janet @ the taste space

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

In Mains (Vegetarian) on January 28, 2014 at 6:24 AM

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

A 13-hour post and then some.. with a lot of help from some friends.

Tamales are not hard to make. They are just a tad labour intensive.

After gathering a few friends for a tamalada (tamale making party), the hardest part did not occur while making the tamales. Frankly, the hardest part is now writing up the (very lengthy) recipe. Kidding aside, for the tamale execution, the hardest part was not overstuffing my steamer.  If I were still in Toronto, the hardest part would likely be locating dry corn husks.

I first made these tamales with Rob when we were still in Toronto. I originally thought about making tamales after we had bought a bunch of fresh corn and had all these corn husks. Ever the thrifty type, I reasoned they would be great for tamales. Let it be known that Ontario corn husks do not make for good tamale wraps: they are just too small and/or require too much precision to rip the husks off without making the pieces too small. In any case, the seed was planted and Rob eventually tracked down corn husks at Kensington Market.

We sat together in our new kitchen, made the sweet potatoes, the black beans and the corn dough… and even a red sauce (Rob definitely made the red sauce). And then delicately wrapped each tamale. I counted 50. After an hour of steaming, they were delicious but we worked late into the night. We vowed to make this a group effort next time.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

Fast forward a few years later, where a Mexican Farmer’s Market is our supermarket of choice in Houston and we see corn husks all.over.the.place. For a fraction of the price of what we paid in Toronto, too. $2 bought us a big bag of corn husks (a pound, I checked). (Should I peddle corn husks across the border??). I knew it was time to resurrect the tamales!

Between 6 of us, it took no time to roll and wrap the tamales. I didn’t even wrap any! The whole ordeal was finished before I had cleaned up the kitchen. The corn husks were also probably larger as we only made around 25-30 this time.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

A bit about the recipe. It is a mashup from a few cookbooks. Thankfully I found a few online sources to help me cobble together my notes from a few years ago: Tess’ corn fluff stuff from RHIW with the beans and sweet potatoes from Viva Vegan. Tamales are known to be quite heavy with a lot of oil (even Terry’s original recipe calls for a cup of shortening/margarine) but I cut the oil by incorporating the black beans directly into the masa dough.

The black bean mixture and sweet potatoes both added nice flavours and worked well with the corn fluff stuff. We didn’t bother with a red sauce this time and instead (happily) resorted  to Trader Joe’s corn and chile tomato-less salsa.

This was a fun experiment because we had a bit of trouble getting the tamales to cook all the way through in the steamer. The tamales we took out later were more cooked, whereas some of the earlier ones were still a bit mushy. Still edible and delicious, but not exactly what we were anticipating. I photographed leftover tamales and the last photo here is Robbie-style so you can see all the nooks and crannies in the tamale from the corn husk mold. Perhaps steaming them in smaller batches would be a better solution.

With still many corn husks remaining and even more masa harina, there will be another tamalada. Perhaps I will finally make those chocolate tamales after all. Have you ever made tamales before?

For those who blog: How long would you say it takes to make one post? When you factor in shopping for ingredients, cooking, photographing and editing in addition to the post, it certainly adds up!

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

This is my submission for Meatless Mondays from A to Z for potatoes.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamales

25-50 dry corn husks

2 lbs sweet potato
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp oil of choice
1/2 lb yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 dried Ancho chile, soaked, deseeded, destemmed and chopped
1/4 cup water
1 tsp nutritional yeast
1.5 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained if canned
1/4 cup Earth Balance vegan margarine

2.75 cups dry masa harina (aka corn maseca)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups plus 2 tbsp water
1 tsp granulated garlic

1. Begin by hydrating your corn husks. Using a large casserole dish, submerge in water for at least 30 minutes, if not more.

2. Next roast your potatoes: Preheat oven to 375F. Pierce sweet potato several times with a fork, wrap in foil and bake for 45 minuted until soft. Once baked, remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, remove skins and place sweet potato flesh in a large bowl and combine with cumin. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

3. Now make your beans: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Once hot, add onions and saute until softened, around 5 minutes. Add garlic, chopped Ancho chile and saute until fragrant, around 1 minute. Add water to deglaze and add nutritional yeast. Stir in black beans and Earth Balance. Cook for 5 minute until the liquid in mostly absorbed.

4. Now prepare your masa dough: In a large bowl, mix together the masa harina, baking soda and salt until well combined. Stir in the water until evenly mixed. Add the black bean mixture to this and mix until combined.

5. Now make your tamales: Use a wet tamale and place around 1/4 cup of the  corn filling in the middle of the corn husk. Add 2 tbsp of the sweet potato filling to the middle. Bring the bottom of the corn husk up and wrap the other sides together like a log. You can use a portion of another corn husk to tie everything together. Or use 2 ties to tie it up like a candy. Some good pictures are here. Continue until your filling or dough is used up.

6. To cook, place tamales folded side down, standing up vertically, in a steamer basket. Steam for for an hour. Make sure you still have water in your steaming apparatus. You will know they are ready when the filling is firm. The filling will continue to firm up once chilled, too.

7. Enjoy with your choice of salsa, sauces, or other toppings. Tamales freeze well.

Makes 25-50 tamales, depending on the size of your corn husks.

  1. Gorgeous tamales! I’ve only made tamales once, and they were black bean sweet potato! I think the labor involved will keep it as a one time adventure for me unless I have a tamale party to share the work! Great post!

  2. These look amazing! I’ve never had tamales, and have been okay with that until today! Saving this recipe for sure!

  3. It has been way too long since I’ve had a good tamale. Of course, since I live in California, that means it’s been more than two weeks…er, yes. I am certainly not tamale-deprived. But these look so good, I can’t wait any longer! 🙂 I find my foodblogging time to be pretty variable. I mean, I have to eat, so I often take pictures of whatever I’m making and eating, without a whole lot of extra fanfare. But then there are those days when you get a great idea and run out to get ingredients, then spend the afternoon creating & photographing. Both are good!

    • Eileen, it is true. One has to eat, so it makes it easier to support a food blog… although I feel bad for those that go all out every time for the blog. I just keep the same “don’t stress, just make tasty food” philosophy. 🙂

  4. Tamales are definitely on my to-make bucket list!! Now I know – recruit a team to help out for ultimate tamale-making efficiency (and to make it more fun!).

  5. You had your tamalada! I wish I could have come, it sounds a lot of fun making and eating them all together. They look super tasty to.
    Food blogging definitely takes more time than non food-bloggers seem to think. For me at least. I have no idea how long each post takes but it’s not just a matter of snapping a picture of whatever I happen to have cooked for dinner, especially as it gets dark at 4.30pm right now and I don’t eat dinner until a few hours later…I enjoy it though so I don’t mind, as long as I can juggle everything 🙂

    • Emma, you are like the food blogger goddess. I swear, I don’t know how you have the time to make such beautiful photographs every single time. I keep things simple: make food, plate food, eat food!! And then eat lots of leftovers that are not usually as pretty. 😉

  6. I am so impressed with these – and absolutely know that I am not going to be making them any time soon! Time consuming dishes have an extra reward associated with them but they aren’t always practical 🙂

    • Practical to eat, not practical to make… but they freeze well so next time, we need to make a double or triple batch. We actually didn’t have that many leftovers since we fed so many people. 😉

  7. Wow! Those look tempting. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at tamales. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  8. Currently shopping for ingredients. . . I’ve always wanted to try and make tamales. but I’m the only one who cooks in my family (yep, I usually end up cooking four meals in the evenings, all seperate!) so I’m not sure I could rope in any minions to wrap them for me!! I also just read your comment on them freezing well, which makes it even more tempting to try!

  9. […] with much gusto as of late. Mexican black bean dip, black bean tostadas, Mexican zucchini lasagna, black bean and sweet potato tamales and even black bean tortilla soup. And here we go with another Mexican-inspired black bean […]

  10. […] idea had been brewing for nearly as long as our idea for a tamale party. Somehow, I managed to convince Rob, that yes, I wanted the mustard variety pack at Trader […]

  11. Hi,
    I just hopped by from Raw Foods Thursday tempted by your black bean and sweet potato tamales. I adore both sweet potatoes and black beans, so I can’t wait to make this. Feel free to hop by and share your delicious, plant-based recipes with us at the Plant Based Potluck Party Link Up (http://urbannaturale.com/share-the-food-fun-at-the-plant-based-potluck-party-link-up-10/)

  12. […] post is almost 5 years in the making. Before there were tamale and mustard tasting parties, pierogi parties have been a long tradition.  One reason I became […]

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