Sweet Potato Black Bean Tamales

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Using a fork to slice into a sweet potato black bean tamale

After learning how easy it is to make tamales (no seriously), we set our eyes on more flavor combinations!

And after some testing, this classic yet incredibly flavorful combination won out. Say hello to your go-to vegan tamale flavor: sweet potato black bean! Just 10 basic ingredients required. Let’s do this!

Corn husks, masa harina, vegetable broth, sweet potatoes, black beans, avocado oil, spices, and salt

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.

Our version is not traditional, but is inspired by the concept and flavors. You can find more authentic recipes here (vegan) and here (not vegan).

How to Make Vegan Tamales

Our inspired, plant-based version starts with baking your sweet potatoes until tender and sweet. This can be done whole or halved. For extra large potatoes, I like to halve them and bake cut-side down to save time. Learn more about how to roast sweet potatoes here!

Parchment-lined baking sheet of halved and roasted sweet potatoes

In the meantime, you’ll make the masa dough and soak the corn husks.

Once the sweet potatoes are cool enough to touch, remove the peels and mash.

Using a fork to mash roasted sweet potato

Next, black beans are simmered with chipotle peppers, cumin, and sea salt for a smoky filling with plenty of plant-based fiber and protein.

Using a wooden spoon to stir a saucepan of black beans, diced onion, and spices

When all the components are ready, it’s time for assembly!

Face the wider edge of the husk toward you, then use the back of a spoon to spread some masa from the bottom 1/3 center of the husk to the right edge.

Showing how to fold a tamale over the sweet potato black bean filling

Next, add a spoonful each of mashed sweet potatoes and black beans, and fold the right edge of the corn husk over the filling, tucking it in (like a little blanket).

Continue rolling until the seams meet. Then fold the narrow edge of the corn husk up and over to keep the fold in place before setting upright in a dish (we prefer a loaf pan).

Repeat until you’ve got about 24 tamales ready to be cooked!

Large white pot filled with sweet potato black bean tamales

Tamales cook by steaming. So, simply place them upright in a steamer basket in a large pot or Dutch oven with a little water. Then cover and steam for about 1 hour or until the masa has set. That’s it!

Tray and plate of sweet potato black bean tamales

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

Savory-sweet
Easy to make
Customizable
Satisfying
Super comforting
& Delicious!

They would be delicious served on their own or topped with our Go-To GuacamoleCultured Vegan Sour Cream (or dairy-free yogurt), and/or Easy Red Salsa. They’re also perfect for making ahead and freezing for easy snacks or meals.

For pairing ideas, try with our Green Cauliflower Rice, Mexican Quinoa Salad, or Grilled Corn Salad.

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!

Using a fork to slice into a plate of vegan tamales

Sweet Potato Black Bean Tamales

Easy tamales stuffed with roasted sweet potatoes and chipotle-seasoned black beans. Just 10 ingredients and simple methods required for this hearty, plant-based, naturally gluten-free dish!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Fork cutting into a bite of Sweet Potato Black Bean Tamales
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours
Servings 24 (Tamales)
Course Entree
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Mexican-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 4-5 Days

Ingredients

SWEET POTATOES

  • 3-4 medium-large sweet potatoes

MASA

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

BLACK BEANS

  • 3-4 Tbsp water (or sub oil and reduce amount by half)
  • 1/4 cup diced white or red onion
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, slightly drained
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp adobo sauce (omit or reduce for less heat)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1-2 tsp coconut sugar (optional)

FOR PREPARING

  • 1 package dried cornhusks, soaked in water 30 minutes

FOR SERVING optional

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) and place whole sweet potatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Poke sweet potatoes a few times with a fork to allow steam to escape. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until tender. NOTE: For quicker bake time, halve sweet potatoes, rub with a little oil, and bake cut-side down for 35-40 minutes or until tender (as pictured).
  • In the meantime, add masa harina to a large mixing bowl and pour the water over. Stir to combine. It will likely appear a bit 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). Set aside and let soak (at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour).
  • In the meantime, heat a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add water (or oil) and onion. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.
  • Add slightly drained black beans, chopped chipotle pepper, adobo sauce (omit or reduce for less heat), salt, cumin, and coconut sugar (optional).
  • Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more salt to taste, cumin for smokiness, coconut sugar to balance the flavors, or adobo sauce for heat. Turn off heat and uncover. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • Remove baked sweet potatoes from oven and let cool to the touch. Then peel away the skin, transfer to a mixing bowl or shallow plate, and mash with a potato masher or fork until mostly smooth. Set aside.
  • 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 (when water remains on the husks, the masa can have a hard time adhering). Then take one husk in your non-dominant hand (or place on a flat, clean surface) with the wider/broader edge facing toward you (narrow end away from you).
  • Add 2 – 2 ½ Tbsp masa, 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). Spread into a thin layer — somewhere between 1/8th-inch and 1/4-inch thick (not too thin or the fillings spill through, not too thick or the tamale takes longer to cook).
  • Then add ~1 ½ Tbsp of the mashed sweet potatoes to the center of the masa and top with ~1 Tbsp of beans (see photo). Tuck the right side of the corn husk over the bean filling, right where the masa's left edge is. Then continue rolling until the seams meet. Then fold the narrow edge of corn husk over the seam and set in a loaf pan or dish that will keep your tamales upright. Continue until you have used all your masa mixture and filling (as original recipe is written, ~24 tamales).
  • To a large pot or Dutch oven, add a steamer basket. Fill 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 heat to high, then, once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer to steam the tamales for about 1 hour. You’ll know they’re done when the masa appears cooked. If you aren’t sure, you can remove one tamale, let it cool for a few minutes (as they stiffen up the more they cool), unwrap, and test. If they’re cooked through, they’re ready to enjoy. If not, steam for 5-10 minutes more, or longer as needed.
  • Once cooked, remove the lid and let steam escape for a few minutes. Then they're ready to enjoy! Top with desired garnishes. We loved hot sauce, cilantro, lime juice, and a little dairy-free yogurt (Culina plain is our favorite, though vegan sour cream would be delicious, too).
  • 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.

Video

Notes

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with medium sweet potatoes, homemade vegetable broth, the lesser amounts when a range is provided, and without optional ingredients.
*More flavor ideas: Vegan Barbacoa, Smoky Lentil Taco Meat, Vegan “Pulled Pork”.
*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 24 servings)

Serving: 1 tamale Calories: 79 Carbohydrates: 13.9 g Protein: 2.1 g Fat: 1.9 g Saturated Fat: 0.2 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.42 g Monounsaturated Fat: 1.14 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 301 mg Potassium: 130 mg Fiber: 2.4 g Sugar: 1 g Vitamin A: 2385 IU Vitamin C: 0.77 mg Calcium: 47.11 mg Iron: 0.58 mg

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  1. Yazmin Cabrera says

    Hello! Yesterday I made the recipe and they were great. I substituted the avocado oil with butter and barbecue sauce with “achiote”. They are not very porous like those sold on the street but they taste much better! The seasoning was a mixture of cream and yogurt. Delicious! Next time I won’t be afraid to use the spice because the sweet potato or sweet potato flavor plus the dough balance very well.
    I live in tlaxcala Mexico, whose name means place of tortillas and corn and I loved the turn you gave to tamales !. I recently bought your book and I´m starting to make the recipes. Regards

  2. Jo says

    Ok, let me preface by saying I have never made tamales before. I tried these yesterday for Father’s Day dinner. The flavor was delicious…I give it 5-stars!! My attempt ???🤔…I give it a 3.5-stars. I followed everything except 2 things: in the beans, instead of chipotle & Adobe sauce I used 3 heaping Tbsp of a smokey salsa that I love, and I used a touch of regular sugar instead of the coconut sugar. Everything went smoothly…even the rolling turned out pretty!!! (I was surprised!!) My problem came during steaming them. I didn’t have the proper steaming set-up for the stove top, so I decide to use my instant pot & steamer basket (which was tall enough) with a regular glass lid on top & set It on “sauté” to heat the water in the bottom. After 30 minutes, I noticed there was a lot on condensation & I had to add more water to the bottom & set them for another 30 minutes. I then took one out for the 1 hr. test; the masa was still gooey & hadn’t set yet. So then I decided to just use the correct sealed lid and cook them under pressure for 30 mins. (By then I had already Googled “how to cook tamales in instant pot”.) So finally they were done, they still seemed soft so I laid them out to rest to see if they would firm up some more. They did somewhat, but still not to the texture I was expecting. And I had to be gentle….they didn’t release easily from the husk; but I managed, and made 4 beautiful plates w/ 3 tamales & toppings, Spanish rice, lettuce & tomato salad with a scoop of homemade guacamole & a few chips. (I rolled ~26, hubby went back for seconds & we had leftovers.)
    Things that I may have done wrong:
    -my steaming set-up allowed for too much condensation to drip on them and kept them soggy.
    -maybe my masa was too runny because I added too much veggie stock???
    -maybe I pressed the masa onto the husk too hard & that’s why it was hard to release in addition to it not setting well.
    NOTE: Next time I will make the masa layer thicker, because the beans were visible on the ones that did hold together.
    I hope this helps others by learning from my mistakes. Thanks again for another flavorful recipe. You rock!!😉

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks for sharing! I’d say they just needed steamed a little longer and I’ve never used an instant pot so that may have been the issue?

  3. Vera Reynolds says

    This looks wonderful, can’t wait to try them out tonight! Dana, is it possible to add weight measurements to ingredients? (I find that I always over-estimate what a “medium” potato is)

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Ah, I understand that may be confusing! A medium sweet potato usually weighs ~130-150 g.

  4. Rachel says

    Hi Dana,
    This looks like a delicious recipe :)
    I’m just wondering why you chose not to situate your take on tamales within any kind of broader / historical / cultural context. You have of course built upon and adapted an existing food, but I don’t see you providing any references, or links as to how your source your inspiration (other than links to your own recipes).
    Would you consider providing this information on your post, and being aware of these issues moving forward?
    Thanks for your consideration.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      That’s an excellent question. We go more into the history of tamales in an upcoming how to make tamales post, and also attributed the cookbook our original chicken tamale recipe was inspired from in this post. But didn’t go as in depth here. We’ll make those additions!

  5. ♥ Dana & James ♥ says

    Yum! I’ve tried tons of vegan Tamales, and let’s just say they weren’t always pretty. On the bright side, This one was the best by far! Love the smoky flavor on the beans. Thanks a million!! xo

    ♥ Dana & James ♥

      • Jane says

        My husband and I made these yesterday. Tamales are a favorite, however this was our first attempt at making our own. Your instructions are very clear and helpful. We love the flavor and taste. We were too anxious to eat them, so did not wait for them to cool before unwrapping. So ours were not so pretty, but they were delicious. We learned a lot and will definitely try again. We are seniors (84 &71). Vegans for years, and still learning and trying new recipes. Thank you for a great recipe.

  6. Whitney says

    It looks like you’re still using the term vegan. Are you vegan again? I thought you decided to switch to the term plant-based when you started consuming animals again (since veganism goes way beyond food)? Did I miss something?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Whitney, my diet is in constant flux and I don’t really adhere to labels when it comes to my eating choices. But this recipe is vegan so we used that label. Hope you love it!

  7. Kristin says

    Hi! This looks so amazing and I can’t wait to try! I wanted to check in with you if you had a preferred masa harina you have used? I’ve found that it can vary pretty widely when making arepas, so I wasn’t sure if it’s the same when making tamales! Thank you!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I agree they do vary quite a lot! We’ve used Bob’s Red Mill before and it’s OK, but I believe there are better options out there. What options have you tried!

      • Kristin says

        Yeah, I’ve tried making arepas with Bob’s as well and they turned out pretty bad. My husband is Colombian and his family only uses PAN for making arepas (white, yellow or whole wheat corn are all great), but I don’t know if it would be good for tamales too. I think I’ll go to the Portland Mercado just ask the lady in the grocery store what is best to use! Also, thank you for your wonderful recipes! I use them exclusively every single day!

        • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

          xoxo! Yes, I use “Pan” brand for arepas. I wish there were more options, specifically organic!

      • Dana Chalamet says

        Regarding the masa harina. There are many organic varieties on Amazon. Haven’t you tried any other that you liked better than Bob’s? Just want a really great choice for my first time making tamales. These sound AMAZING!

        • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

          Hi Dana! I’ve only tried Bob’s and the brand “Gold Mine” on amazon. Both seemed comparable.

          • Dana Chalamet says

            Gold Mine was actually the one I decided on from Amazon. Will give it a shot. Thanks so much!

  8. Vanya says

    Have you ever tried a grain free version of tamales? I tried making it with the Puerto Rican tamales called pasteles where the masa is made from cassava, squash, green bananas and plantains. It was really wet masa so I’m looking for a recipe with a dryer masa that’s grain free and oil free.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hmm, I haven’t. I don’t love cassava flour when I’ve used it as I find it to be quite bitter. But I almost wonder if you could make an almond-flour based “masa” substitute mixed with other flours (maybe coconut and arrowroot or potato starch)? Let us know if you try anything out!

  9. Bruna White says

    I haven’t tried this recipe, but I do love tamales, been making them for years and will sure give this combination a try. I am however a cheater and use parchment paper instead of the husk… it yields the same results in my opinion, I totally recommend. :)

  10. Laura says

    I’ve been wanting to make vegan tamales forever!! But the thing that’s held me back is wanting to find a healthier alternative to lard in the masa, without compromising the texture.
    I noticed you said it was possible to sub water for the vegetable oil, have you tested that yourself? If so, do you notice much of a difference in the cooked masa?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I have tested almost eliminating oil, but not entirely. I’ve cut it down by like 40-50%. Let us know if you go all the way!

  11. Linda Szymoniak says

    I really need to make these. One of my all-time favorite recipes is for sweet potato burritos. I’m sure I’d love these, too!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Not really, just any grocery store tends to have them! Otherwise, you can likely find them on Amazon.

  12. Angela Mellor says

    Hi , love all your recipes THANK YOU ! What if I can’t get the corn husks ? Is there a substitute? Thanks

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      You can use fresh corn husks, banana leaves, or another reader suggested parchment paper!

  13. Jan says

    I love tamales and never knew how to make them. And the vegan ones from the farmers market are so expensive!! I’m so excited to try this recipe. This recipe doesn’t intimidate me. Can I use the husks from store bought corn?

  14. Lisa says

    Have you found that packaged corn husks are readily available at the grocery store? Or do you recommend buying online? Thanks!