Photo by Sonia Mendez Garcia

Tamales Dulces de Coco (Sweet Coconut Tamales)

Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 8 people
These freshly steamed coconut tamales are a delicious sweet treat or dessert. If you've only tried savory tamales, wait until you sample these!

Tamales dulces (sweet tamales) can only mean one thing. The holidays are fast approaching and tamal season is here! Even after the dozens and dozens of savory tamales prepared during the holidays, my Mom always separately prepared a small batch of tamales dulces. These coconut tamales are as much a tradition as their savory sibling variety.

In our family, the sweet tamal was prepared simply with coconut, pineapple and raisins.  Many times instead of leaving the masa (corn dough) with its natural color, we would add color to it. Pink was the most common of such colors.

For this recipe, I wanted the coconut to be the star flavor of the dish, so I did not add pineapple. I did add raisins, however.


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  1. Soak corn husk in hot water for at least 1 hour.
  2. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, combine the masa/harina, salt and baking powder. Gradually mix in warm water until masa forms. If it's too dry, add more water.
  4. With the hand mixer running on low, gradually drop in spoonfuls of the masa dough to the butter mixture. Once mixed, taste for sugar. Mix in the food coloring until desired pink color. Fold in the coconut. Cover and set aside.
  5. Prepare a medium steamer pot with water. Shake off the excess water from corn husk. Using a spoon, spread a generous amount of masa onto the wide end of cornhusk. Add a few raisins down the center. Fold the sides in, then the top flap down. Repeat until done. You should have a fairly large tamal.
  6. Transfer tamales to the steamer pot, open side up. Use extra corn husk or foil paper in a ball to keep the tamales in place. This will prevent them from falling over and moving while they steam. Turn heat to high. Once it began to steam rapidly, turn heat down to medium. Cover pot and steam for 90 minutes. After 45 minutes, add 2 more cups of hot water. You never want to run out of water. Remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes.

Chef Notes

A more natural coloring for pink tamales is 2 cups of blended and strained strawberries or raspberries. Mix the concentrate with just enough water to make 2 cups for this recipe.

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