Easy Green Chile Chicken Tamales

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Platter of tamales next to a plate of Green Chile Chicken Tamales topped with guacamole, coconut yogurt, red onion, and hot sauce

If you think making tamales sounds daunting, know that we’ve been there, too.

But, we have some good news. Now that we’ve made them ourselves, we understand not only how easy they are, but also how amazing they are for feeding a crowd, meal prep, and freezer-friendly meals!

Inspired by a cooking class I took in New Mexico, I got to work creating a simplified version that doesn’t skimp on flavor.

This 10-ingredient recipe is made with a green-chile-and-shredded-chicken filling that you’ll be tempted to eat by the spoonful. Let’s do this!

Shredded chicken, masa harina, and other ingredients for making our homemade Chicken Tamales recipe

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 (vegan, vegetarian, or meat-based) that’s wrapped in either a corn husk or a banana leaf and then steamed.

How to Make Tamales

Making tamales starts with making the masa dough. The main ingredient is masa harina, which is corn that has been cooked and soaked in lime water, then ground into flour.

The masa harina is mixed with water and allowed to sit for 15 minutes so it can rehydrate. Then salt, baking powder, avocado oil, and broth are added until the dough resembles a thick paste.

Traditionally, lard is the primary fat component in tamales, but to keep things a little lighter, we went for avocado oil and cut back the amount as much as possible without sacrificing on texture.

Bowl of masa harina and water for making our homemade tamales recipe

Once the masa is ready, we move on to the filling, which is made by first sautéing onion and garlic. Green chiles are added for flavor, shredded chicken for protein, and a small amount of masa harina as a thickener.

Chicken broth is then slowly added until you have a saucy (but not soupy) mixture.

Pot of Green Chile Chicken filling for tamales

With the dough and sauce prepared, it’s time to assemble!

We used dried cornhusks, but when it’s corn season, you can also use fresh husks from corn-on-the-cob (or banana leaves if they’re accessible to you). If using dried cornhusks, we recommend soaking them in water for 15-30 minutes before use so they’re pliable.

To make a tamale, hold a corn husk in your non-dominant hand (or place on a flat, clean surface) and make sure the wider edge is facing you.

Use the back of a spoon to spread 2 – 2 ½ tablespoons of masa from the bottom 1/3 center of the husk to the right edge (see photo below).

Spreading masa harina mixture onto a dried cornhusk to make tamales

Then add the green chile chicken filling to the center of the masa and tuck the right edge of the corn husk over the chicken filling, tucking it in.

Continue rolling until the seams meet. Then fold the narrow edge of the corn husk over where the seams meet and set it in a dish that will hold the tamales upright.

Repeat until you’ve got about 26 tamales ready to be cooked!

For those interested, you can see a more traditional way to make and fold tamales here from De mi rancho a tu Cocina.

Overhead image of a corn husk on a cutting board with masa and green chile chicken filling, and two hands wrapping

How To Cook Tamales

Cooking tamales is easier than you might think!

Place them upright in a steamer basket in a large pot or Dutch oven. Then cover and steam for 1 hour. That’s it!

Overhead image of 26 green chile chicken tamales sitting upright in a loaf pan, uncooked

How to Freeze Tamales

If you’re worried you won’t be able to eat 26 tamales, fear not! These tamales are perfect for freezing and reheating for a quick meal.

To freeze, let the tamales cool and then add them to a parchment-lined baking sheet arranged in a single layer. Freeze until firm, then transfer to a well-sealed container.

They should keep for at least 1 month, oftentimes longer.

How to Reheat Tamales

To reheat from the fridge, put the tamales in the microwave or in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop over medium heat until hot.

To reheat from frozen, let the tamales thaw and then proceed as you would if they’d come out of the fridge. For a quick “thaw,” you can microwave for 1 minute, remove the husk, then proceed with one of the above-mentioned reheating methods.

Pot of Green Chili Chicken Tamales ready to be cooked

We hope you LOVE these tamales! They’re:

Flavorful
Filling
Easy
Freezer-friendly
& SO delicious!

These would be delicious served on their own or topped with our Go-To Guacamole, Cultured Vegan Sour Cream (or dairy-free yogurt), and/or Easy Red Salsa.

For pairing ideas, try with our Grilled Corn Salad, Green Cauliflower Rice, or Smoky 1-Pot Refried Lentils.

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!

Fork sliced into a Green Chile Chicken Tamale topped with guacamole, sour cream, red onion, and hot sauce

Easy Green Chile Chicken Tamales

Green Chile Chicken Tamales that are lard-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, easy to make, and incredibly delicious. 10 ingredients and perfect for meal prepping and freezer meals. The ultimate comfort food!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Pot of homemade Green Chile Chicken Tamales
4.7 from 13 votes
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 26 (Tamales)
Course Entree
Cuisine Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Mexican-Inspired
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 4-5 Days

Ingredients

MASA

  • 2 cups masa harina (not cornmeal // masa harina has been cooked and soaked in lime water, then ground into flour)
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • 1 ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 4 ½ Tbsp avocado oil (or sub dairy-free butter or organic dairy butter as tolerated)
  • 2/3 – 3/4 cup chicken broth, vegetable broth, bone broth, or water (warm temperature is best)

GREEN CHILE CHICKEN FILLING

  • 1-2 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 1/2 cup white or yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 healthy pinch sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup hatch (mild green) chiles, diced (canned or freshly roasted, peeled, and diced)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp masa harina (for thickening)
  • 2 – 2 ½ cups shredded chicken (from roasted chicken, rotisserie chicken, or baked chicken breasts* // 2 medium breasts yield ~ 2-2 ½ cups shredded chicken)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup chicken broth, bone broth, or vegetable broth

FOR PREPARING

  • 1 small package dried corn husks (as recipe is written, ~26 corn husks)

Instructions

  • Add masa harina to a large mixing bowl and pour the water over it. Stir to combine — it will appear dry, that's okay. Let rest 15 minutes to hydrate.
  • In the meantime, add dried corn husks to a large mixing bowl and cover with room temperature water. Set something on top to submerge them (such as a small skillet). Let soak at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
  • In the meantime, heat a pot, Dutch oven, or large rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, onion, and garlic. Season with a healthy pinch of salt and sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and slightly browned.
  • Add green chiles and masa harina and stir to coat. Cook for 1 minute. Then add shredded chicken and stir.
  • Add broth a little at a time until a saucy mixture is achieved. It shouldn't appear dry, nor should it be soupy (see photo). Cook over medium heat for 5-8 minutes (the broth will reduce — add more as needed). Stir occasionally. Then taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more salt to taste. Turn off heat and set aside to cool slightly.
  • To the soaked masa mixture add salt, baking powder, and avocado oil and stir. Then add broth (warm or room temperature for best results) a little at a time until a thick paste is achieved. It shouldn't be liquidy or crumbly (see photo). Be sure to stir well so it's fully combined. Set aside.
  • Remove corn husks from water and pat dry. Then take one husk in your non-dominant hand (or place on a flat, clean surface) with the wider edge toward you (narrow end away from you).
    Add 2 – 2 ½ Tbsp masa in the center near the bottom (closest end toward you), then use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture from the bottom 1/3 center of the husk to the right edge (see photo). A semi-thin layer is ideal (not too thin, not too thick).
  • Then add 1 ½ Tbsp of the green chile chicken filling to the center of the masa. Fold the right edge of the corn husk over the chicken filling (toward the masa's left edge) and tuck right where the masa ends on the left. Then continue rolling until the husk’s seams meet. Next, fold the narrow edge of corn husk tightly toward the opposite side of where the seams meet and set in a loaf pan or dish that will keep your tamales upright (see photo). Continue until you have used all your masa mixture and filling (as recipe is written, ~26 tamales).
  • To a large pot or Dutch oven, add a steamer basket. Fill a pot with water until it almost touches the base of the steamer basket. Then add the tamales, keeping them upright if possible (see photo).
  • Turn the heat to high, then once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer to steam the tamales for 1 hour.
  • Once cooked, remove the lid and let steam escape. Then they're ready to enjoy! Top with desired garnishes. We loved guacamole, hot sauce, diced red onion, and a little dairy-free yogurt (Culina plain).
  • 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.
  • Or, 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, either let thaw then heat in the microwave or a cast iron skillet on the stovetop until hot, or microwave for 1 minute, remove husk, then continue heating in the microwave or in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop until hot.

Video

Notes

*We baked small chicken breasts at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 C) for ~20 minutes.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with the lesser amount when a range is provided and without optional ingredients.
*Masa mixture roughly adapted from Seasons of My Heart cookbook.
*You can see a more traditional way to make and fold tamales here from De mi rancho a tu Cocina.

Nutrition (1 of 26 servings)

Serving: 1 tamales Calories: 99 Carbohydrates: 8.3 g Protein: 6.9 g Fat: 4.2 g Saturated Fat: 0.7 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.76 g Monounsaturated Fat: 2.48 g Trans Fat: 0.02 g Cholesterol: 16.17 mg Sodium: 232 mg Potassium: 87 mg Fiber: 1 g Sugar: 0.6 g Vitamin A: 6.05 IU Vitamin C: 1.53 mg Calcium: 36.18 mg Iron: 0.41 mg

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  1. Carol Edwards says

    Dana, you hit it out of the ballpark with this one. Easiest tamales ever! I’ve made these three times and every time my husband says “wow wow wow”. I filled them with your mexican marinated jackfruit for me and some leftover salmon mixed with green chilies for him. Super easy and they come out perfect every time. Thank you!!!!

  2. Kaitlyn says

    These look delicious! Any suggestions for a vegetarian protein replacement instead of chicken? Thanks!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Kaitlyn, we haven’t tried it, but maybe jackfruit or black beans. Let us know if you try it!

  3. Sandra says

    Forgot to mention that I had a poblano pepper I needed to use, so we grilled it and added it to the chicken mixture with the green chilis. We liked the added flavor.

  4. Sandra says

    Wow! If it hadn’t been for your pics and the video, I would never have had the confidence to try this. DELICIOUS! I feel so proud to be able to say I’ve made homemade tamales. Thanks so much for the great recipe and instructions. They are a hit. Served them alongside your Mexican one pot beans that I had frozen after making recently. Yum!

  5. Jessie says

    First time making tamales and I love them! They are perfect for quarantine! I got 19 out of the recipe. Also, made a huge batch of shredded chicken so I made the aloo sabzi as well and topped it with the chicken! DELICIOUS!
    I see a lot of mixed responses to your addition of meat and dairy to the blog. As a former vegetarian (for 14 years) who reintroduced meat for health reasons, I am happy to see a balance of recipes on your blog. Thank you for all the delicious recipes! Loving them during these crazy times!
    Hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy!

    • Kay Sandel says

      Thanks for sharing that you were once vegan and now eating meat. I once eat very little meat but devolved health issues and was told to eat more meat protein by multiple health care professionals. Chicken is my main source of meat protein and recipes like this doesn’t call for a super long list of ingredients. I’m making them today as well as Rachel Rays version of King Ranch Casserole, since it calls for similar ingredients. And both freeze well.. which is a good thing because as good as these recipes are, we won’t be able to eat it all right away. Thanks again and have a blessed day. 😊

  6. Kameron says

    I followed this recipe for my first time making tamales on my own and it worked out well, my only qualm was that 2 cups certainly didn’t make 26 tamales for me, and I thinned out the masa as much as I could. I got about 13 out of my amount, and maybe it’s something to do with the size I was making them, and my technique, but either way I am super happy with how they turned out! I couldn’t find corn husks in my store (ironic since I’m in Ohio) but I used banana leaves instead and followed the same instructions for cleaning them and drying them. The substitution worked out perfectly, but my only bad feedback is the banana leaves smell awful when cooked. Luckily, it doesn’t affect the taste of the tamales at all! These were certainly a labor of love, but I am in love with the results and feel so proud to have done this. I understand why foods like tamales are typically a family preparation, because there’s a lot of hard work that goes into such a seemingly simple dish!

    • Kameron says

      I made these again tonight and watched the video more closely to make sure my masa was the same texture, found it was much easier! Still definitely a labor of love <3

  7. Julie says

    Absolutely luscious. Once I got the hang of things it was easy. My daughter thinks she’s a professional Mexican food judge and even she said best she’s ever had. Making again tonight lol THANK YOU!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review, Julie. We are so glad you both enjoy them! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! Xo

  8. Stef Miller says

    I’m still waiting for these to cook through…. I’m so disappointed. I love MB recipes and this one looked so good! I’m hoping someone can offer advice about maybe how I could tweak things because I’d love to be able to make tamales easily! So I followed the instructions, measured everything, and I ended up with only enough masa mixture for 16 tamales…I did measure out 2tbsp masa mixture before spreading it into the husks, so I’m not sure how it could be so far off! I’m thinking somehow I ended up with too much masa and that’s part of why it’s taking so long? I also ended up with way too much filling, but I’m going to say that’s my fault because I didn’t measure the chicken and just used two chicken breasts and maybe mine were too large. Also, corn husks, is there an awesome brand out there? The package I bought had a bunch of teeny sections that weren’t enough to make a tamale in unless I overlapped them (which I did, but made it hard to hold together without tying). What actual size pot are you all using? My Dutch oven fits the tamales just barely and I wonder if I should have gone with the pot I use for brewing and canning instead. Finally, I found the masa mixture insanely challenging to spread…did I make it too thick? Too thin? It kept sticking to the spoon and coming off the husks as I was trying to spread it. Sorry for the super long comment, thanks in advance for any advice! Also for what it’s worth I did taste the components and they were super delicious!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Stef! So sorry you’re having trouble. Tamales the first time can be tricky.

      I’d say next time make your masa mixture thinner so it spreads easily and thinly – and use only 1 1/2 Tbsp batter next time to make it go further.
      Are you sure they aren’t “done” in the middle? They’re steamed so they’ll be quite moist.
      I can’t comment on brand of corn husks. We just grabbed whatever our grocery store had and seemed to have good success.
      Here’s the pot we used.
      Hope that helps!

  9. Alyssa says

    Thank you for this delicious recipe! I’ve made it twice now, and it really is fantastic! Last week I made it and was a bit frustrated reheating them. This week I doubled the batch and froze all of them without cooking. This morning I took out a handful and put them in the Instant pot set on manual for 20 minutes, let it release naturally, and they came out perfect! It’s a great, easy breakfast, but I’m sure they will come in handy for lunch and dinner, too. I don’t mind doing all of the work ahead of time in order to have easy food on hand, especially when it tastes this good!

    Thank you!

    • Janya Somers says

      I tried the recipe for the first time as I love tamales. My masa mixture was too thick and hard to spread. So I used my finger to spread it. I think the liquid or broth that put in the masa is not enough. I didn’t make 26 either even though I didn’t put too much filling. Overall it tastes very good better than the one I used to buy. Is there anyway for the dough to be softer when the tamales are cool down? Is adding an egg possible to make the dough softer? Also can you make this with fresh corn or sweet tamales with filling? Thanks so much for the recipe. I have to try other recipes.

      • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

        Hi Janya, we think adding more broth or water to the masa should help it spread and make the dough softer. We aren’t sure how to use fresh corn. And we haven’t tried a sweet filling, but don’t see any reason it wouldn’t work! We’d probably suggest using water instead of broth though. Let us know if you try it!

  10. Nathaniel Cook says

    Would you foresee any issue with preparing them ahead of time and refrigerating or freezing them prior to steaming, then steaming them a few days later? Or would you recommend completing them at one time, then reheating later? Trying to plan ahead for a large dinner we’re hosting!

  11. Sierra says

    So so good! I have always been daunted by the fact of making tamales but when I saw the recipe I knew I had to give it a try. I am American but my husband is Mexican, he approves!! I thought the chicken filling was lacking a bit of flavor so I added oregano, chili powder and paprika and it give it the extra kick I was looking for. I will defiantly make again in the future!

  12. Beth says

    I have been obsessed with tamales since I first discovered them about a decade ago. But I’ve always been too intimidated by the process to even attempt to make my own. However, this recipe really made it relatively easy (will probably enlist some help assembling them next time though)! And green chiles and chicken are always an amazing combo. This was delicious! Thank you for inspiring me to make tamales!

  13. Agustin says

    So disappointed and sad that you started including meat and dairy in your recipes. I am wondering why you did that. Knowing how animals and environment is suffering.
    Nice recipe but I will sort out the meat substitution ?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Agustin, thanks for your support thus far! We announced in early 2019 that we’d be adding some meat and eggs back in and will provide vegan options whenever possible. If you’d like to continue seeing our only vegan content, you can subscribe to our vegan-only email list as well as visit our recipe page and select “special diet” “vegan.”

  14. Leslie says

    Umm, hatch green chilis, where have you been all my life? The canned chilis make the flavor of this recipe next level! I veganized this by using diced seitan and black beans. I also added half of a red pepper. I loved the simplicity of the corn husks, in the past I’ve tied them and it takes forever. I think this recipe took me a bit longer than specified but it was totally worth it. This was a huge hit with my family. Make this recipe now, it’s so good. Thanks, Dana!

  15. tom stratford says

    Hi,

    You could easily mke this with plant based chicken, which would be bothh better for the environment and cruelty free but having NEVER had a tamale i am curious about eating them. Do you squeeze them out like toothpaste or eat the outer corn layer?

    Thanks

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Tom, feel free to make it with your favorite filling! Peel off the corn husk and discard it. Otherwise, eat the rest. Hope that helps!

  16. Roxana says

    Hi!
    Wow, this recipe looks delicious! I would like to know how I could make these vegan? What do you recommend as best substitution for chicken in this recipe?

    Thank you!

  17. Monica says

    I live in New Mexico and the idea of using avocado oil instead of lard is novel and I’m gonna try it! How do you think olive oil would work instead of avocado?

  18. Tracy says

    These look delicious, but being vegetarian, I was wondering if you have any ideas for subbing out the chicken? Jackfruit, Maybe?
    Thanks!

  19. Elaine says

    I guess there’s no away around using the oil in the recipes….right? I’m trying to follow an oil free diet but I think you would need it here. If you have any suggestions I’d appreciate. Was thinking of using soy curls for the chicken.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      You could probably omit in the filling, but the masa might be more tricky. Let us know if you try it though!

  20. Emily says

    These look fantastic! I can’t wait to make them.

    Quick question on the dried corn husks – are those typically easy to find at a well-stocked grocery store? I’ve never looked for them before. Thanks!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’d say it depends on the grocery store! If they have a well-stocked international section, you should be able to find them easily.

  21. Nikki Evans says

    Rather than reverting back to lard, what would be a viable substitute for avocado oil, as I’m allergic? Thanks!

  22. Sally White says

    I made this and it’s so yummy. Great directions. For the vegan members of my family, I substituted vegetable broth (some store bought and the rest of my homemade) and jackfruit, 2 kinds of mushrooms, a bit of onion and black olives. Both versions were a hit. Oh, and I use Hatch’s Green Enchilada Sauce as a topping along with the guacamole. Left overs freeze well.

  23. Etta says

    I can’t wait to try these!! I never would have braved this recipe if you hadn’t posted it, but everything I’ve tried from your site has turned out perfect!!!! Thank you!!
    What steamer basket do you recommend? some have legs, others just lay right in the bottom of the Dutch oven.

  24. Christie says

    Wow! This looks delicious! I’ve been trying to get more into meal prepping and freezer meals lately so this recipe is perfect! Do you have any suggestions for a vegan chicken substitute? I’m not sure how well tofu or other plant-based proteins freeze and was wondering if you had any suggestions?

    Thanks!!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Christie, we think black beans might work? But we haven’t tried it and can’t say for sure! Let us know if you try it!