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Chicken Tamales with Salsa Roja

Making tamales is labor-intensive, but that's what it's about: The love you put into it really comes out in the tastiness of the end result.

  • Yield: Makes 12 tamales
Chicken Tamales with Salsa Roja

Photography: Jonathan Lovekin

Source: Martha Stewart Living, March 2013


  • 15 dried corn husks, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
  • 8 ounces homemade or store-bought chicken broth

Tamale Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups masa harina
  • 8 ounces lard or unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels or frozen corn, thawed and thoroughly drained, divided
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm chicken broth or water


  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Salsa Roja, for serving


  1. Put 12 corn husks in a large bowl, cover with hot water, and weight down with a plate to keep them submerged. Soak until soft and pliable, about 2 hours; drain.

  2. Simmer chicken in broth 12 to 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, shred into small pieces.

  3. Dough: Combine masa harina, lard, and salt in a food processor and pulse until the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Transfer to a large bowl. Add 2 cups corn to processor and puree; transfer to bowl with masa mixture. Stir in remaining cup corn and warm broth. Knead mixture with your hands until a dough forms. Cover with a damp towel until ready to use.

  4. Tear remaining 3 corn husks into 24 thin strips. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place 1 soaked corn husk on your flattened palm. Pinch off 1/3 cup dough with your other hand and press it into center of husk to form a 4-by-3-inch rectangle. Press 1/4 cup chicken into center of dough. Close your palm so sides of husk cover filling, and place on a work surface with a long side of the husk facing you. Roll up husk into a tight log, fold over the wider end of the husk, and tie with a strip of corn husk. Twist thinner end of husk and tie with another corn-husk strip. Repeat process to form remaining 11 tamales.

  5. Insert a steamer basket inside a large pot filled with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Place tamales in basket, cover, and steam 1 hour, checking pot occasionally and adding hot water as needed to prevent scorching. Serve tamales with salsa.

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