Pressure-Cooker Tamales

pressure cooker rajas tamales plates glass
Photo: Marcus Nilsson
10 tamales

For traditionally steamed foods like tamales, the Instant Pot or pressure cooker really comes in handy. We absolutely love the way it produces perfectly tender, fluffy tamales in about 15 minutes. This version is filled with strips of roasted poblano chiles known as rajas, which add a rich smokiness to many Mexican dishes. This recipe appears in our cookbook "Martha Stewart's Pressure Cooker" (Clarkson Potter).


  • 25 dried corn husks

  • 2 large poblano chiles

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

  • 3 cups masa harina for tamales

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 cups warm water, plus 3 cups for pressure cooker

  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (8 ounces)

  • Fresh cilantro, for serving

  • Salsa, for serving


  1. Place corn husks in a large bowl, cover with cold water, and weigh down with a plate to keep husks submerged. Soak until softened and pliable, about 30 minutes.

  2. Heat broiler with rack 4 inches from heating element. Cut poblanos in half lengthwise and remove seeds and veins. Place cut side down on a baking sheet, and broil, turning often, until charred on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, rub with a paper towel to remove skins, being careful not to tear flesh. Cut into thin strips.

  3. With a mixer, beat butter until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. With your hands, mix masa harina, 1 teaspoon salt, and the warm water until it forms a dough. Add masa mixture to butter and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

  4. Remove husks from water, letting excess drip off. Working in batches, lay husks on a work surface, long sides closest to you. Tear two to three husks into 1/4-inch strips; reserve for tying. Spread about 1/4 cup dough thinly on center of each husk into about a 3-by-4-inch rectangle. Place a few poblano strips and a rounded tablespoon cheese in the center of dough. Bring together two long sides, to encase dough. Fold in two shorter sides. Use a strip of husk to tie tamale loosely closed.

  5. Place a 1-inch rack in 6- to 8-quart pressure cooker and fill with 3 cups water. Place the steamer insert on rack. Place tamales standing upright in steamer insert.

    Stovetop: Secure lid. Bring to high pressure over medium-high heat; reduce heat to maintain pressure and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, quickly release pressure, then remove lid. Let cool slightly.

    Electric: Secure lid. Manually set cooker to 15 minutes and let it come to pressure. Once time is complete, turn off, quickly release pressure, then remove lid. Let cool slightly.

  6. Serve with cilantro and salsa.

Cook's Notes

You can find dried corn husks and masa harina in the Latin aisle of many large grocery stores and specialty markets.


Try these variations on the basic masa dough by adding a few fresh ingredients at the end of Step 3. Serve either variation with salsa and scallions.

Herb Tamales: Stir 1 1/2 cups mixed chopped fresh herbs such as basil, chives, tarragon, cilantro, and parsley and 1/2 cup chopped scallions into dough and enclose in corn husks.

Corn and Basil Tamales: Stir 1 1/2 cups steamed fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels, 1/2 cup sliced scallions, and 1/4 cup chopped basil into dough and enclose in corn husks.

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