Today, we are making another kind of tamale- green tamales with chicken or tamales de pollo en salsa verde. These chicken tamales are made using masa harina, stuffed with a chicken filling and a homemade green tomatillo salsa. In this post, you will find a step-by-step photo tutorial along with simple instructions on how to make a batch of green tamales!
My grandfather died on a December day so many years ago that I hardly remember him. But, since then, the whole family used to gather 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 huge family celebration.
I have memories of those gatherings being like a big party. There was a prayer time in the evening that will be the culmination of the day of remembrance. But for me, the big attraction was the cooking going on in the kitchen.
The men would 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 pork carnitas and some would be made into chicharrones. Anything left over would be added to some of the different stew dishes that would typically be served during lunch. But after that, all the women and some men of the family will get into the main dish for dinner.
Many times, this would involve making tamales.
Making Homemade Tamales: A Tamalada
Everyone will be working together for the “Tamalada” (a tamale-making party! Well, sort of….). You could hear stories being told from times long ago, funny ones and even scary ones, during those tamales making times.
That is the fun part of making tamales- the family gets together to make them, almost like a family affair. We always end up having 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 your friends! Trust me- 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.
What Are Tamales?
Tamales are traditionally made of a corn-based dough and some sort of filling. Its Nahuatl name is a Tamale, meaning wrapped corn.
Homemade tamales are usually steamed in a leaf wrapper. The most common wrapping is a corn husk, banana leaves, avocado leaves, hoja santa, and other non-toxic leaves used in some regions of Mexico.
We made tamales with different types of fillings in Mexico, the stuffing could be chicken, pork, ground beef, shrimp, vegetables, and cheese. Just to mention a few of them. The salsas that we add to the stuffing range from Mole poblano sauce, Mole Oaxaqueño, red dried peppers, tomatillo salsa, also known as green salsa or salsa verde. And, every region has its own version of fillings for the tamales.
We also have the sweet tamales, some with raisins, coconut, pineapple, nuts, chocolate tamales. Nowadays, cooks are creating new flavors, like Guava, Dulce de Leche, and even flan flavored tamales.
There are more than 500 varieties of tamales but like a sandwich, the different variety of options are endless!
Remember, Tamales can be filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chiles, or anything really.
Authentic Green Tamales With Chicken
For today's tamale recipe, I decided to make a chicken filling and a homemade green tomatillo salsa to go along with it.
Here is a list of ingredients you will need:
For the dough:
- Masa harina (for tamales)
- Chicken broth
- Baking powder
- Salt (if needed)
For the meat:
- Chicken breast
- Garlic cloves
For the sauce:
- Tomatillos (green tomatoes)
- Serrano (or jalapeno) peppers
- Garlic cloves
- Salt (to taste)
You will also need about 45 corn husks for wrapping.
Please note: For exact measurements of the ingredients listed above, scroll down to the recipe card located at the bottom of this post!
How To Make Green Salsa Tamales With Chicken: Step By Step Tutorial
To make things easier for you, I am going to breakdown the directions to this recipe into sections.
Chicken Filling For Tamales
- Place the chicken, onions, and garlic in a pot. Cover the ingredients with water and cook over medium heat until the meat is tender.
- Let the chicken cool down and shred it with two forks.
Making Green Tomatillo Salsa
To make your own tomatillo salsa:
- Cook the tomatoes, peppers, and garlic in a large pot with water.
- Once it has cooked down, add the tomatoes, peppers, and garlic into the blender and puree together.
- Make sure to season with salt to taste.
Combine Chicken With Green Salsa
Once the chicken filling and the green salsa are prepped:
- Combine everything in a bowl and put it off to the side.
Prep the Corn Husks
- Place the corn husks into a large bowl or pot. Pour enough boiling water over the husks to cover.
- Place a metal lid or heatproof dish on the husks to keep them submerged.
- Soak for about 45 minutes.
- Remove the husks, drain, and set aside.
Make the Corn Masa Dough
- In a large bowl, beat the lard until it changes to a lighter color.
- Slowly add the corn masa harina, baking powder, and chicken broth.
- Mix everything very well and taste to season with salt.
- Beat everything together until all ingredients are well combined.
Assemble The Chicken Tamales
- Place the corn husk on your work surface with the wide end facing towards you.
- Add 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 salsa 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.
- Line the green 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.
- Place the tamales in a standing position.
- Cover with a layer of the corn husks, a dish towel, and the pot lid.
- Steam green tamales for about 60 minutes in over medium heat.
- Serve while still hot!
- Do a dough test to make sure your dough is good. To make sure your dough is light enough, place a small amount in a glass with water. It will float when it’s ready. If the dough doesn't float, do not worry- just make sure the dough is very airy.
- Does your dough look dry? Add a little bit more chicken broth or water but not too much.
- Make sure to check for the doneness of the tamale before pulling them out. To check if the green tamales are ready, remove one of the tamales from the pot. If the husk can easily be removed from the dough, they are ready. But, if the dough sticks to the husk, place them back into the pot and cook for 15 more minutes.
- Need a vegetarian option for the filling? Take a look at this tamale recipe that has a filling made with cheese and roasted peppers. It's very tasty!
What To Serve With Chicken Tamales
As much as I enjoy eating my green tamales just the way they are, sometimes, I'll serve them with an extra side of green tomatillo salsa.
More Tamale Recipes To Enjoy
If you enjoyed this recipe for green tamales with chicken, take a look at some of these other authentic Mexican recipes:
- Chicken And Vegetables Tamales Recipe
- How To Make Sweet Tamales
- Authentic Mexican Pork Tamales
- Sweet Corn Tamales
- Cheese and Roasted Peppers Tamales
I hope you make these tamales de pollo en salsa verde, and if this recipe was of any help to you, come back to let me know your experience. Please leave us a comment done below and tell us all about it!
Chicken in green salsa tamales
- 5 cups of dry masa harina for tamales
- 13 ounces of lard 1 and ¾ 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.
- Cook the tomatoes, peppers, and garlic in a pot with water. Until they are cooked and tender.
- Place the tomatoes, peppers,
- and garlic in the blender and puree until smooth.
- Season with salt.
For the dough:
- 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 the dough is light and spongy.
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 the cloth or paper towels.
- Place the corn husk on 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.
- 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).
- Place the tamales in a standing position.
- 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 the 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.