An image for the bean tamale recipe

Bean Tamales for Christmas Eve

Tamales are a Christmas Eve tradition in some parts of Mexico. With a savory dough made from Masa Harina (a type of cornflour) and meat or beans filling, tamales are wrapped in corn husks — sometimes banana leaves — then steamed.

Tamales can be made and cooked ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for several days to reheat for a Christmas Eve supper that is both easy and special.

Use any type of bean you have on hand for this recipe, including canned refried beans to speed up the process.



  • 16 dried corn husks


  •  2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can (drained) cooked black, kidney, or pinto beans
  • 1/4 cup water


  • 2 1/2 cups of cornflour Masa Harina
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth


  1. Rinse corn husks, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let them soak for at least two hours.
  2. Sauté the onion in the two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until tender.
    Add the cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, beans, and 1/4 cup of water. Cook for several minutes until the beans are heated through. If using whole beans, partially bend them with an immersion blender or food processor.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the Masa Harina, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the 3/4 cup vegetable oil.
    Heat the broth and add to the mixture. Stir to combine.
  4. Lay a corn husk on a clean work surface with the edges curling up. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the dough on the corn husk. Top with 2 tablespoons of the beans.
    Fold one side of the husk to the center and then the other. Finally, fold the end toward the center of the tamale.
    Continue with the rest of the tamales.
  5. Place a steamer basket in a large pot over about an inch of water. Add the tamales and bring the water to a boil.
    Reduce heat to medium-high and steam until the tamales are firm, about 50 minutes.