The large leaves of Swiss chard make an ideal wrapper for tamales, and can also be found in the filling of tamalons (large tamales that serve multiple people). Here we’ve chopped up and sautéed the chard with onion and chiles, then mixed it into the tamale dough, to get the best of both worlds.
What to buy: Masa harina is dried, powdered masa (dried corn that has been cooked and soaked in limewater, then ground while wet); we like Maseca brand, an instant slaked cornmeal that is useful in making tamales. It’s widely available in Latin markets or the ethnic aisle of many grocery stores, and yields consistent results. You can also purchase freshly made masa dough at many Latin markets.
Corn husks can be found at Latin markets.
Queso fresco is a mild white cheese that doesn’t melt when heated. It can be found in the refrigerated cheese case of most grocery stores or at specialty cheese shops or Latin markets.
Game plan: The dough and filling can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated in a covered container. Alternatively, you can form the tamales up to 1 day ahead and keep them covered in the refrigerator until ready to steam and serve.
To help you make the perfect tamale, see our step-by-step guide to forming tamales.
This recipe was featured as part of our Tamales for the Holidays project.