I’m kind of a Mexican food snob. I can’t help it. Born and raised in San Diego, I was a mere 30 minutes from the Mexican border. Aside from actually being IN Mexico, does it get any better? Nope. But ever since I became vegan, I have longed for some damn good Mexican food….something that reminds me of the late night runs my friends and I made to Filiberto’s, Cotixan, Rico’s, and the countless other hole-in-the-wall establishments that helped me to fall in love. Sadly, I haven’t found many worthy vegan offerings (Pokez in San Diego comes close), but I hope to help fill this void! Behold…a delicious tamale recipe! I think that one of the downfalls of many vegan establishments when it comes to Mexican cuisine, is trying to replicate non-vegan dishes with the corresponding meat and cheese substitutes. I have found much more success in creating something new, centering on the vegetables themselves. A little daiya cheese or tofu sour cream can be a tasty addition, but is certainly not needed to enjoy these bad boys. Trust me…you don’t have to be vegan to really enjoy a good vegetable tamale. I don’t even know what that means?! Seriously. I hate it when I hear people say, “Yeah, it’s pretty good…for vegan food.” Nope. Not good enough for me. I just want to make good food…that happens to be vegan P.S. Don’t forget the rooster sauce (aka Sriracha)!
A Few Tools You’ll Need:
1 package dried corn husks
Ball of string to tie tamales
Stock pot with steamer basket and lid
First off, you’ll need to get your corn husks pliable. Place the husks into a deep baking dish or large bowl and cover with hot water (boiling if possible). Make sure all of the husks are submerged in the water, then weigh them down with a plate. Set these aside to soak for a few hours.
Orange Tomatillo Salsa Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs tomatillos, husked, washed and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced (keep some of the seeds for more heat if desired)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup cilantro, chopped
3 large oranges, segmented and chopped
To make the salsa, combine the tomatillos, onion, jalapeño, salt and pepper into a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the tomatillos are tender. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add the cilantro and blend again. Pour the salsa into a bowl and add in the oranges. Stir to combine. Cover and set aside to cool. Allow the salsa to cool completely before putting it into the fridge.
Tamale Filling Ingredients:
2 fennel bulbs, chopped (including the stalks and fronds)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
3 portobello mushrooms, stems removed and chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 cups orange tomatillo salsa
Salt and pepper for seasoning (if needed)
Daiya mozzarella vegan cheese (optional…but tasty)
**Note: I also tried a batch with a package of soyrizo thrown into the filling, after the veggies had cooked for about 8 minutes or so. It was pretty good and I would recommend trying it sometime!
Heat the olive oil over medium in a large skillet. Add the onions, garlic, fennel and mushrooms. Saute until the veggies start to brown a bit. Add the fresh herbs and 2 cups of the orange tomatillo salsa. Stir to combine and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if you’de like (I found that I didn’t need to).
Set aside to cool slightly while you make the tamale dough.
Tamale Dough Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups masa harina
1 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (preferably homemade) you can also just use more water as well
In a large bowl, combine the masa harina with 2 1/4 cups hot water. Mix with your hands to combine. In the bowl of a standing mixer, with the paddle attachment, mix the vegetable shortening with the salt and baking powder until the mixture becomes lighter and creamier. Add in half of the reconstituted masa and continue mixing on medium. Add in the remaining masa and mix some more. Reduce the speed to low and add in 1 cup of the vegetable broth (or hot water). To test the dough, place about a 1/2 tsp into a cup of cold water. If it floats, the tamales should turn out nice and fluffy! If you need to add in the rest of the vegetable broth to achieve the right consistency, do so. The dough should not be runny. It should hold its shape, but still be easy to spread.
To assemble the tamales, pick out about 14 (give or take a few) of the corn husks. Make sure they don’t have any holes and look fairly large. Pat them dry with a towel. Lay one husk out in front with the tapered side toward you. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the tamale dough onto the husk and press it into a square shape, leaving at least 1/2-inch of space between the edge of the dough and the edge of the husk.
Place a spoonful of the filling into the center of the dough. Add a little daiya cheese (optional) and about 1 tsp or so of the salsa.
Carefully fold the right side into the center, slightly peeling the husk away, then fold the left side to meet the right. Gently seal the two sides of dough together. Bring the left side husk all the way over to cover the tamale and continue rolling in that direction.
Fold the bottom of the husk up toward the top. Fasten a string around the bottom, to make sure no filling comes out. Fasten another string around the tamale, a little bit above the center. Leave the top portion open. If none of my words are making any sense at all (it wouldn’t be the first time) please refer to my photos. I’m more of a visual learner myself.
Continue making the tamales this way until you have used all of the filling. I had enough for 14 tamales, but it will depend on the size of the husks.
Prepare the steamer by filling a large stock pot with water, just enough to come up to the bottom of the steamer basket. Line the bottom of the basket with a layer of leftover soaked husks. Place the tamales into the pot, standing up so that the open side is facing upwards. If you don’t have enough tamales to fill the space (meaning that they may fall over) stuff a few extra corn husks in there to fill the gaps.
Cover the top of the tamales with another layer of the soaked corn husks. Place a lid on the pot and cook over medium-low heat. You should be able to hear the steam once the water gets going. Just make sure the heat isn’t too high, or all the water may evaporate. Cook for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. If you’re tamales are a bit smaller, an hour should do it.
Serve with additional orange tomatillo salsa, maybe some tofu sour cream and some avocado slices. Nom nom nom. Me gusta.