How To Make Vegan / Vegetarian Tamales

This recipe will show you how to make vegan tamales and vegetarian tamales too. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 3 years now. I remember when I first decided to go meatless some of my closest friends snickered at me and called my new diet ‘hipster’ or ‘trendy.’  I didn’t understand the aggression. In fact, vegetarianism wasn’t new to me at the time. My Mom (whom I’m extremely close to) had been a vegetarian for close to 15 years.  Which basically meant I was already eating vegetarian half the time when I would cook for her or take her out to eat. That included the Christmas season which obviously meant tamales. This is my recipe I’ve been making for many, many, many years, even when I ate meat, I would still make a side batch of vegetarian tamales for my Mom and my cousin Gabriel. I found a way to make my vegetarian tamales equally as tasty as any other tamal set out for Christmas Eve… IF NOT BETTER. This recipe has two versions to it and will work for either vegans or vegetarians.

It’s incredible to me how much the world has changed in the last couple of years in terms of how people view vegetarianism, veganism or cruelty-free food. I’m proud to share my recipe with you, and I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays and all that good stuff!


  • 1 8-oz. pkg. dried corn husks


  • pickled jalapeno
  • blistered tomatoes (see recipe below)
  • 3 – large potatoes cut into 1 inch thick wedges (raw)
  • 1 – 10oz. Colby Jack Cheese OR your favorite vegan melting cheese (cut into 1/2 inch strips) OR don’t use cheese at all
  • 1 – cup pitted black olives
  • Caramelized onions (see recipe below)
  • Green Salsa (recipe below)

Vegan Masa for Tamales

  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening – (Better for you than lard, and masa is equally as tasty)
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 1/2 cups masa harina for tamales ( I used Bob’s Red Mill – No GMO’s)
  •  3 cups warm water
  • 1 – cup green salsa (recipe below)
  • 2 Tbs. dried Mexican oregano


  • Sour Cream Or Black Beans (as a vegan option)
  • Green salsa


  1. Start by placing corn husks in a large sink or tub of hot water.  Soak in hot water for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight to soften. Allow to soak in water until ready to assemble.
  2. PREPARE THE FILLING: Cut the cheese into strips, peel and cut the potatoes, place the jalapenos in a bowl, place the olives in a bowl, caramelize the onions, make the salsa (which you will use for the masa as well), and blister the tomatoes. Set to the side until ready to use.
  3. MAKE THE MASA: Place vegetable shortening, salt and baking powder in a stand-up mixer and beat until fluffy for about 4 minutes ( the shortening will lose it’s shape and become a thin batter-like consistency. Scrape mixture down with a rubber spatula. Then slowly add in masa harina and oregano with mixer on low until fully combined. Turn the speed up on the mixer to high and beat for an additional 2 minutes. Turn mixer speed back to low and pour in 2 cups of warm water into mixture (the warm water helps combine the masa better), continue mixing until combined. Once combined add in green salsa and continue mixing until masa comes together. For a final time bring the mixer speed back up to high and beat for 5 minutes. WE ARE NOW READY TO MAKE TAMALES!
  4. Remove corn husks from water and shake off some of the water, then allow to drain remaining water drops in a strainer.
  5. Select the largest husks at least 6 inches wide. Set to the side for assembling.
  6. Place corn husk on work surface. Take about ¼ cup of masa and spread on the center of a corn husk. Leave a 2 inch frame on the bottom of husk.
  7. Place a strip of colby jack cheese or vegan cheese in the center of masa, then top with a raw potato wedge (potato will cook during steaming process), a jalapeno strip, a drizzle of green salsa, caramelized onions, black olive, and a few blistered tomatoes. SEE VIDEO BELOW!
  8. Fold one long side of husk over the center, then roll to enclose all the masa. Fold the bottom end up.
  9. Place tamale in a bowl while you prepare the remaining tamales. Open end up so none of the ingredients fall out.  IF YOU ARE MAKING THEM IN ADVANCE AND PLAN ON FREEZING THEM – WRAP EACH TAMAL IN A WAXED PAPER AND MARK WHICH SIDE IS UP! This makes for easy storing and then steaming.
  10. READY TO STEAM: Prepare steamer by placing a rack at the bottom of the pot. And pouring in water. Make sure the water does not touch the rack.
  11. Stand the tamales (open end up, folded bottom down) in steamer. Secure empty spaces with wadded husks to prevent tamales from falling over or from burning on the pot. Then cover the top with remaining corn husks creating a little insulation over the tamales. Then place a few wet kitchen towels over the husks to really lock in the moisture.
  12. Place a lid tightly on the steamer and bring the water to a boil over a high heat. Steam for 2 hours /  if frozen steam for 3 hours . Remove lid after one hour into steaming and add more water if needed, then place lid tightly back onto steamer and continue steaming for 2 hours total.
  13. After 2 hours, carefully remove a single tamal to check if fully cooked. Allow tamal to cool for 10 minutes, if fully cooked masa will pull away from husk easily. If not, cook for an additional 15 minutes or until fully cooked.
  14. Remove tamales from husks and drizzle top sour cream, and green salsa.
  15. Enjoy!

Ingredients for  green chile recipe:

  • 9 – tomatillos
  • 6 – guero chiles (yellow chiles)
  • 8 – serrano chiles
  • 7 – jalapeno chiles
  • 5 – garlic cloves (browned/fried)
  • 2 – cups of water (from water chiles boiled in)
  • 1 – teaspoon of vinegar
  • 2 – teaspoons vegetable bouillon (I use Knorr)
  • 1 – teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 – teaspoon black pepper

Fill two pots halfway with water and place over a medium high flame.  Bring water to a boil.  Then put tomatillos in one pot and in the other put all chiles.  Boil tomatillos for 15 minutes, you will know they are ready when they go from light green to a greenish yellow color.  Remove from flame and set to the side.

Boil chiles for 30 minutes or until soft and a bit limp.  While chiles are boiling place garlic cloves in a frying pan with a little oil and fry till browned.  Set to the side.  Once chiles are boiled remove from flame but DO NOT discard water… you will need it to blend chile.

You will have to work in batches.  In a blender add chiles (discard stem), browned garlic cloves, water from the pot the chiles boiled in, vinegar, vegetable bouillon, oregano, black pepper and tomatillos.  Blend until smooth about 1 minute.  Pour into a bowl.  Set to the side.

 Ingredients for blistered tomatoes:

  •  1 1/2 – tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 – pint cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 1 – tablespoon Lawry’s seasoning salt plus 1 teaspoon
  • 1 – tablespoon black pepper plus 1 teaspoon

In a frying pan, pour in olive oil over a medium high flame and allow oil to get really hot, then toss in cherry tomatoes with 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.  Saute on each side for 4 minutes.  Then take off flame and set to the side.

Ingredients for Caramelized Onions:

  • 3 – tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 – large onions thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper (to your liking)
  • 1 – teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 – tablespoon white wine


  1. In a large non stick pan over a medium flame add in olive oil and allow to coat the pan.
  2. Pour in sliced onions and mix to coat with olive oil.
  3. Cook stirring every 3 minutes for 20 minutes. Sprinkle in brown sugar and mix to combine.
  4. Drizzle wine into onions and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until onions reach a beautiful brown color.
  5. Season with salt and pepper.