Chicken and Vegetarian Tamales with Red Mole Sauce

This past weekend happened to be my hubby’s birthday. He requested a specific dish that I made 3 months ago and asked for only that. What was the dish you ask? Well, tamales. Even though I am 1/2 Mexican, I really did not learn how to cook authentic dishes at home. We mostly cooked dishes that were either concocted by my mother or it was Italian or Mediterranean.

When I decided to make tamales 3 months ago, I thought I would call my grandmother in Mexico and ask her specific questions about ingredients and assembly method. You know what she told me? “Honey! Don’t fret yourself. Go to the store and buy some already prepared. It is too much work.” I literally laughed out loud! I mean it is one thing not being in the same country where your maternal grandmother lives, but not to have these recipes to pass on to my kids! Well, the next step for me was to find a recipe and make it my own, adding ingredients that my grandmother would use.
Tamales are different depending on each region of Mexico. Northern tamales are normally made with corn husks and southern tamales are made with banana leaves. Yes, banana leaves. I know that the Asian culture also uses banana leaves for different dishes so there are many simliarities. Since I did not have banana leaves so I decided to use the corn husks instead with my own twist for fillings. The newer process to me was making a vegetarian version for myself. It was really easy and did not take so much time additional time.
Before I begin let me tell you that you need to set aside 2 days for the whole preparation. Of course if you start early on one day, you could get the tamales done in a day, but my process felt better with 2 days. The first day dealt with preparation and the second day focused on assembly and cooking time. The total time for the process is 5 hours total. If you do not want to make the mole sauce, then your time would be cut to 4 hours. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but this is the reason I told my hubby I would only make these for special occasions. Besides, the recipe gives you about 40 tamales and they freeze well. It is not a meal that takes SO much time and is immediately consumed. These are great leftovers!

Chicken and Vegetarian Tamales with Red Mole Sauce

makes 40 tamales

Step by step instructions5 cups vegetable broth ( I used vegetable bouillon cubes)

On day 1, take a whole bag of dried corn husks and soak in cold water. It you want to make on the same day, it can be soaked for up to an hour, otherwise they can soak overnight. When removing from water, dry each husk with a paper towel and set aside.
Fry 5 roma tomatoes, 2 small onions, 4 garlic cloves in 1/4 cup olive oil for 10 minutes or until the skins on the tomato start falling off. Cool mixture and remove tomatoe skins. See pic below.

Next, take 6 chile ancho peppers and 5 chile guajillo peppers and remove stems and remove seeds. Wash the peppers over cold water and dry. On a medium high, toast the peppers until a litle brown on the skin for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Place in a bowl and cover with hot water for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast 2 Tbsp of pumpkin seeds and 1 Tbsp of sesame seeds until browned. Place in a coffee grinder and grind until it looks like a seed meal.

After the thirty minutes have passed, drain the peppers and place tomato mixture, peppers, and 4 cups of vegetable broth or chicken broth in a blender.

Liquefy the mixture and pass through sieve. Sauce should be in a saucepan after going through sieve. Add 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 1/2 tsp salt, seed meal, 1/4 cup Taza cinnamon/chocolate pieces, 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds, 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tsp cinnamon. Simmer mixture for 30 minutes.

Boil 6 chicken breasts with 4 bay leaves and 3 garlic cloves for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain water. Cool and shred chicken. In a separate sauce pan, heat 1/2 cup corn oil, 5 Tbsp chili powder, 2 Tbsp cumin, 2 Tbsp garlic powder, 1/2 Tbsp black pepper, 1 Tbsp salt. Heat for 5 minutes and then pour over chicken and mix thoroughly. Cool and cover and refrigerate.
In a separate bowl, add 2 pounds of instant corn masa and place the following spices: 3 Tbsp paprika, 3 Tbsp salt, 1/2 Tbsp cumin, 3 Tbsp Chili Powder, 3 Tbsp garlic powder. Mix flour and spices well. Add 2 cups of corn oil to flour mixture. After incorporating oil, slowly incorporate 5 cups of vegetable broth. I use my hands so I can get a good arm work out. It is a lot of dough, but I guess it can be done on a dough hook on your Kitchen Aid.

For the vegetarian filling, saute the following ingredients for 10 minutes:


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pint mushrooms, chopped
1 zucchini, julienned
1 poblano pepper, chopped
3/4 cup leeks, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper

On day 2, assemble the tamales. It is so much faster if you add the masa to all the husks first and then add the filling. Cover 2/3 of the wider portion of the husk leaving the 1/3 space from the narrower section on top and side. See picture below. Masa should be 1/2 inch thick.
Add 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp of chicken depending on size of corn husk.

Add 2 Tbsp of veggies to 12 tamales. I did not make as many for myself.
Roll each tamale, without overlapping the corn husk. It is like a taco on the inside.
Then fold the bottom portion to seal each tamale.
The sealed section should be facing down. Place in a double steamer with water that does not overflow into the steamer. The tamales cook for 2 hours, so continue to check the water and refill as to prevent evaporation. After 2 hours, remove tamale from steamer, let cool on a plate for 3-5 minutes and remove corn husk and serve. Add mole sauce and enjoy!

Chicken and Vegetarian Tamales with Red Mole Sauce

by Noelle Kelly
Keywords: steam brunch lunch entree vegan recipes on recipage vegan chiles Mexican

Ingredients (40 tamales)

    Mole Sauce:

    • 5 Roma tomatoes
    • 2 small onions, diced
    • 4 whole garlic cloves
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
    • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
    • 1 Taza cinnamon chocolate disc
    • 1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
    • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 6 Mulato chiles
    • 5 Guajillo chiles

    Chicken

    • 6 chicken breasts
    • 4 bay leaves
    • 3 garlic cloves
    • 1/2 cup corn oil
    • 5 Tbsp chili powder
    • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
    • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
    • 1/2 Tbsp black pepper
    • 1 Tbsp salt

    Masa (Dough)

    • 2 lbs instant corn masa
    • 3 Tablespoons paprika
    • 3 Tablespoons salt
    • 1/2 Tablespoon ground cumin
    • 3 Tablespoons Chili Powder
    • 3 Tablespoons garlic powder
    • 2 cups corn oil
    Instructions
    Step by step instructions5 cups vegetable broth ( I used vegetable bouillon cubes)
    On day 1, take a whole bag of dried corn husks and soak in cold water. It you want to make on the same day, it can be soaked for up to an hour, otherwise they can soak overnight. When removing from water, dry each husk with a paper towel and set aside.
    Fry 5 roma tomatoes, 2 small onions, 4 garlic cloves in 1/4 cup olive oil for 10 minutes or until the skins on the tomato start falling off. Cool mixture and remove tomatoe skins. See pic below.
    Next, take 6 chile ancho peppers and 5 chile guajillo peppers and remove stems and remove seeds. Wash the peppers over cold water and dry. On a medium high, toast the peppers until a litle brown on the skin for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Place in a bowl and cover with hot water for 30 minutes.
    Meanwhile, toast 2 Tbsp of pumpkin seeds and 1 Tbsp of sesame seeds until browned. Place in a coffee grinder and grind until it looks like a seed meal.
    After the thirty minutes have passed, drain the peppers and place tomato mixture, peppers, and 4 cups of vegetable broth or chicken broth in a blender.
    Liquefy the mixture and pass through sieve. Sauce should be in a saucepan after going through sieve. Add 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 1/2 tsp salt, seed meal, 1/4 cup Taza cinnamon/chocolate pieces, 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds, 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tsp cinnamon. Simmer mixture for 30 minutes.
    Boil 6 chicken breasts with 4 bay leaves and 3 garlic cloves for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain water. Cool and shred chicken. In a separate sauce pan, heat 1/2 cup corn oil, 5 Tbsp chili powder, 2 Tbsp cumin, 2 Tbsp garlic powder, 1/2 Tbsp black pepper, 1 Tbsp salt. Heat for 5 minutes and then pour over chicken and mix thoroughly. Cool and cover and refrigerate.
    In a separate bowl, add 2 pounds of instant corn masa and place the following spices: 3 Tbsp paprika, 3 Tbsp salt, 1/2 Tbsp cumin, 3 Tbsp Chili Powder, 3 Tbsp garlic powder. Mix flour and spices well. Add 2 cups of corn oil to flour mixture. After incorporating oil, slowly incorporate 5 cups of vegetable broth. I use my hands so I can get a good arm work out. It is a lot of dough, but I guess it can be done on a dough hook on your Kitchen Aid.
    For the vegetarian filling, saute the following ingredients for 10 minutes:
    2 Tbsp olive oil
    1 pint mushrooms, chopped
    1 zucchini, julienned
    1 poblano pepper, chopped
    3/4 cup leeks, chopped
    1/3 cup cilantro
    1 1/2 tsp chili powder
    1 tsp cumin
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp black pepper
    1 tsp cayenne pepper
    On day 2, assemble the tamales. It is so much faster if you add the masa to all the husks first and then add the filling. Cover 2/3 of the wider portion of the husk leaving the 1/3 space from the narrower section on top and side. See picture below. Masa should be 1/2 inch thick.
    Add 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp of chicken depending on size of corn husk.
    Add 2 Tbsp of veggies to 12 tamales. I did not make as many for myself.
    Roll each tamale, without overlapping the corn husk. It is like a taco on the inside.
    Then fold the bottom portion to seal each tamale.
    The sealed section should be facing down. Place in a double steamer with water that does not overflow into the steamer. The tamales cook for 2 hours, so continue to check the water and refill as to prevent evaporation. After 2 hours, remove tamale from steamer, let cool on a plate for 3-5 minutes and remove corn husk and serve. Add mole sauce and enjoy!
    Powered by Recipage
    • http://simplyscrumptiousfoodie.com/ Jessie

      that looks amazing, I’m from puerto rico and banana leaf is used primarily to make pasteles which is similar to the vegetarian tamales yummmm!

    • http://cajunchefryan.rymocs.com/blog2/recipes/chicken-boursin/ Cajun Chef Ryan

      Wow! Does this look great, love the mole sauce with this and the tamale technique is perfect!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08414599591857985794 Vegetable Matter

      Lucky hubby! Mine actually had to cook our dinner on his birthday. I’m not going to let him read your blog lest he get some crazy ideas about me making him stuff on his b-day next year!

    • http://wasabiprime.blogspot.com/ wasabi prime

      Oh my, what a fabulous birthday gift! Fantastic meal and made with love!

    • http://theessenceofwomanhood.blogspot.com/ redkathy

      These look amazing! Your photos are so vivid, I can taste those tamales from here!!! I love tamales. This reminds me of a foreman we had years ago who was Mexican. His and his wife used to bring us fresh tamales on Christmas Eve. And, Jesse commented about Pasteles, those are the bomb.

    • http://nutritionasnatureintended.blogspot.com/ Stacy

      These look amazing! Thanks for the great step by step directions!

    • http://www.chackoskitchen.blogspot.com/ abraham

      hmmmm… looks attractive.. obviously ur photography is also wonderful…

    • http://onceachef.com/ Pete

      I love tamales. I don’t make them often as they are a lot of work, but I do enjoy making them. Your recipes look fantastic and your photographs have made me hungry. Great post!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17579815484543487415 NOELLE

      Thanks for the great comments! It was a fun process.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10012578236222084738 5 Star Foodie

      Awesome, they look perfect! I love both chicken & vegetarian fillings! And your red mole sauce sounds amazing!

    • http://ellysaysopa.com/ elly

      This definitely looks complicated but they look absolutely delicious! Nothing beats a homemade tamale, I wish I had your patience.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17579815484543487415 NOELLE

      @ 5 Star Foodie- Thanks! They were very delicious. Definitely worth the work. My hubby is still eating them now!

      @ Elly -it IS a lot of work, but I take joy in seeing my hubby happy, at least once a year. ;)

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07073984731642037393 Tasty Eats At Home

      I love tamales. I made them for the first time this past summer. They were a lot of work, but delicious! I love the idea of doing all the masa at once!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02520992408166526347 Diana Bauman

      Girl!!! That looks amazing! I’ve never made a mole sauce to go with my tamales, but am using your recipe this year!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17579815484543487415 NOELLE

      @ Tasty Eats At Home- Working on the masa for all the husks FELT like it cut out a lot of time.

      @Diana Bauman-Thanks for the comment! I was not going to make a sauce but hubby asked for a red sauce, then afterwards he thought he was just getting salsa! :) Oh well he still enjoyed it. Would still go well for enchiladas.

    • http://experimentalculinarypursuits.wordpress.com/ Shelly@Experimental Culinary Pursuits

      Tamales are on my “to make” list. Haven’t tackled it yet because it just seems like so much work! That’s the laziness in me talking :)

      Yours looks amazing and I’m saving this so when I get around to doing this, I can reference yours!

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16283387618237622156 Mr. P

      The shopping looks so exciting! Can’t get that stuff here…

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15423481444990401010 Danielle

      I’ve made Oaxacan Mole Negro and I’ve made Pork Tamales but I never thought to put them together! Brilliant and good for you for taking the time to make a mole…it’s so worth the time and the somtimes long ingredient list.

    • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05525233265646317112 Food o’ del Mundo

      Ok, so I clicked over here to see your mole` sauce and was enamored with this whole post and the amount of work you put into it! BRAVO! Such a beautiful recipe should be admired longer than what these blogs ‘give’ us. I always feel I have to ‘feed’ the blog and its appetite is RAVENOUS! Can’t they just be full for a minute while we catch our breath? – oh wait – it’s me that’s the problem – I just need to have my hubby take me out to eat ;-) ~Mary