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Recipe: Sweet Pumpkin Tamales

If you have a limited number of husks, you can use kitchen twine to tie the filled husks.

Tamales are a traditional Latin American food – often made with corn flour (masa harina), lard, and a filling wrapped in a husk or leaf and steamed.  The lard produces a soft, moist, almost buttery texture.  They’re delicious but incredibly unhealthy!  I think this recipe is still a great alternative!

Tamales are incredibly versatile – you can make ‘em sweet, savory, or spicy.  These pumpkin tamales are a recipe I’ve tried perfecting over the years (over about 3 or 4 years), and I think this is one of the best recipes I have.  The recipe makes a lot. But I suggest making a lot, freezing them (in the husk) and then you have a quick, (not even) 100 calorie snack to reheat anytime you want.

Sweet Pumpkin Tamales

Makes about 50 tamales

  • About 50 dried corn husks or banana leaves
  • 3 1/2 cups masa harina (corn flour)
  • 1 sugar pumpkin, halved, steamed, pureed and scooped (to yield about 3-4 cups) OR 1 29-ounce can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 1 cup of pecans, toasted and chopped

If using corn husks, soak for at least 30 minutes in hot water.  In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and whisk to remove and lumps.  Add the pumpkin puree and oil, mixing until combined.  Add water slowly, mixing in between until the batter is the consistency of peanut butter, or a little looser.

In a large pot fitted with a steamer basket, bring water to a boil.  In the meantime, assemble the tamales by place about 2-3 tablespoons of batter inside a corn husk, wrap it up so the batter can’t leak out, and tie it using a ripped piece of a corn husk to secure it closed.  You can do this a variety of ways, depending on the shape of the corn husks or banana leaves that you use.  Pile the tamales into the steamer and steam for 45 minutes-1 hour.  Test when they’re finished by removing one from the pot and opening it.  It should be firmer than the batter, but still moist.

*If you get tired of wrapping tamales and or run out of husks, you can add about 1-2 cups of warm skim milk and pour it into a lightly oiled pie dish.  Bake for about 45 minutes on a 325° F oven, or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Cut into pie pieces and freeze.  It’s not quite the same, but tamale pie is a good alternative to throwing your dough away.

NUTRITION INFORMATION (per tamale):
93 calories ∣ 45 calories from fat ∣ 5 g fat ∣ 0 g saturated fat ∣ 12 g carbs ∣ 0 g fiber ∣ 1 g protein ∣ Excellent source of vitamin A ∣ Riboflavin

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