Classic Tamale Batter

This batter is key to bringing out the best flavor in your tamales.

  • Yield: Makes 3 3/4 cups

Source: Martha Stewart Living, December/January 1998/1999


  • 5 ounces (2/3 cup) fresh pork lard, chilled
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups (1 pound) coarsely ground fresh masa for tamales or 1 3/4 cups masa harina for tamales mixed with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water, cooled to room temperature
  • 2/3 cup chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, preferably homemade


  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the lard, baking powder, and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Add 1 cup masa and 1/3 cup stock; beat until thoroughly combined. Add the remaining masa and 1/3 cup stock; beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. The batter should be soft but hold its shape in a spoon. If using fresh masa, test the batter to determine if it is adequately fluffy, ensuring light and tender tamales: Drop 1 teaspoon batter into a cup of cold water. If it floats to the surface, it is ready. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Store batter in an airtight container, refrigerated, up to 2 days.

Cook's Notes

When making this batter, choose stock that best suits the tamale recipe in which you'll use the batter. If you cannot find freshly rendered pork lard, use solid vegetable shortening instead, not canned or packaged lard.


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