Making My Mom’s Tamales Recipe Vegan

The thing I look most forward to on Christmas day is never the presents under the tree (mainly because our family opens presents on Christmas Eve), but instead, the hot tamales that my mom prepared the day before! Among all of the iconic Mexican foods that we see day-to-day, the one most commonly seen during the holidays is the tamale, a delicious bundle of corn dough (masa) filled with various meats, beans, salsas, and cheese. They are wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves prior to steaming, which acts as a biodegradable packaging that makes it easy to carry. The fillings to choose from are infinite, so it’s easy to customize this dish to your liking. 

Although time-intensive to prepare, it’s easy to make two or three dozen servings that will last you months in the freezer. The trick to making tamales faster is to have an assembly line, so don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for help! 😉

Vegan Tamales



4 cups masa harina (I used the Maseca brand)
1 cup olive oil (vegetable oil can be used as well)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp salt (*this is altered from what I said in the video*)
1 Tbsp cumin
3 ½ cups vegetable broth

Tomatillo Sauce:

20 small tomatillos
1 cup water
6 serrano peppers
¼ white onion
5 cloves garlic
10 stems of cilantro

Jackfruit filling:

20 oz green jackfruit (well rinsed)
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp cumin

For other fillings:

8 oz vegan mozzarella
4-5 jalapeños, cut into strips
12 oz soy chorizo


Soak the corn husks. Place the husks in a large pot or dish with hot water. Place a plate over them to weigh them down so that they are completely submerged. Soak for at least an hour to soften the husks before wrapping. You can do this overnight as well!

Prepare desired filling: 

  1. Green chile with jackfruit
    1. Place the tomatillos and serrano peppers in a saute pan with water and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until soft.
    2. Place the cooked tomatillos and peppers in a blender, along with the onion, garlic, and cilantro. Do not add the water in the blender if there is extra left over.
    3. Season salt to taste.
    4. Time to prepare the jackfruit! Pull the jackfruit apart until it looks like shredded chicken. Then, rinse thoroughly to remove any excess brine. 
    5. Heat some oil in a pan set to medium heat. Add the chili powder and cumin, stirring often. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then remove from the pan.
    6. In the same pan that we cooked our jackfruit, heat 1 Tbsp of oil. Pour in the green sauce and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until its color turns dull.
    7. Add in the jackfruit and combine thoroughly.

Prepare masa dough.

  1. In a large bowl, combine the masa flour, baking powder, salt, and cumin.
  2. Add the olive oil and broth, little by little to form a very soft dough. The dough should have the consistency of a very thick cake batter and feel slightly sticky. Add in more broth if necessary.

Assemble the tamales.

    1. Remove the corn husks from the water and lay out to dry. Reserve the larger husks for wrapping and the smaller husks for lining the steamer.
    2. Add water to the bottom of your stove-top steamer. Use the first line of your index finger to measure the space between the water and the steamer insert. If the water is too high, it will soak the tamales while boiling.
    3. Take a husk and dry any excess water with a paper towel, if necessary. Place the husk in your hand with the tapered side away from you and the smooth side up.
    4. Spread 3-4 Tbsp of dough onto the corn husk into a thin layer, about ¼ inch thick. 
    5. Keep the dough spread along the top half of the corn husk (opposite side of tapered end), and leave a border on each side of the husk, about ¾ inch.
    6. Place 1 ½ to 2 Tbsp of filling in the center of the dough. You don’t want too much because it’ll make it harder to wrap.
    7. Fold one long side of the husk over the filling. Fold the other long side, overlapping the first. Then, fold the bottom of the husk up.
    8. Optional: Tear a long strip from an edge of another corn husk and use it to tie the tamale, to hold it together.
    9. Place the tamales in the steamer vertically, leaning against the side of the pot, with the open end on top. Repeat the process until the steamer is full.
    10. Cover the tamales with a layer of corn husks and then cover the top of the steamer with aluminum foil.
    11. Place the steamer on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium and cook for 40 minutes. If not done, continue to steam for 10 more minutes.
    12. Remove the steamer from the heat and let sit for 10-20 minutes. Once cool enough to touch, eat up and enjoy!