Vegetarian Tamales Recipe: A Delicious and Healthy Twist

Welcome to my vegetarian tamale recipe. Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish, but many people have never tried them or think they’re difficult to make. I’m here to show you that with the right ingredients and a little bit of patience, you can create a delicious batch of tamales in your very own kitchen.

But why go vegetarian for your tamales? For starters, it’s a great way to shake up your usual meal routine and try something new. Plus, this version is healthier than the traditional tamales that are often made with high-fat meat fillings. Using plant-based ingredients like sweet potato, black beans, and poblano peppers creates a flavorful filling that even meat lovers will enjoy.

Another reason to love this recipe is that it can easily be made vegan. Simply swap out the butter for coconut oil or vegetable shortening and leave out the cheese. You’ll still end up with delicious and satisfying tamales.

So if you’re ready to impress your friends and family with homemade tamales, read on for my step-by-step guide to making the best vegetarian (or vegan!) tamales around.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Vegetarian Tamales
Vegetarian Tamales

As a vegan chef, I take great pride in creating delicious and healthy dishes that everyone can enjoy. And this vegetarian tamales recipe is no exception. Here are some reasons why you’ll absolutely love this recipe:

Firstly, these tamales are packed with flavor. The combination of corn masa flour, vegetable broth, chiles, tomatoes, and spices gives them an irresistible taste that will leave your taste buds dancing with delight.

Furthermore, this recipe is incredibly versatile. You can adjust the fillings to create a variety of different tastes and textures. Whether you prefer sweet or savory flavors – there is something for everyone when it comes to tamales.

What’s more, this is a great plant-based option that offers the same hearty and satisfying meal that you would expect from meat-based tamales. It is perfect for vegans or vegetarians who are looking for a filling meal without sacrificing any flavor or nutrition.

Finally, this recipe includes easy-to-follow instructions that will guide you every step of the way. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or just starting out in the kitchen, these tamales are simple to make and require minimal equipment.

In conclusion, with its rich flavor and simple preparation process, this vegetarian tamales recipe is a must-try for anyone looking for a delicious and healthy meal. So roll up your sleeves and get ready to impress your family and friends with your culinary skills!

Ingredient List

 Steaming hot and delicious vegetarian tamales!
Steaming hot and delicious vegetarian tamales!

Here is the bold and flavorful ingredient list for our vegetarian tamales recipe:

Corn Husks

  • 3 cups dried corn husks

Masa Dough

  • 6 cups masa harina (corn masa flour)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups water, more or less

Tamale Filling

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 poblano peppers, roasted and diced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup diced green chilies
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¾ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, optional

Gather all these ingredients to get started with making delicious vegetarian tamales.

The Recipe How-To

 Grab a fork (or your hands) and dig into these yummy tamales.
Grab a fork (or your hands) and dig into these yummy tamales.

Now that you know what ingredients are needed to make these delicious vegetarian tamales, let’s dive into the step-by-step guide to make them.

Soaking the Corn Husks

First, soak the dried corn husks in water for at least two hours. Submerge them well, as they will be used to wrap the tamale dough.

Preparing the Tamale Filling

Next, prepare the tamale filling by sautéing finely diced red tomatoes, poblano peppers, and green chilies in a hot pan with a bit of vegetable oil. Add in some drained and rinsed black beans for protein and flavor.

Making the Tamale Dough

Combine 6 cups of corn masa flour with 2 tsp of baking powder and 3/4 tsp of kosher salt in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, stir together 1 cup of vegetable shortening with 4 cups of hot vegetable broth until well combined. Gradually add the masa flour mixture to the shortening mixture and stir until you get a soft dough consistency.

Assembling the Tamales

To assemble the tamales, take a soaked corn husk and pat it dry with a towel. Spread about 1-2 tablespoons of tamale dough onto the center of the husk with your spatula or spoon. Then, add about 1-2 tablespoons of the tamale filling on top of that. Fold one side of the husk over to cover up filling and dough, then fold over again from the other side.

Cooking The Tamales

Once you have made all your vegetarian tamales, place them into a steamer stacked standing on their folded sides for about an hour on low heat.

Now you’ve got it! These are easy steps to make delicious vegetarian tamales from scratch that everyone will enjoy!

Substitutions and Variations

 Tamales so good, you won't even miss the meat!
Tamales so good, you won’t even miss the meat!

Looking to switch things up and put your own spin on this vegetarian tamale recipe? Here are a few substitutions and variations to consider.

– Vegetable filling: While this recipe calls for black bean and sweet potato filling, you can easily switch it up with other vegetables such as zucchini, squash, or carrots. Add your favorite spices for an extra kick of flavor.

– Vegan tamales: To make vegan tamales, simply replace the butter and cheese with plant-based alternatives such as coconut oil, vegan cheese alternative or nutritional yeast.

– Gluten-free option: Tamale dough is traditionally made with masa harina or corn flour, which is naturally gluten-free. However, if you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, check the packaging to ensure that the masa harina you’re using is certified gluten-free.

– Spicy tamales: If you like your food with a little bit of heat, consider adding more chili peppers to your tamale filling. You can use poblano peppers, green chiles or jalapeño peppers for some extra kick.

– Tamale pie: If rolling tamales seems daunting, consider turning this recipe into a tamale pie instead. Simply spread half of the prepared tamale dough into the bottom of a greased baking dish, add the filling on top and cover with the remaining dough. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden-brown.

– Different corn husks: While dried corn husks are typically used in traditional tamale recipes, fresh banana or plantain leaves can be used as an alternative wrapping material. Just make sure that they are large enough to wrap around your tamale filling before steaming.

With these substitutions and variations options on-hand, the possibilities for customizing this vegetarian tamale recipe to suit your unique taste preferences are endless. So get creative and experiment with different ingredients to find the perfect combination that works for you!

Serving and Pairing

 Wrapped up and ready to go - vegetarian tamales for the win!
Wrapped up and ready to go – vegetarian tamales for the win!

When the steaming hot, fragrant vegetarian tamales are ready, they should be served fresh out of the steamer. These little packets of joy can be eaten on their own as a hearty meal or a midday snack, but if you’re looking to take the experience to the next level, try pairing them with some delicious sides.

Serving your vegetarian tamales with a dollop of salsa and a sprinkle of chopped fresh cilantro can elevate this dish and provide an extra burst of flavor. The acidity and spice of the salsa complements the rich flavors of the tamales perfectly. Alternatively, you could serve them with guacamole which adds a creamy and refreshing element.

For more substantial sides, add fresh tomato slices or pico de gallo to your plate along with some black beans for an added boost of protein. Roasted sweet potatoes would also pair well and provide a naturally sweet contrast to the savory masa dough.

If you’re looking for wine pairings, opt for something acidic like Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. If you prefer beer, try a crisp lager, pilsner, or IPA. For non-alcoholic drinks, serve these tamales with some freshly squeezed limeade or hibiscus tea.

With these side dishes and beverage options in mind, you can customize your vegetarian tamales recipe to suit your preferences and impress your guests with a well-rounded meal that will leave them feeling satisfied and content.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 These tamales may be vegetarian, but they're packed with flavor!
These tamales may be vegetarian, but they’re packed with flavor!

One of the great things about tamales is that you can make them ahead of time and store them for later. This is especially useful if you’re planning on serving them at a party or gathering where you’ll be busy with other tasks.

To make ahead: You can prepare the tamales up to two days in advance. Once they are cooked, let them cool down completely, then wrap them tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store them in the refrigerator.

To store: If you have leftover tamales, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to five days. Just make sure to wrap them tightly before placing them in a container.

To reheat: To reheat tamales, you have several options. The easiest way is to simply microwave them for a minute or two until they are heated all the way through. Another option is to steam them by placing them in a steamer basket over boiling water for 10-15 minutes. If you prefer an oven, preheat your oven to 350°F, then wrap each tamale in parchment paper and bake for about 20 minutes.

Pro tip: When reheating frozen tamales, make sure to thaw them completely before heating. This will ensure that they heat evenly all the way through.

By following these easy steps, you can enjoy your delicious vegetarian tamales anytime with family and friends!

Tips for Perfect Results

 Soft and savory, these tamales will melt in your mouth.
Soft and savory, these tamales will melt in your mouth.

When it comes down to the ideal vegetarian tamales recipe, there are a few tricks that can make your dish stand out from the rest. Here are some of the best tips to follow for the perfect results.

Firstly, use authentic corn masa flour or masa harina, which is made just for tamales. Standard cornmeal or corn flour will not create the same texture or taste as traditional masa flour. Also, use high-quality vegetable broth instead of plain water to combine with the masa flour in order to give it extra flavor.

It’s important not to overfill the tamales — a tablespoon or two of filling is typically enough for each one. Over-stuffing can cause them to break open while steaming, resulting in a mess and potentially leaving them undercooked.

Corn husks should be soaked in hot water at least 30 minutes before assembling your tamales. Doing so helps them become flexible and able to mold around the filling. You can even use parchment paper as a substitute for corn husks if needed, but remember that parchment paper doesn’t add any flavor to the dish like corn husks do.

As for steaming the tamales, it’s best to use a large pot or a tamale steamer with a trivet at the bottom. Line the pot with leftover corn husks or aluminum foil and add water until it almost touches the bottom of your tamales. Place them upright in order to keep their shape while cooking.

Finally, after giving them ample time to steam, let your vegetarian tamales cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve with spicy salsas like roasted tomato and poblano pepper salsa or red and green chili salsa, slice wedges of avocado on top or add a dollop of sour cream if desired.

Following these tips will allow you to create perfect vegetarian tamales every time. Enjoy!


As we approach the end of this article, it is important to address some of the frequently asked questions about this vegetarian tamales recipe. By offering detailed answers to these questions, you can feel more confident in your ability to prepare this delightful dish and share it with your loved ones. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the most common queries related to vegetarian tamales.

What are vegetarian tamales made of?

For this recipe, we’ll need some key ingredients. To start, we’ll need dried corn husks. I recommend using husks that haven’t been treated with any preservatives for the best taste. Next, we’ll use masa harina, which is an instant corn masa flour. Butter is also essential, as it adds a rich and salty flavor. I used high-fat, European-style salted butter. For the milk, I suggest using whole milk for the creamiest texture. Lastly, we’ll need some corn kernels, whether fresh or thawed from frozen.

What can I use instead of pork for tamales?

When making tamales, it’s best to choose healthier alternatives to pork. Opt for ingredients like ground or shredded white chicken, turkey meat, beans, or vegetables. Vegetarian tamale recipes often use cooked spinach or serrano peppers, along with black or pinto beans and low-fat cheeses. If you’re looking for a healthier option, you can replace lard or vegetable shortening with vegetable oil.

Do vegetarians eat tamales?

Tamales are typically made with lard which renders them unsuitable for vegetarians. My family, on the other hand, has always used vegetable oil, particularly canola oil, in our tamale recipe, thus making it vegetarian-friendly. Additionally, since the masa used to make the tamales is made from corn, this recipe is also naturally gluten-free.

Is lard necessary for tamales?

To achieve deliciously moist and flavorful tamales, it’s important to not skimp on the fat. In Mexico, it’s common to use lard in the recipe. However, for a vegetarian option, you can use softened butter or shortening instead.

Bottom Line

The Vegetarian Tamales Recipe is a fantastic addition for anyone who is looking to try new and exciting plant-based meals. This recipe is packed with flavor, zest, and spice that will leave you wanting more. It has everything you need to make the perfect vegetarian or vegan tamale, and you won’t have to worry about missing out on anything by opting for a plant-based alternative.

This recipe can be made ahead of time and freezes well, making it a great option for meal prepping or feeding a crowd. The tamales are even versatile enough to be paired with different side dishes or sauces to fit your specific tastes or preferences.

With this easy-to-follow recipe, making homemade tamales has never been easier. Trust me; it’s worth giving this recipe a try. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also a healthier alternative to traditional meat-based tamales.

In conclusion, the Vegetarian Tamales Recipe is one of the best vegetarian tamale recipes out there, guaranteed to leave you feeling satisfied, content, and happy after each bite.

Vegetarian Tamales

Vegetarian Tamales Recipe

These tamales are a great base recipe that can actually be used with a meat filling instead, but this jalapeno, cheese and tomato filling is really amazing.
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Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Calories 232.1 kcal


  • 2 cups masa corn flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1/2 cup broth
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups corn (fresh or thawed frozen will work)
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese (mexican cheese is better, reserve about half for filling)
  • 4 ounces roasted chilies (fresh roasted skinless peppers work too)
  • 2 tomatoes, deseeded, pealed and sliced (can immerse in boiling water for 20 seconds, and then ice water to loosen skins)
  • parchment paper or corn husk


  • In a food processor blend corn and cheese until corn is in nearly a meal consistency.
  • Add butter, Masa flour, salt, sugar, pepper and baking powder and process until the mixture is loosely mixed.
  • Add broth and mix until just smooth.
  • Place about 2 tbsp of mixture into soaked corn husk or parchment paper.
  • Fill with some cheese, slices of roasted chili pepper and tomatoes.
  • Close parchment paper or corn husk around filling, trying to cover filling with Masa flour mixture. If you have trouble closing or have too much filling try using less in your subsequent tamales.
  • Roll wrapper closed, roll and fold over ends and set aside.
  • Once they're done they can be refrigerated or frozen, or placed immediately in steaming tray above boiling water for about 30 minutes, or until Masa flour mixture is set.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 104gCalories: 232.1kcalCarbohydrates: 23.1gProtein: 6.8gFat: 13.6gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 35.2mgSodium: 407.7mgFiber: 2.4gSugar: 2.8g
Keyword < 60 Mins, Corn, Mexican, Peppers, Savory, Steam, Vegetable
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