How to Make Chicken in Green Salsa Tamales / Cómo Hacer Tamales de Pollo en Salsa Verde

salsa verde chicken tamales recipe

My grandfather died in a December day so many years ago that I hardly remember him. But since then the whole family used to gathered together the same day in December at the farm. We call that ‘Cabo de año”. It is a ceremony or religious service performed on the anniversary of a person’s death. Our family had a mass service at night but during the day it looked more like a family celebration. I have memories of those gatherings been like a big party. There were so many relatives to count all of them. There was a prayer time in the evening that will be the culmination of the day of remembrance. But for me, the big attraction will be the cooking going on in the kitchen. The men will arrive very early in the morning to kill the pig. Yes, a large pig that has been fed the whole year for this purpose. Part of the animal will be cooked as Carnitas and Chicharrones and some for the different stew dishes that will be served during lunch. But after that, all the women and some men of the family will get into the main dish for dinner. Making tamales. Everyone will be working together for the “Tamalada” ( a tamale making party, well sort of….)You could hear stories being told from times long gone, funny ones and even scary ones, during those Tamales making time. That is the fun part of making tamales that the family get together to make them as a family affair and you have a nice time not only eating them but making them. But if you want to cook tamales and your relatives are far away, invite your neighbors or you friends. You will have a memorable time cooking together.

Nowadays, I usually make them for my family planning a little bit ahead of time. One day cooking the filling and the next day preparing the corn masa dough and the assembling of the tamales. That way it seems easy to make them since I usually make them by myself.

Tamales with green salsa
Tamales are traditionally made of a corn base dough, it’s Nahuatl name is: tamalli. Meaning wrapped corn. It is steamed in a leaf wrapper. The most common wrapping is a corn husk , a banana leave , avocado leave, hoja santa , and other non-toxic leaves used in some regions of Mexico. The wrapping is discarded before eating. There are more than 500 varieties of tamales but like a sandwich your imagination is the limit. Tamales can be filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chilies or any preparation according to taste. One time while cooking tamales at my aunt house we run of the filling and start looking into the fridge to see what else can we use as a filling. There were some leftover beef tips in a Mexican style sauce and that is what we used to finish it up the rest of the dough. Those tamales were the best of that batch.

Chicken tamales in green sauce-2
Ingredients for 30-36 tamales

  • 5 cups of dry masa harina for tamales
  • 13 ounces of lard (1 and 3/4 cups)
  • ( You can use shortening and even vegetable oil)
  • About 6 cups of chicken broth of more in case dough is too dry
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt to taste


  • 1 ½ pound of chicken breast (to make about 4 cups of shredded chicken)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 thick slices of onion
  • water to cover


  • 1 ½ pound of tomatillos (green tomatoes) husk removed
  • 6 serrano peppers or 4 jalapenos
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled
  • Salt to taste
  • About 45 Corn husk for wrapping

Cooking the chicken:

  • Place the chicken, onion, and garlic in a pot. Cover with water and over medium heat until meat is tender. Cool and shred the chicken.
  • Mix with the chicken with the sauce in a bowl and set aside.

The sauce:
1. Cook the tomatoes, peppers, and garlic in a pot with water. Until they are cooked and tender.
2. Place the tomatoes, peppers,
and garlic in the blender and puree until smooth.
3. Season with salt.

For the dough:

chicken tamales in green sauce-2

In a large bowl beat the lard until it changes to lighter color. This can be done with the help of your mixer or by hand. Add slowly the corn masa harina, baking powder and chicken broth. Mix well and taste to season with salt. Beat until all ingredients are well combined and dough is light and spongy.
chicken tamales in green sauce-3

The corn husk:
Remove the husks from their package and place the husks to soak in a warm bath of water for 40 minutes. This could be done in a large pot or in your kitchen sink. This step will help to soften the husks and easily be pliable while wrapping the corn dough.

Assembling the tamales:
Remove the husks from their warm bath, dry with cloth or paper towels.

chicken tamales in green sauce-5 chicken tamales in green sauce-6 chicken tamales in green sauce-7 how to make tamales chicken tamales in green sauce-

Place the corn husk in your work surface with the wide end facing towards you. Place about 2-3 tablespoons of dough in the center but closer to the bottom of the corn husk spreading evenly. Top with 2 tablespoons of the chicken-green sauce filling in the center of the husk. Fold one side of the husk to the center and fold the other side to the center, too. Fold the bottom towards the center. Repeat process with remaining husks and filling.
chicken tamales in green sauce-10chicken tamales in green sauce
Line the tamales on a tray while you are finishing up with the rest of the assembly process. Getting your pot ready for steaming. Add 3 cups of hot water to the pot and place the steamer rack. Place a layer of corn husk on the steamer rack. (Note: you do not need to buy a tamal steamer pot if you don't have it already. Just improvise with what you already have).

chicken tamales in green sauce
Place the tamales in a standing position.

chicken tamales in green sauce-13
Cover with a layer of the corn husks and a dish towel and the pot lid. Steam for about 60 minutes in a medium heat or after taking one tamal and checking if the husk easily separates from the dough. Check during steaming time in case the steamer need more water. Be careful while removing the lid. Serve while still hot. When done wait for 10 minutes the dough will firm up after that.

To reheat a tamal I use the convenience of the microwave. It just needs 1 minute in high per tamal. You can also steam it again to warm it up and the other option is to place it on a hot griddle turning 2 or 3 times until warm.

Chicken tamales with salsa verde

Tamales keep well in your freezer for a couple of months.

¡Buen provecho!


  1. Yay! It's tamalada time!!! Our tamaladas are small but sweet...and we have a blast doing it! Your tamales look amazing and I loved hearing your story, Mely :)

  2. Ay Mely, se miran bien ricos..con queso y salsa roja tambien..ya casi los pruebo..nosotros vamos hacer pero en la noche buena...gracias esta receta me la guardo para next years holidays aqui.

    disfutalos amiga

  3. Excellent story - my family would have an annual "matanza" where we woke up early and killed a pig too....fluffing up the lard is a definite in this case - I have made them before without taking the fat all the way and the tamales are not as nice - mmmm I could sure go for some of these today!

  4. I just finished making the red chili and will cook the pork tomorrow and make the tamales the next day. Fun!

  5. Hola Mely. We did this too so long ago out on the ranch. Same tradition. Nowadays like you I just cook my own. Seems everyone has gone their way. I did one year gather with a few friends and make some before Christmas and then we shared them. We had a good time. I make hot chili tamales along with the meat tamales. By the way, one thing I did learn in my years of making tamales is about the leaves. You know what I do? I put the leaves in a big pot that's been boiling with water, lower it to simmer and then place the tamale leaves in there. They soften right away and then I remove them and clean the hair under the faucet with a colander to catch the hair. Works all the time. Thanks for sharing, Happy Holidays.

  6. Hermosa explicación Mely! ahora nadie puede dejar de hacerlas!

  7. Hola Dama,

    A lot of people here like the cheese and red sauce tamales with poblano strips, too.

    Hi Gloria,

    I guess those traditions are dying now, but at least we had the memories. :)

    Tu no tienes que batallar, verdad? Estas como decimos en la mera mata de los tamales. :)

    Hey! Karen, I wonder if your tamales will be filled with venison meat.

    Hello Girlichef:

    The memories are what count. :)

    Hi, Doggybloggy,

    I am sure you like to make some experiments with tamales.

    Thanks to all for stopping by!


  8. Wow! My family & I make tamales every year around this time and you made me so excited!!! We always make two kinds: beef in red chile sauce and then cheese ones in green chile sauce. I have always wanted to make sweet tamales though -- like with cinnamon & raisins. Have you ever made those before?

  9. Excelente información.
    Bueno ahora tengo que poner las manos a la obra.
    Besicos ♥

  10. This is great timing! Our family back home has tamales every New Years day and we were lucky enough to find friends in Italy with corn husks! Thank you so much!!!

  11. What a beautiful way for a family to get together and to remember a loved one. Thanks for all the great information on how to make tamales. I want to try that.

  12. Mely: mis tamales favoritos son los verdes, qué tal salen con la masa para tamales? nunca la he probado.
    Dice mi esposo que los mejores tamales son los platicados, tal como lo dices :)

  13. Hello Marcella,

    Yes, we made sweet ones. Some have pineapple and raisins. Others have raisins and pecans. And Sweet milk caramel.

  14. Oye, Pily

    Eso de los tamales platicados tiene razon tu esposo. Se disfrutan mejor.
    La masa de harina en paquete es bastante buena, claro nunca se compara a la masa de nixtamal fresca pero estan bastante pasables.



  15. oh yeah and we also chismiar while we make tamales,lol

  16. Hi Mely,
    Our annual tamalada is coming up this weekend. I always enjoy this party and will not miss it for anything! I agree with you; you have to make tamales with lots of people, it is more fun. Your recipe sounds and looks delicious!
    Take care.

  17. Hi Mely, thanks for stopping by my blog. It was truly a great surprise because I love finding new blogs featuring Latino food. My mom is a huge fan of tamales and I can see why! I have never had them but I think I will have to remedy that :)

  18. wow this looks amazing and what a great way to honor someone they do something similar in India
    Merry Christmas


  19. You've really gotta be careful, posting recipes like this, because you are likely to end up with a line of people outside your door :) Thanks for sharing with the Hearth and Soul hop.

  20. A friend of mine had a tamalada last summer and made a LOT of delicious food....she then had to scold her husband because he was giving them all away before they could even eat one! Hahaha. Yours look great and thanks for sharing with the Hearth and Soul hop.

  21. Fabulous tamales. I've never attempted to make them from scratch. Nice to know they keep well in the freezer.

  22. I love tamales, but have been too intimidated to make them myself.


  23. Mely me estaba perdiendo estos ricos tamales! No me llegaron al correo. Te ha quedado excelente la explicación. Nosotros también, por parte de mis suegros, íbamos al "cabo de año" al Rancho el 50 y a los rezos. Tal como nos lo cuentas.


  24. My mom usually made good tamales, but one year they wouldn't firm up no matter how long she steamed them. The lady across the street told her it was because she went outside while they were cooking, and that was bad luck. From then on, my mom followed that silly wives tale, and it never happened again. Of course the lady across the street is a crazy old drunk, but who knows?

    1. Mely, tu sabes cuál es la causa de que los tamales no se cuezan parejo y queden crudos unos y otros no, o partes crudas? Dejando a un lado las creencias y supersticiones como que si una mujer embarazada entró a la cocina mientras los tamales se estaban cociendo y cosas así... Yo tengo la teoría (porque a mi nunca me han quedado así) de que todo debe estar a la misma temperatura, los guisados, la masa, etc. Si los guisados están fríos y la masa a otra temperatura, o si los guisados están calientes y la masa fría... Todo debe estar a temperatura ambiente y no habrá problema.

    2. SI Nora, todo eso afecta durante de el proceso de coccion de los Tamales. Al igual que el agregar agua fria mientras se estan cocinando y si se le acabo el agua a la olla.

      Gracias Nora

  25. Those look delicious, I just love how you talk about when your family does them together. So cool!

  26. Hello Casey and Vanessa,

    I hope you have a great time making them and that your tamales taste really good.
    Happy cooking.

    Hola Prieta,
    It so nice to hear about other families Tamaladas get togethers.

    Hi, Chow and Chatter,

    I am telling you girl, we Mexicans have a lot in common with the Indian Culture.
    Merry Christmas

    Thanks for biking your way to this post. ☺

    Hello My Carolina Kitchen,

    You should try to make them something, they are delicious.
    Have a great day!

  27. Hello Brenda,
    Yes, they are intimidating but once you make them it is easy. It takes time but nothing rocket science in making them. You should try to make them sometime.


    Hola Nora,

    A poco no es padre esos eventos donde la familia se reune y convives con todos. Y aparte hay comida para todo el dia.

    Saludos amiga!

    LOL, you are really funny Kirby,
    I had heard a lot of weird techniques about making tamales but this one is new to me.

    Thanking for stopping,

    Thanks to all for your nice comments, this is a new day enjoy it and be blessed to the fullest!


  28. Hello Mely, What a lovely tradition and your step by step photos are so helpful in explaining how to make a proper tamale. Thanks so much,
    Melynda @ Moms Sunday Cafe. PS now a follower, your recipes are so delicious.

  29. I just love not only Mexican cuisine but also all these traditions! These tamale sound exquisite, I could eat a whole batch of them, but I will prefer to cook them with some friends in the kitchen with me.

  30. Enjoyed the story and your tamales are amazing! WOW is all I can say! You must make the traditional chili Rellanos but check out my simple one at

  31. So pleased to have found your blog. I want to learn more about Mexican cuisine and flavours and this is a great place to learn more.

  32. I was once fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with our town's tamal making ladies. Once a week, they make hundreds of tamales to sell in town. There were stories, gossip and jokes to keep us entertained while we worked. I have a better appreciation now for all the work that goes into making a delicious tamal.


  33. AMAZING!!! What a great recipe! I love your step by step instructions.Fabulous Tamales!

    Que Belleza, Toda una tentacion!



  34. ooooohhhh they look so good! I printed out the instructions, hope I can make them.

    Happy Holidays!

  35. Wow! The tradition to celebrate those that have passed on is a wonderful tradition and the food for the celebration leaves me speechless.


    btw, I am your newest follower. :-)

  36. Hello Melynda,

    Thanks for joining the follower’s section. You are very kind.

    Hi, Taste of Beirut,

    So glad to see you stopping by. I love your desserts section.
    Thanks for visiting.

    Hazel Moon,

    I love the post you posted on your blog about the Story of Christmas. Lovely!
    And yes I do make traditional chiles rellenos. ☺

    Hello, Mango cheecks,

    You for sure will fine some Mexican food here. ☺ Have a happy day!

    Hoal Cooking in Mexico,

    You have a great blog, keep the good work. Thanks for stopping by.

    Love to all ,


  37. Jazzy, Mary, Velva and Aldy.

    Thanks you girls for your visit and kind words.

    Enjoy the Holidays and be good!


  38. Feliz navidad Mely! que pases muy feliz junto a tu familia

  39. Feliz Navidad Mely! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas :D



  40. Mely, thanks for visiting my blog. You were so nice to make the Serbian boy feel welcome - it is so far away from home:)
    I am glad that he stayed in contact. And if I can assist you in any way with the recipes, just ask:)
    I always wanted to try making tamales. We are living in Southern California now (after living in Michigan and Ohio), and I had chance to try many different versions. I know that it is a time consuming dish, but with your instructions I am gathering energy (and time) to start.
    Prospero ano!

  41. Mely chula, qué ricura de tamales, como para echarnos una platicada larga y tendida y mientras picar cada uno de estos.
    Te mando muchos abrazos y bendiciones para este año nuevo.
    se feliz

  42. Esos tamales se ven delicious!!! tengo que tratar de hacelos pronto....Feliz Año nuevo!

  43. Mely, esta es la receta perfecta para las que vivimos en USA y para principiantes, hice los tamales la semana pasada y quedaron deliciosos, no les sobro ni les falto nada, definitivamente el relleno es al gusto de cada quien! Quede tan feliz con el resultado que quiero hacerlos otra vez con diferentes rellenos!!
    Muchas Gracias por compartir tus recetas !!
    Marytere (recuerda que entro con la cuenta de mi esposo)
    Un beso

  44. Yo ya hice estos tamales porque les tengo respetillo a los otros, así que puedo asegurar que ésta receta está buenísima...
    Gracias Mely !!

  45. Oh goodness tomorrow well actualy today bc its already 1:08 am jeje me and my friend Ana will be trying to make our first batch of tamales how nerve wracking! i will be following your recipe but Im sure she will want to tewak a few things since she has her moms recipe lol well wish us luck! we will be feeding lots of people of they better come out right!
    Merry Christmas! -Maria O.

  46. Tomorrow well actually today its already 1:13 am me and my friend Ana will be making our first batch of tamales lol I will be following your recipe but I'm sure she will want to tweak a few things since she has her moms recipe but reading this will help me a bit. Well hope our tamales come out good we will be feeding lots of people so they better come out awesome! Thanks for the info Merry Christmas!
    Maria G Ornelas

  47. Have a happy cooking an Merry Christmas!


  48. gr8 story mely I remember the tamaladas way back they were so much fun the ladies would gather around the cocina laughing and telling stories about days gone by and about family members no longer with wello Roman was always part of that conversation rest his soul mi suegra tambien may she rip they were such fun times and memories actually that wen I first learned to make tamales at a tamalada wen I was 14 today I'm making a batch for me and my hubby we always make them together
    I enjoy your stories

  49. Hi, LOOOOOVE your recipes. Made several of them and DELISH!! Question- would you happen by chance have a good recipe for a sweet tamale??

  50. Hola!
    Quisiera saber si ahi una diferencia en la harina de maíz para las tortillas y la harina de maíz para los tamales? Pienso que no.... Voy hacer mi primer intento para hacer tamales esté fin de semana :) aver que tal me va jajaja. Pero si se lo agradecería si me podrías decir si ahi una diferencia.

  51. Hola,
    I would like to know if there's a difference between the regular maseca corn flour for corn tortillas and corn flour for tamales?
    I plan on making these tamales for the first time (I've never make tamales before) . But I'm curious if there's a difference between the corn flour, because I've heard ppl use either or... Wish me luck jajaja :)

    1. Hello Bella,

      Yes, there is a difference in the dough texture. If you use the flour for tamales, the texture will resemble the tamale dough from those tamales in Central Mexico, the ones made using "Masa quebrada" coarse corn dough. The flour for tortillas gives you a smoother dough, but you need to beat the dough very well. If you do not beat it enough, the dough using tortilla flour could come out a little bit in the hard side. Just make sure the dough is creamy and airy.

      Please let me know your end results.


    2. Hola Mely!!

      Well I went on ahead and used the harina for corn tortillas.
      They turned out D-lish!.....Of course, thanks to your awesome step by step recipe ^_^
      Thank you very much!
      Saludos desde Austin, tx

  52. Thanks for posting this comprehensive recipe! It is hard to find recipes for chicken tamales on the net. And your photos are very helpful as well. Merry Christmas -- Feliz Navidad!

  53. Nice. I've been looking around to find a simple recipe and this looks right up in my alley! Yay!

  54. What is a different way to make a vaporadora if you don't have one ? Help please...

    1. Hello,
      If you don’t have a Tamal Steamer, you can improvise, by placing large pieces of crinkled aluminum foil at the bottom of the pot, and then adding some of the leftover corn husks, to form a barrier to avoid contact with the bottom of the pot.
      I hope you can check this post where I added a picture.

  55. Mely, thank you for the great instructions, this will be a first time effort for me. I am using my pork meat from yesterday's tacos, fire roasted corn and a little cheese inside. I bought my corn husks yesterday at the local Mexican store. They were impressed I was preparing to make tamales!
    So we are having these for tonight, along with lime drink, and with Tres Leches for dessert. Which by the way, hubby and I had some last night as soon as I got the whipping cream on. He declared it much better cake than the last recipe I had tried. I told him I got all the latest foods off of your blog and we agreed you must be a wonderful cook! Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hello Teresa,

      Thank you for trying the recipes. So glad to know you are enjoying them. You must a great cook too!


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