Photo by Catherine Arena

Amazing Beef Mexican Tamales

Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Servings: 8 tamales
These Amazing Beef Mexican Tamales are exactly that, AMAZING! They're made with a succulent beef mixture, surrounded by a fluffy, moist masa dough and topped with a red chile sauce or salsa verde. Absolutely delicious! A true Mexican staple and very easy to make with this step-by-step guide with pictures. 

Friends, I’m not even sure were to begin talking to you about these delicious Mexican Tamales. Why?  Because there is so much to say about them! Mexican Tamales is one of those foods that many of us love but are probably too afraid and hesitant to make because the idea of undertaking something that seems so complicated scares us off. But no worries my friends, I’m here to tell you that they are not!  Prior to me ever making tamales, I felt the same way!  I promise you, you will not feel that way after you make them, especially after your first time! You will be surprised to see how easy they really are and wonder how could you have waited all this time to acquire the nerve to make these.

But before we get into all that, let’s talk a little bit about these delicious babies.

Mexican Tamales

  • Tamales originated from Mesoamerica, which stretches from southern Mexico to Guatemala.
  • Tamales can be traced back to the Aztecs and the Mayan people, as far back as 5000 BC.
  • They are made from masa which is a cornmeal flour and are wrapped in corn husks or plantain leaves and steamed, baked or boiled. They are commonly served with either a red or green chile sauce (salsa verde).
  • They can be filled with chicken, pork, beef or seafood.  There are also sweet tamales or “tamales dulces” which may or may not have food coloring to give them that look of “sweetness.” Sweet tamales may have raisins, cinnamon, pineapple, coconut, prunes, jams, dulce de leche, guava, etc.

Tamales have always been a comfort food in Mexico as well as a food of celebration. They are commonly served for Christmas, New Year’s and Day of the Dead, but are also a very typical family affair for regular celebrations.

A step by step guide to making Mexican Tamales and recipe follows…

Carefully separate corn husks and soak in water for at least 40 minutes.  I soaked mine in my kitchen sink.

Tamale Corn Husks

In a saucepan, heat chiles with onion and garlic with water for 15 minutes or until soft.

Once softened, remove stems and seeds.

After placing chiles, onion and garlic in blender, strain skin and any leftover seeds through strainer to extract sauce.

After beef has been cooked, shred into smaller pieces.

Add the chile sauce to the beef.

For the masa, I use Maseca brand instant corn masa mix. You can find Maseca corn flour in most local supermarkets in the international aisle.

Your masa should look light and fluffy.

Spread the masa over a corn husk.  Place the masa toward the left, leaving about 3 to 4 inches free from the bottom.

Add the beef mixture to center of the masa.  Optional: add olives cut in half.

Fold one side of the corn husk over and then fold other side over to cover.

After both sides are folded, fold the bottom up and tie with a strip of corn husk.

Strip a small piece of corn husk and wrap bottom fold.

Here is an alternative if you do not have a steamer to steam your tamales. Use a big pot and place a smaller pot within it.  Add the tamales to the smaller pot and add water to the bigger pot. The point here is to have tamales not touch water, just like a steamer would do.  Cook for 1 hour.

Once done, unwrap the tamal, add sauce and enjoy!

If you cannot find corn husks or dried chiles in the international aisle of your local supermarket, you can also purchase them through Amazon.



  1. Cut beef into cubes and season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a pot over medium heat, add enough water to cover the beef. Add quartered onion and 4 garlic cloves. Cook for about 2 hours until beef is fork tender.
  3. Remove beef and reserve the beef broth. Shred beef with two forks and set aside.
Red Sauce
  1. Add dried peppers, quartered onion and 6 garlic cloves to a pot. Cover with water and cook for about 15 minutes over medium heat until peppers have softened.
  2. Remove peppers from pot and reserve the broth the peppers were cook in. Remove stems and seeds. Add all the peppers, onion and garlic to a blender with about a cup of the pepper broth.
  3. Blend until smooth. Strain leftover pepper skin and seeds through a thin colander into a bowl. (Refer to picture in step by step guide). Add salt to taste.
  4. When beef is done and shredded, add half the sauce to beef and mix well together. Set aside.
Corn Husks
  1. Separate 17 husks, being careful not to break them apart since they are fragile when dried.
  2. Add the corn husks to lukewarm water for about 40 minutes to soften a little. (I put mine in the sink to soak.)
  1. Add masa to a bowl. Add baking powder and salt
  2. Slowly add beef broth and mix together with a spoon.
  3. Add lard to the masa mix and beat with a hand mixer until it has a fluffy texture.
To Make the Tamales
  1. Rinse and dry the corn husks with a kitchen towel. Set aside on tray and top with a damp cloth to keep husks moist.
  2. Take the extra husk and peel 16 thin strips off with your fingers. These will be used to "tie" the tamales.
  3. Place a husk on a plate or place in your hand with the narrow end facing you.
  4. Spread a thin layer of masa over the husk and leave about 3 inches masa free from narrow end (bottom). Refer to the pictures above.
  5. Add the beef to the center and top with sliced olives (optional).
  6. Fold one side over and then fold the other side. (Refer to pictures.)
  7. Fold narrow end up and tie with a thin strip of husk as shown in the picture above. Note: the top side of the tamal will remain exposed.
  8. Repeat the same process until all tamales are done.
Cooking the Tamales
  1. Place the tamales in a steamer, standing them up with the exposed side up.
  2. Add about 2 inches of water to a pot. Cover with a lid.
  3. Cook for one hour over medium-low heat. The tamales are done when the masa separates a little from the husk around the exposed top side.
  4. To serve, open the tamales on a plate and serve with remaining red sauce, salsa verde or any good hot sauce.
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