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!
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.
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.
With the filling and masa dough ready, it’s time to make tamales!
Spread the dough in a dried corn husk, top with apple butter filling, and start rolling.
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.
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.
We hope you LOVE these dessert tamales! They’re:
& SO delicious!
More Apple Desserts for Fall
- Apple Butter Cheesecake Bars (Vegan/GF)
- Easy Cinnamon Baked Apples
- Apple Pie Crumble Bars (Vegan + GF)
- Apple Pie Sundaes (30 Minutes!)
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!
Apple Butter Dessert Tamales
- 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.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with our homemade apple butter and without optional ingredients.