Apple Butter Dessert Tamales

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Close up shot of an apple butter dessert tamale

If you’re looking for a festive fall dessert, this is it! All of the flavors of apple pie are stuffed into this fluffy dessert tamale. If you’ve never made tamales and think it’s too difficult, we urge you to reconsider! Once you’ve made a tamale, you realize how easy they really are.

Fluffy masa dough is whipped with vegan butter and vanilla, sweetened with apple juice and coconut sugar, and spiced with cinnamon and ginger, then stuffed with our date-sweetened apple butter and cooked until fluffy and tender! The result is a cake-like sweet and spicy tamale oozing with apple pie flavor. Just 10 ingredients required. Let us show you how it’s done!

Corn husks, apple juice, masa harina, vanilla, vegan butter, apple butter, coconut sugar, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder

What are Tamales?

Tamales are believed to have originated in Mesoamerica (a region that includes parts of Mexico and Central America). They consist of a corn-based (masa) shell and flavorful filling that’s wrapped in either a corn husk or a banana leaf and then steamed.

While you may be more familiar with tamales stuffed with a savory filling, tamales are also enjoyed with sweet fillings, including various fruits. You can learn about different variations and find a more traditional Mexican sweet tamale recipe from Mexico in My Kitchen.

How to Make Apple Butter Dessert Tamales

These tamales begin with the sweet masa dough, which includes tamale classics like masa harina, salt, and baking powder.

We infuse the dough with coconut sugar and apple juice for sweetness, vegan butter to make it rich and flaky, and cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla for fall flavors.

Bowls of masa dough and apple butter for dessert tamales

The filling is our incredibly delicious, date-sweetened apple butter, which is made by cooking apples down into a luscious, caramelized spread. It’s one of our favorite ingredients to make and have around during apple season, but if you’re in a hurry, choose store-bought or make homemade pumpkin butter instead.

Masa dough and apple butter on a corn husk

With the filling and masa dough ready, it’s time to make tamales!

Folding a corn husk over masa filling and apple butter

Spread the dough in a dried corn husk, top with apple butter filling, and start rolling.

Tamale rolled in a corn husk

When the seams of the corn husk meet (photo above), fold the narrow end of the husk under the tamale (photo below) and place the tamale in a steamer basket for cooking.

Showing a folded corn husk

Repeat with the remaining tamales and steam the big batch all at once.

While these tamales require a little extra planning and preparation, this recipe yields a large batch, so you can store them in the freezer to enjoy whenever a dessert craving strikes.

Plates of apple butter tamales in corn husks

We hope you LOVE these dessert tamales! They’re:

Perfectly sweet
& SO delicious!

Enjoy them as is or serve with vegan vanilla ice cream or coconut whipped cream and our vegan caramel sauce. They’re the perfect dessert to serve at a dinner party or large gathering!

More Apple Desserts for Fall

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Plate of apple butter tamales drizzled with maple syrup and topped with coconut whipped cream and cinnamon

Apple Butter Dessert Tamales

Apple pie meets tamales in this delicious dessert tamale! Just 10 ingredients required for this fluffy, cake-like tamale stuffed with cinnamon-spiced apple butter!
Author Minimalist Baker
Dessert tamales oozing with delicious apple butter
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 24 (Tamales)
Course Dessert
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Mexican-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 4-5 Days




  • 24 dried corn husks*
  • Water for soaking


  • 2 cups masa harina (not cornmeal // masa harina has been cooked and soaked in lime water, then ground into flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder (aluminum-free)
  • 4 Tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (adds spice // optional)
  • 2/3 cup softened vegan butter (we prefer Miyoko’s or Earth Balance)
  • 1 ½ cups apple juice (divided)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


  • FILLING: If you haven’t prepared your apple or pumpkin butter yet, do so now. Otherwise use store-bought to save time.
  • HUSKS: Soak the dried corn husks in a large bowl of warm water until pliable, ~15-20 minutes. Then drain, shake off any additional water, and pat dry with a towel. Keep wrapped in the damp towel until ready to use.
  • MASA: Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the masa harina, baking powder, coconut sugar, salt, cinnamon, and ginger (optional). Set aside.
  • In a separate large mixing bowl, beat (or whisk) the softened vegan butter with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of apple juice and the vanilla extract until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and beat (or whisk) until combined.
  • Add the rest of the apple juice 1-2 tablespoons at a time until incorporated. Beat (or whisk) on high for several minutes until a sticky dough that resembles peanut butter or thick cake batter forms (see photo). You may not have to use all of the apple juice. Set aside.
  • Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more salt to taste (for flavor balance), cinnamon for warmth, ginger for spice (optional), or coconut sugar for sweetness. You want the masa to be pretty flavorful with a noticeable amount of salt for depth to balance the sweetness of the apple butter filling. Set aside.
  • ASSEMBLY: Arrange so the wide end of the husk is closest to you and ensure no residual water is left on the husk (pat dry as needed). Then place 2 heaping tablespoons of masa dough on the wider end of the corn husk and spread out into a thin, even layer toward one edge of the husk, leaving the narrow (upper) end empty (see photo).
  • Place about ~1 ½ tablespoons of apple butter along the center of the masa, creating a log lengthwise. Fold 1 side of the husk over the filling (toward the empty side of the husk), then keep rolling until the seams meet. With the tamale seam side up, fold the narrow end of the husk away from you and under the tamale. Set aside (upright in a loaf pan or bowl) and repeat with remaining tamales (as recipe is written, you should have ~24 tamales).
  • Place a steamer basket into a large pot and pour in enough water to fill just below the steamer basket. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low.
  • Place the tamales, standing upright (with their open ends up) in the steamer basket. Put the lid back on, and steam/simmer for 1 hour. The tamales are done when the husk pulls away from the dough easily, the masa appears puffy in appearance, and the tamale doesn’t feel limp or soggy. Let the tamales rest for 10 minutes uncovered (off the heat) before serving. During this time, they will continue to firm up and become even easier to unwrap from the husk. If you’re unsure if they’re done, remove one tamale and let it rest for 10 minutes outside of the pot to see if it unwraps easily. If it’s still sticky or tender, return to the pot and continue steaming for another 5-10 minutes until it's firm and easy to unwrap.
  • To serve, unwrap tamales and enjoy warm as is, or top with vegan vanilla ice cream, coconut whipped cream, vegan caramel sauce (or a drizzle of maple syrup or date syrup), and/or a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.
  • Store cooled tamales covered in the refrigerator up to 4-5 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop until hot.
  • To freeze, let tamales cool, then add to a parchment-lined baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Freeze until firm, then transfer to a well-sealed container where they should keep for at least 1 month, oftentimes longer. To cook from frozen, let thaw, then heat either in the microwave or in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop until hot. Or microwave for 1 minute, remove husk, and then continue heating in the microwave or in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop until hot.



*Prep/cook time does not include making apple butter.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with our homemade apple butter and without optional ingredients.

Nutrition (1 of 24 servings)

Serving: 1 tamale Calories: 111 Carbohydrates: 16.9 g Protein: 1 g Fat: 4.9 g Saturated Fat: 3.6 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2 g Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 217 mg Potassium: 84 mg Fiber: 1.7 g Sugar: 7.9 g Vitamin A: 24 IU Vitamin C: 2.1 mg Calcium: 43 mg Iron: 0.3 mg

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  1. Caitlin says

    I made these a few days ago, they were wonderful and fun to make! Thank you for feeding me all these years….I’ve followed you since around 2013 I think. For some reason the apple butter couldn’t help but burn no matter how low I set it so I stirred it constantly and didn’t cook it as long. Still turned out delicious. We used field corn for the husks, they worked great.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Aw, thank you for your support and sharing your experience, Caitlin! We’re so glad you enjoy our recipes! xoxo

  2. Rachael G. says

    Holy moly! These are divine! No surprises though.. I’ve never been steered wrong here ♥️
    I used your pumpkin butter recipe for the filling and it was out of this world! I steamed half in a steamer for 1 hr and half in my instant pot (with the steamer basket) for 30 min. Both turned out great but the traditional steamer was better.
    Amazing with vanilla ice cream!

  3. Allison says

    I am excited to try these, as well as your homemade apple butter recipe! Store-bought apple butter was my favorite growing up but now it has too much sugar. Where do you purchase your corn husks? It doesn’t seem like any of the common grocery stores (i.e. cub, whole foods, the co-ops) near me sell them. I know I can always go to a Hispanic grocer to purchase them but I don’t have access to a car so getting to one isn’t the easiest. If you purchase them online is there a brand you recommend? Thanks!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Allison, we’re so glad you’re looking forward to trying the recipe! We get corn husks at our local co-op and haven’t purchased them online, but that sounds like your best option! Sorry we don’t have a specific brand we can recommend!

  4. Isabelle says

    Hey dear team! thanks for all your amazing recipes :-)
    I cannot get dried corn husks in my country. Any ideas what i could swap them for? Thanks so much, isabelle

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Isabelle, thanks so much for your kind words! We’d suggest parchment paper or banana leaves if either of those are available!

  5. KitKat says

    What in the world?! I say that in a good way. These sound super delicious and comforting on a chilly night. Grew up making and eating tamales with the family and have the best memories. I love the creativity in these, thank you! Can’t wait to make em’.

  6. Laurie says

    I’d like to make this oil/butter free, what can I try in place of the 3/4 cup of vegan butter? I realize the fat will effect texture & taste & it may not work well, but I’m willing to risk it; Thankyou

      • Sherilynn Hardesty says

        Would avocado change the taste if used as butter replacement or maybe use aquafaba or applesauce? Just wondering as I am also oil free and these look yummy …. maybe some cashew or almond butter?

        • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

          Hm, we think avocado would change the taste, but we haven’t tried it! Applesauce and aquafaba could work better. Let us know if you try it!

      • Amy says

        I am going to try these with pumpkin puree instead of the butter to make them oil free. And use your pumpkin butter as the filling. I have used pumpkin in more traditional masa for tamales and they were a great substitute for the fat. Im very hopeful this will work and taste super delicious. I did make your apple version and it was amazing.

          • amy says

            Okay, so I made these oil free using pumpkin puree instead of the vegan butter and they turned out great. It really complimented the pumpkin butter filling. In fact my family preferred these to the apple butter ones. I also added Chinese five spice to the masa. Thank you for such a fun a delicious take on traditional tamales.

          • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

            Yum! Sounds so interesting! Thanks so much for the lovely review, Amy. So glad you all enjoyed!