Cilantro Lime Chicken Tamales Recipe

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The Tamale is a traditional dish made by filling a masa coated leaf with any number of ingredients and then cooking by steam.

Most often you see Tamales filled with seasoned beef, chicken or pork but you’ll also find them made with vegetables, cheese and fruit. Many like to serve tamales with a red mole or salsa but in our opinion that just dilutes the delicious flavor of the tamale.  

This recipe is made using one of our favorite chicken recipes, the cilantro lime chicken. This chicken is great to serve as a main dish or incorporated into other recipes like we’ve done here with the tamales.

You may think making tamales is hard but nothing could further from the truth as we’ll show you here.

Cilantro Lime Chicken Filling:
1 (16 ounce) jar salsa
1 (1.25 ounce) package dry taco seasoning mix
1 lime, juiced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (fresh or frozen)

Tamale Dough:
2 cups masa harina (found on the baking isle in most stores)
1 (10.5 ounce) can chicken broth
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup lard
1 (8 ounce) package dried corn husks

You have several options for cooking the chicken.  You can set your slow cooker on low and allow it to cook overnight (6 – 8 hours) or on high and cook for about 4-5 hours. You can slow boil it on the stovetop over medium-low heat or place it in the oven at 375 degrees for approximately 2 hours. The object is to ensure the meat is done and can easily be shredded.

We’ve chosen the slow cooker overnight method as we like our chicken to have plenty of time to absorb the flavors.

Simply add the salsa & cilantro.

Then the lime & taco seasoning and mix well.

Add the chicken and enough water to partially cover the breasts. Stir to coat.

Add the slow cooker lid and set it for low. Again, the chicken will need to cook for about 6-8 hours. Once it is done, remove from the juices and shred the meat then return it to the juice.

Again, you can serve it as a main dish as shown here.

To prepare the corn husks, simply soak them in warm water until pliable.

Next, in a large bowl add all of the tamale ingredients and mix well. Your dough should be spongy when you’re done. You may need to add a little more liquid to get the desired consistency.

Taking one corn husk spread a ¼ - ½ inch thick layer of the dough in the center. Don’t spread it to the bottom edge as it will be folded over.

Add 1 ½ tbsp. of filling to the center of the dough.

Fold one side of the husk into the center and then fold in the other side. Finally, fold up the bottom end.

Repeat for remaining tamales.

Place tamales in your steamer. If you don’t have a steamer, you can use a large stock pot with a steamer basket or even a strainer – just anything that will hold the tamales above the boiling water.  

We like to lay our steam basket on its side and stack the tamales in so that the folded bottom of the tamale is at the bottom of the steam basket. This allows the tamales to stand upright when cooking and they seem to cook more evenly. That being said, you can lay them down or set them in a tipi format. It really doesn’t matter as long as the boiling water cannot reach them.

Add enough water to your steamer or stock pot to create steam but keeping it away from the steam basket bottom. Place a lid on the pot/steamer and steam for 1 hour.

Important! After about 30 minutes, check that your water level is still ok. If you need to add more water, that’s perfectly ok.