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4 best Vegetarian Tamales Filling Ideas

Vegetarian tamales are stand-alone meals comfortably wrapped in their own compostable plates. Since they are usually made collectively, the Tamales are an essential element in Mexican parties and celebrations. Make sure vegetarians are not excluded from the party with a lard-free masa and delicious vegetable fillings.

What Are Tamales?

Vegetarian Tamales are pockets of masa (corn paste) surrounding the filling. The corn cans are then wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaves and steamed until tender. Masa is traditionally mixed with lard and many of Mexico’s most famous meditations are filled with meat or cheese.

4 Vegetarian Tamale Filling Ideas

The options for vegetarian tamales are almost endless, But here are some ideas to start with:

  1. For a vegan eat the classic green chile and cheese tamales, dice, and fry poblano peppers and mix it with vegan mozzarella instead of the usual queso de Oaxaca. If you’re not a fan of vegetarian cheese, try making chili and tamales corn – just fry fresh or frozen corn next to the poblanos. For a more seasoned version, add jalapeño or two.
  2. Sweet potatoes and black beans are a classic blend that makes for a hearty vegetarian tamale filling. Cut through the richness of sweet potatoes with a tangy salsa verde made with tomatoes, jalapeño, cilantro, and lime juice.
  3. Jackfruit is a great choice for vegetarian tamales due to its meaty texture. Peel the cooked jackfruit and season with Mexican oregano, garlic powder, and cumin to mimic the flavor of carnitas, then mix with your favorite salsa sauce.
  4. Vegetarian Tamales fillings aren’t always delicious. Traditional sweet tamales incorporate sugar into the masa & can be loaded with roasted fruit such as strawberries or pineapples.

The success of vegetarian tamales making depends on assembling the right steamer. Select a container with a lid large enough to easily accommodate all tamales, by using a stainless steel steamer rack, Chinese metal, or a steamer basket or bamboo steamer, making sure that the water does not touch the shelf.

Place the steamer basket with corn husks. Pour 1 inch of water into the bowl, and add 3 to 5 coins to the water—these rattle during steaming so you know enough water remaining in the bottom of the pot. For the corn dough for vegetarian tamales, buy from a tortilla-making store if possible.

Do not buy masa prepared for vegetarian tamales because it contains fat. Instead, buy masa harina (masa flour) from a well-equipped supermarket to reconstitute with water into a dough.

vegetarian Tamales freeze well. Place cooled tamales in one layer on a cookie sheet. Freeze for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer, and fill plastic freezer bags with cold tamales. Put it back into the freezer.

Do not melt before steaming, about 30 minutes. Or wrap cold tamales in heavy-duty foil bottles, & freeze. Reheat in an oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit, which is still frozen, for about 40 minutes, but best if heated. Padding calls for epazote, a famous Mexican herb sold in Spanish markets.


Corn Husks
1 8-oz. pkg. dried corn husks
4 jalapeno or serrano chiles, stemmed, unseeded and minced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 white onion, minced
1 cup chopped fresh coriander stems and leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh epazote leaves or 3 Tablespoon  dried
12 grinds black pepper
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 lb. Monterey Jack cheese or quesillo de Oaxaca cheese, shredded or grated
Masa for Tamales
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 Tbs. kosher salt
2 tsp. baking powder
3 1/2 cups masa harina for tamales with 2 1/4 cups warm water or more as needed, or 4 cups fresh masa with 1 cup water or more as needed
2 Tbs. dried Mexican oregano
1 Tbs. dried thyme


To prepare Corn Husks

  1. To prepare Corn Husks: Place husks in a large saucepan, and cover with hot water. Weight down using a plate to keep husks submerged, and let mature for 2 hours or as long as one day.
  2. Select 24 of the largest husks at least six inches wide. If necessary, select the smallest ones, and overlap to make wide surfaces to spread masa; Tear the smallest husks into strips 1/4 inch x 8 inches wide to tie the packets together.

To prepare the filling:

  1. To prepare the filling: Mix the filling ingredients and Combine well. Set aside.

To make Masa

  1. To make Masa for this vegetarian tamales: Beat shortening, salt, and baking powder with heavy-duty mixer at medium speed until thin, about 3 minutes. Turn the blender to low, and add a little masa at a time.
  2. Turn the speed to high, beat another 3 minutes, and stop to get rid of the sides of the bowl.
  3. Close the blender and add the herbs, zest, and 1/4 cup of water. Turn the speed into low speed, and mix the ingredients slowly. Increase speed, and beat masa mixture for at least 3 minutes more.
  4. Close the blender and add a cup of water. Slowly increase the speed of the mixer, stop to scrape the sides of the bowl, and beat for 3 minutes, adding more water as needed, until the mixture is smooth and resembles a thick pancake batter.

To assemble tamales

  • To assemble our vegetarian tamales, arrange the corn husks, the corn husk ties, padding, and masa in easy reach.
  • Place the soft wet corn husk on the work surface. Spoon and spread about 1/3 cup masa on the husk, and leaving a 2-inch limit all around.
  • Place scant quarter cup filling in the center of the masa. Fold one long side of the peel over the filling, and roll it to enclose masa. To prevent leakage, turn tamale with the second husk if masa is not fully enclosed.
  • Fold the wider end down, and tie closed with a strip of crust. Leave an open pointed “top” end. Prepare the remaining tamales.
  • Stand tamales on their folded bottoms and tied in the steamer. Do not crowd because tamales need space to expand as they steam.
  • Cover the tamales with some of the remaining husks, and fill the empty areas of the steam pot with wadded husks or foil to prevent the vegetarian tamales from falling during steaming.
  • Cover the steamed pot tightly, on high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and steam for 1/4 hour. Remove after 45 minutes, and add more boiling water if necessary.
  • After 1 1/4 hour, remove one tamale and check its doneness. Masa should stay away from the husk easily. If finished, remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes until firm. Open and peel the tamales and discard the crusts. For maximum flavor, cool the tamales, and heat before serving.
  • Nutrition Information
    • Calories: 560
    • Carbohydrate Content: 29 g
    • Cholesterol Content: 65 mg
    • Fat Content: 40 g
    • Fiber Content: 4 g
    • Protein Content: 22 g
    • Saturated Fat Content: 19 g
    • Sodium Content: 1270 mg
    • Sugar Content: 1 g

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