Hosting a Tamale-making Party

It must be the Greek portion of my DNA that associates all social gatherings with food.

So perhaps it should have been no surprise to my friends and family when I got a hankering to host a tamalada. At a tamalada, a group of people pitch in to assemble — you guessed it — tamales. Tamales are composed of masa, or corn dough filled with meats, cheeses, vegetables or even chocolate and wrapped in corn husks, plantain or banana leaves and steamed.

In Texas, tamales are often sold during the holiday season by Mexican churches as fundraisers. Many families have incorporated the dish into Christmas Eve, Christmas, or New Year’s Day meals. I really like the idea of community behind the making of the tamales and thought it gave me a good excuse to get some friends together. Hosting a tamalada also meant I wasn’t planning a kids’ activity which involved decorating cookies, since my son certainly had enough sugar over the holidays.

I was very lucky to have another mom as my partner in crime who had taken a tamale making class. She had a tasty (non-lard) masa recipe and was able to coach everyone through the tamale making process. Everyone walked home with somewhere around 2 dozen tamales, so at least several meals’ worth! Probably the most fun was just the opportunity to get a great group of women in the same place laughing, telling stories and working together. The tamales also turned out very tasty!

If hosting a tamalada sounds up your alley, here are some things you might consider:

  • We asked each guest to bring 2 cups of filling and we provided the masa. We had a mix of vegan, vegetarian and meat eaters and tried to communicate what everyone was bringing (and miraculously had no duplicates!) Most of us just Googled to find recipes, and you can basically make anything you’d put into an empanada or taco. I think most of us brought more than 2 cups and we all had filling left over. Most of us mixed and matched so we could try other fillings.
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  • It’s helpful to have a large table for assembly. We used my dining room table which seats 8 (I was the ninth person, but was rarely sitting down).
  • Invite about as many people as you have spots for at your assembly table. It’s nice to have a group of tamale makers, but having too many might make things too crowded.
  • For 9 people, we went through 1 1/2 large basks of corn husks from HEB and about seven pounds of masa mix (1 1/2 2kg bags). I spent most of the tamalada mixing masa so it wouldn’t get too dry with my stand mixer. Each guest had a gallon-sized Ziploc to put finished tamales inside to take home to be steamed.
  • The nice thing about tamale making is that it’s pretty easy to learn. We put our first attempt into the steamer immediately and were able to sample an assortment of tamales when we were done assembling (I didn’t have the capacity to steam everyone’s and it takes over an hour to do so, so folks just took them home).
  • You need to factor in time to soak the corn husks for several hours in cool water before assembly and have a way to steam the tamales (I used my tall spaghetti pot which has a built-in colander).
  • I was grateful that my husband was able to keep an eye on the kids, since many of them were younger. Only one child participated in the tamale making, and she is five years old. This certainly made me think this would be a great future playdate for when my son is a bit older.
  • We spent roughly two hours making almost twenty dozen tamales. You can see why this would be a good fundraiser!

Now that we had a successful tamalada, I started wondering if there is anything else like tamales that would be fun to make in a group. Any ideas?

Written by: Nicole Basham

About Nicole Basham 793 Articles
A native Austinite and soccer-playing mom, Nicole uses her 10-year-old son as an excuse to rediscover her hometown through his eyes. In Thoreau's words, her mission is to "suck out all the marrow of life", or in her son's words, to cultivate in him a love of "advenchers".

8 Comments on Hosting a Tamale-making Party

  1. We are throwing a friend a tamalada party for her birthday. She was so inspired by the idea of one- after I brought home a bunch of tamales from your tamalada- that I couldn’t resist organizing one for her birthday. Since her party is going to be in the evening, around dinner time, I am also having a build-your-own nacho bar and tres leches cake to go along with the theme. Thanks for such a great idea!

    As a Polish gal, pierogi making is something that is usually done by many people since it is so involved. My friend and I used to get together to make them in the winter and then bring them to work to share, but it would take us all night and we would be wiped out from so much work. Next time I do that, I will gather a half dozen people to help so that it doesn’t take quite so long!

  2. Amy: Thanks for reminding me to post the recipe here. I didn’t have it in front of me earlier.

    Thanks to Alicia for sharing!

    Standard masa or dough recipe
    Makes 25-30 tamales, depending on their size

    4 c. masa (available at HEB, see photo above and there are other brands)
    1t. salt
    1/2 c. vegetable oil (recommend corn or canola, we ran out and used olive oil which seemed fine)
    2 c. vegetable or chicken broth (you can use water but you will sacrifice some flavor)

    You need to prepare the dough RIGHT before you start assembly (you can cover the bowls with damp cloths to keep the dough moist). To prepare the husks, soak them in cold water for 2 hours. You might need to weigh them down with plates since they tend to float at first.

    Pretty easy, huh?

  3. I found masa that is already prepared at Fiesta. It’s 10 pounds and costs $6… just in case you want to make tamales and take the easy way out!

  4. Nicole, that seems Ike so much organizing work! Great job pulling it all together. I am going to take a nap now (just reading about it made me tired- but also hungry. I would love to try the chocolate ones.)

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