boil) and reduce heat to low while you prep.
  8. Remove chicken from refrigerator. Remove all skin and bones (discard or save for new stock). Shred meat into a large bowl and season with 2 tsp chili powder, crushed chipotle chili, cumin, oregano, cilantro, and ½ - 1 tsp salt to taste. Remember, this chicken has been cooked, so it is OK to sample it to make certain you like the flavors. Add up to ½ cup of warmed stock to moisten meat (do not make it runny). Mix well with hands or fork. Set aside.
  9. Into another large bowl, add masa, shortening, remaining 4 tsp chili powder, and ½ - 1 tsp salt to taste. Using hand-held pastry blender, two knives, or your hands, gently combine and break apart shortening. Slowly add up to 5 cups of warm stock until dough is smooth and spreadable (not crumbly). Knead dough with hands. Taste to be certain it is flavorful. Cover masa dough with clean, damp kitchen towel. Set aside.
  10. Take one or two corn husks and shred into long strips. These will be used to fasten tamales so that their wrappings stay in place. Place strips onto another plate, and cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel. Set aside.
  11. Locate a large pot that fits a steamer basket. Fill pot with water to a ½ inch to an inch of space between basket and the water. Place pot and fitted basked onto stove top, high heat, and bring water to a boil while you assemble tamales.
  12. Onto clean countertop, lay out your work station: Corn husks, masa dough, seasoned chicken, corn husk strips, large clean plate to place completed tamales onto.
  13. Spread corn husk flat, add 1 - 2 Tbsp masa dough to center of husk spreading dough flat with your hands to about â…› inch thick rectangle (leave a border of husk of ½ inch on sides and 2 inches along top and bottom). Add 1 Tbsp chicken into middle, into a cigar-like shape. Gently (think soft thoughts for this step) pull sides of husk to envelope masa and chicken to form a little tamal. Using your hands, daintily press masa seam to seal tamal. Gingerly fold top and bottom of husk inward to cover the tamal. Next, carefully roll husk from one side to the other, encasing tamal into its own corn husk blanket, tucking in any stray corners of husk as you wrap (think making a burrito). Take one husk strip, tie a little belt with a knot around tamal to secure. Repeat this process about a million times (worth it!).
  14. Place tamales into steamer basket, standing upwards, leaning slightly toward the sides of the basket, seam side facing inner sides of pot. Do not allow boiling water to touch basket or tamales; tamales can’t swim (full disclosure: a few tamales were harmed in the making of this recipe). Steam, COVERED for 1.5 to 2 hours or until dough is dark golden, harder, and not doughy. Taste one tamale to be certain the batch is done (it will cut with knife cleanly).


  • Tamales are best served piping hot. Keep the belted corn husk wrappers in place and allow each person to individually unwrap his or her own tamales. It is considered poor form to remove the husk for anyone other than a toddler (and, really, all of the toddlers I know like to unwrap their own everything).
  • Tamales reheat like a magical-realism dream; they are not picky about their heating source. My Mr. Wonderful tells me they love to be microwaved.
  • Do not consume the corn husk.
  • Store tamales in refrigerator safe container in refrigerator for up to 3 days. After tamales are completely cooled, store in freezer safe container for up to 3 months; defrost in refrigerator before reheating.
  • Whoever eats the most tamales has to make the next batch. What? You never heard of that rule?!