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Finding one masa dough recipe to use for several different tamale fillings can be difficult. This basic recipe yields a light, fluffy dough that can be used for practically any tamale you can come up with.
What to buy: Lard, or rendered pork fat, gives masa dough its distinct piggy flavor. You can make your own or buy it at Latin markets; you’ll find it in the refrigerated or frozen section. Vegetable shortening makes a fine substitute if you are vegetarian or can’t find lard.
Masa harina is dried, powdered masa (dried corn that has been cooked and soaked in limewater, then ground while wet); we like Maseca, 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.
Game plan: The masa dough can be kept frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost in the refrigerator before using.
This recipe was featured as part of our Tamales for the Holidays project.