How to Make Sweet Tamales / Tamales de Dulce

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Sweet Tamales recipeTamales, Oh Sweet Tamales, ¡Tamales de Dulce! When making  savory Tamales, some families separate a small amount of the masa to make sweet tamales. There’s the simple version that just has some sugar, but you can also add one of the following fillings: raisins, pineapple chunks, shredded coconut, dried fruits, berries, prunes, and fruit jams. Add to this the very sophisticated versions with fillings like chocolate, berries, guava, cream cheese, dulce de leche, pecans, pine nuts, and even Nutella nowadays.
Tamales are a meal for celebration, a special treat for parties and birthdays, or ritual times like the Day of the Dead. In Mexico, February 2nd is the day when the lucky people who found the little baby inside the Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Bread) will invite their friends and relatives over to eat tamales (you can read about that here). In Prehispanic times, the second day of the second month of the year was the beginning of the
Mexicas Calendar “Atlcahualo”, and they used the Tamales as part of their offering to their gods. The Tamales they used to make were different according to the celebration or rituals.
Not everyone dyes their sweet tamales with food coloring, but it is common to make them like that, especially in central Mexico. They’re usually made with fresh masa, but this recipe calls for Masa Harina since that’s not available everywhere. The dry corn flour/masa harina is readily available here in the States, with brands like Maseca or Minsa.
Tamales dulces24RECIPE FOR 10 TAMALES
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature*
  • 6 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup of Masa Harina
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 Tbs. raisins**
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 6 drops of red food coloring***
  • 10 large Corn Husks,  soaked in warm water.
  • Optional,  Extra corn husks to make thin strips to tie the tamales.


  • *Tamales are traditionally made with Lard, so you can use that if it’s available.
  • **As mentioned above, other common fillings are pineapple chunks, shredded coconut, cajeta/dulce de leche, strawberry jam, etc.
  • ***I’ve tried other ways to color the tamales instead of using the vegetable coloring, like using beets juices and Hibiscus tea, but the end result looks more like a purple color than red or pink. Of course, you can always skip the coloring. You can buy Natural Food Coloring at Specialty or Organic Stores.
  • Taste the sweetness, maybe you have a sweeter tooth and would like to add some extra sugar.
  • If you have fresh masa-dough, use 15.5 oz. (610 grs.), equal to 2 1/3 cups.
Sweet Tamales recipe
1. Place butter and sugar in a medium size bowl and, with the help of a mixer, beat for a couple of minutes until  it has a creamy texture. About 2 minutes.
2. In a larger bowl, mix Masa Harina, baking Powder and raisins. Stir well and then add the warm water little by little.
Sweet Tamales dulces recipe
3. While mixing the dry ingredients with the water, add the drops of Food Coloring. Mix well to have a uniform color.
4. Once you’ve incorporated the food coloring to the dough, it will look slightly pink. Now add the butter and sugar mixture.
Sweet Tamales dulces recipe
5. Beat the dough with your hands or a wooden spoon, as the dough is somehow too heavy to work with in your mixer, unless you have a Heavy Duty Stand Mixer like Kitchen Aid. The dough will be ready when it looks fluffy and creamy, like a very soft ice cream. If your dough seems too dry, add a little more water. The consistency has to be very soft.
6. Drain the corn husks from the soaking water. Place about 1/3 cup of the dough over the corn husk and wrap the tamal. If you’re also making savory tamales, you can tie the sweet tamales in order to differentiate them from the savory ones. Keep assembling the rest of the tamales.
Sweet Tamales dulces recipe
7. Place the tamales standing up in your steam pot  (Tamalera), add about an inch of hot water, cover with corn husks, aluminum foil or a plastic bag, and then cover with the pot lid. Cook for 1 to 1 1/4 hour at medium heat. Add more hot water if needed to avoid burning the tamales.
Not everyone has a special Steamer for tamales (Tamalera), but you can improvise by using a large pot and crumbling some aluminum foil and placing it at the bottom of the pot, and also forming an aluminum ball to place in the center of the pot where the tamales can stand/lean on during the cooking process.
Sweet Tamales recipe dulces

¡Buen provecho!


What is your favorite tamal filling?

I hope you make them... If you do, please come back to let me know your experience.


  1. Qué ricos Mely! Yo les pongo su punto de sal. Con este frío y un atolito bien caliente mm mm


  2. I have always been curious about tamales , never had them so have always wondered how they taste :)

  3. Maravillas, como siempre.

    Un abrazo Mely!

  4. I've had tamales with raisins and man they were good, this recipe sounds like it and yep I'll be making a batch of them

  5. I've had tamales before with raisins and man they were good, this is 1st recipe I've found for them and yep I'll be making a batch, thank you for the recipe

  6. I've been making traditional tamales for years. These sound delicious! I will try my hand at these.

  7. I made a paste of butter, sugar, and whole sweet corn kernels to use as filling. Nice crunch to the little treats with the corn in there... yum!

    1. Hello Lynne,

      Thank you fro sharing your sweet creation.

  8. hi mely makeing some right know!!!!! thank you so much

  9. These are wonderful! I grew up for the first 14 years of my life in Mexico and have been slowly trying to get the recipes for the foods that I miss. I am so glad that I found this. It was exactly as I remember them during my childhood!

  10. Mely, here we do not have masa harina... what could I use instead? I want to make them for 16th of September :)

    1. Hello Maja,

      There are some tamales called "canarios" that are made using rice flour. You can either make them sweet or savory. I love the sweet ones with raisins. There are also some tamales in the state of Michoacan made with regular flour. You can also make tamales using fresh corn kernels. Either sweet or savory. They are popular in the states of Guerrero and Veracruz. So, you do not need to deprive yourself of eating tamales. I hope you try to make some and come back to let me know about it. Happy cooking!

  11. I managed to find masa in one international store! :) I see you sent us email through our contact form, but apparently something was not working well and I cannot see what you've wrote - if you could do it again, please.

    1. Hello Maja,

      Don't worry, it's actually the same information I gave you here. Sometimes, people ask question but don't come back to read the answer. Happy cooking!

  12. First, I don't know why I never saw your FB page... I'm following that now :) I love sweet tamales with pineapple.

  13. I can't wait to try this recipe! I've made tamales dulce in the past for a sister's wedding and had nothing but raves. Now most of my family appears to have pork and soy allergies which eliminates masa made with crisco, etc. But your recipe calls for butter! Plus, I always made them with raisins and nutmeats, never fruit. This sounds wonderful. Think my granddaughter will be eating tamales dulce at HER wedding in August. Thank you!

  14. Mely,

    Acabo de hacer los tamales de dulce! Tu receta es perfecta. Finalmente voy a poder comer tamales de dulce en Central NY y con los toppings que a mi me gustan. Muchisimas gracias por tu blog y por compartir tus recetas. Has hecho a una compatriota mexicana muy feliz :)


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