Roasted Peppers and Cheese Tamales

I never knew much about tamales before I knew Adam.  You see, for as long as he can remember, Christmas Eve meant tamales.  His mother does what I am sure her mother did when she was a child; she prepares the filling, soaks corn husks and then gathers all of her children round the dining room table to spend the next few hours making tamales, talking and laughing, often to Christmas music, which she still plays on her old vinyl record player adding just a hint of crackle to the air.

These tamales are not my Mother-in-Law’s, but how could they be, it is not Christmas Eve and it was only Adam, myself and Marmalade who were bundling up the little guys.  They are delicious, don’t get me wrong, but something tells me they would have tasted a bit better with everyone else there too, like Heather with her always impeccable Christmas cards, wrapping jobs and ribbon or our gorgeous baby niece Kayla alongside her mom and dad, hey, even Josh, Nicholas and Jerome with their funny jokes and ridiculously overstuffed tamales would have been a treat.  So, maybe part of our recipe for this one is family, trust us, you will want the help; filling, then folding tamale after tamale can get a bit tedious, but in the end it’s worth it.

** The batter recipe given here was adapted from Rick Bayless

Roasted Peppers and Cheese Tamales
These tamales are not easy to make but your effort will be well rewarded with these banana leaf wrapped tamales.
Created By:
Yield: 20 tamales
You Will Need
  • 3 1/2 cups dried masa harina for tamales
  • 2 1/4 cups hot water
  • 10 ounces (1 1/3 cups) pork lard (or vegetable shortening if you wish), slightly softened
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 2, 1-pound packages banana leaves, defrosted if frozen
  • 4 Poblano Peppers
  • 4 Anaheim Peppers
  • 24 ounces Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
  1. Roast the peppers under a broiler, turning occasionally until all sides are charred.
  2. Place the charred peppers into a sealable plastic bag or into a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 15 minutes.
  3. Peel the skins off the peppers, remove all seeds, rinse under cool water then roughly chop.
  1. Combine the masa harina and hot water.
  2. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the lard or shortening with the salt and baking powder until light in texture, about 1 minute.
  3. Continue beating as you add the masa mixture in three additions.
  4. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add 1 cup of the broth.
  5. Continue beating for another minute or so, until a 1/2-teaspoon dollop of the batter floats in a cup of cold water (if it floats you can be sure the tamales will be tender and light).
  6. Beat in enough additional broth to give the mixture the consistency of soft, but not runny cake batter; it should hold its shape in a spoon.
  7. Taste the batter and season with additional salt if you think necessary.
  8. Refrigerate the batter for an hour, then use an electric mixer to beat enough additional broth to bring the mixture to the soft consistency it had before.
Banana Leaves
  1. Unfold the banana leaves and cut off the long, hard sides of the leaves (where they were attached to the central vein).
  2. Look for holes or rips then cut the leaves into about 20 unbroken 12-inch segments.
  3. If necessary, steam the segments for 20 minutes to make them soft, pliable and glossy.
  4. Cut twenty 12-inch pieces or string or thin strips of banana leaf for securing the tamales when filled.
  1. Work in batches; Use a large steamer or collapsible vegetable steamer set into a large, deep saucepan
  2. Line the steamer with leftover scraps of banana leaves to protect the tamales from direct contact with the steam and to add more flavor, but make sure to leave small spaces between leaves so condensing steam can drain off.
Preparing the Tamales
  1. Lay out a square of banana leaf, shiny-side up,
  2. Spread 1/3 cup of the batter into an 8×4-inch rectangle over it
  3. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the cheese and sprinkle some roasted peppers over the left side of the rectangle of batter
  4. Fold in the right third of the leaf so that the batter encloses the filling
  5. Fold in the uncovered third of the leaf
  6. Fold in the top and bottom
  7. Loosely tie the tamales with string and set them in the steamer
Steaming the Tamales
  1. Once in the steamer, cover the tamales with a layer of banana leaf scraps or leftovers.
  2. Set the lid in place and steam over a constant medium heat for about 1 1/4 hours. (Watch carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away, add more water if necessary)
  3. The tamales are done when the leaf peels away from the masa easily.
  4. Let tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up.
Notes and Tips
Both the batter and the finished tamales can be made ahead of time. Refrigerate, well covered then re-steam or use a microwave to heat before serving. The batter and tamales can also be frozen, just thaw overnight in the refrigerator before re-steaming.

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12 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Cyndee April 29, 2015, 12:01 pm

    I am from the South, where do you buy banana leaves? Can these be done in the corn husk as well?

    • Joanne May 1, 2015, 11:52 am

      Yes, corn husks work really well.

  • Kelli December 7, 2013, 9:10 pm

    These look amazing. I recently tried making my own tamales, but I used corn husks. I didn’t think about using banana leaves, because I always think of them as a more Asian ingredient. Does it change the taste or texture at all?

    These are my tamles:

    I absolutely love your blog. Your gnocchi post was life-changing, and I loved the tip on your hummus post about adding in the tahini to the food processor first. I tired it and was surprised at the difference it made.

  • Dilini April 27, 2013, 4:45 pm

    I’m from Sri Lanka and this is the first time I’ve seen banana leaves used to wrap food outside of SL (and Asia). We use it to wrap food (rice and curry) in and it adds a certain flavour (nice) to the food too.

  • Jenn@eatcakefordinner December 12, 2010, 1:02 am

    Tamales are soooooo good! I have never dared to try and make them though. They seem so difficult.

    • inspiredtaste December 14, 2010, 10:11 am

      They are fantastic …. We would not say they are difficult, but they are certainly time consuming!

  • Heather December 10, 2010, 2:14 pm

    So good!!! They were just my speed without all the spice (thanks, Jo :D)! Josh and I fought over the ones we brought home… Can’t wait to make more on Christmas Eve (or are we?)!

  • Carolyn Jung December 10, 2010, 1:01 pm

    ‘Tis the season for tamales all tied up like pretty little gifts. And one stuffed with cheese is the ultimate tasty present. 😉

  • Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon December 9, 2010, 4:29 pm

    Ah, holiday traditions. How lovely that you and Adam have continued Christmas Tamales.


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