Green Chile and Cheese Vegetarian Tamales are my absolute favorite flavor of homemade tamale! With a tender outer layer of masa harina, creamy Monterey Jack cheese, smoky green chiles and the crunch and sweetness of fresh corn, they’re irresistible! Fresh tamales are fun to assemble, cook in just minutes and freeze beautifully too.
The first tamales I had were about the size of cigars, wrapped in something like parchment paper and pulled from a can. My mom wasn’t one for drive-thru eating, so this was her style of fast food. Sometimes, on a lazy evening, we would heat them in the oven with shredded cheddar over the top and call it dinner.
Then, a little more than a decade ago I tried a traditionally made tamale, wrapped in a cornhusk and steamed. As you’ve guessed, it was not at all like what we’d eaten from a can. Since then I’ve had it in mind to try making tamales at home. But those little cornhusk packets looked so fancy, so exotic; I assumed it would be an all day ordeal.
Then a couple of weeks ago a friend loaned me The Kingston Hotel Cafe Cookbook, and I spotted a tamale recipe. It was finally time to give it a try.
I still think they look exotic, but I’m happy to tell you that they’re less difficult than they appear and are completely worth the effort.
These are a simple combination: jack cheese, green chiles and fresh corn. But now that I understand the process, I have at least a dozen other meat and vegetable combinations in mind to try.
We ate these Green Chile and Cheese Vegetarian Tamales straight from the husks without any sauce. They’re rich and full of flavor as is, but if you like sauce on your tamales here are a couple that look interesting: this Red Chili Sauce, and this Tomatillo-Cilantro Sauce.
If you love tamales, you’ve got to try Pupusas – lightly corn masa cakes stuffed with gooey cheese! And here are a few more of my favorite Mexican food recipes: Albondigas Soup, Mexican Street Corn, Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas and Carne Asada!
Green Chile and Cheese Vegetarian Tamales
- 20 cornhusks
- 24 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 sticks
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 1/2 cups masa harina
- 3/4 cup milk
- 3/4 cup whole corn kernels fresh or frozen
- 6 ounces grated Monterey jack cheese
- 8 ounces canned roasted and diced green chiles drained
- Place cornhusks in a large bowl and cover with very hot water and set aside to soften.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat butter, salt baking powder, and cumin until lightened and doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, add masa harina to a medium bowl.
- To a blender pitcher add milk and corn and blend until they form a paste, scraping sides down as necessary. Pour mixture over masa harina and stir until combined.
- Add masa harina mixture, grated cheese and chiles to butter mixture and beat until fully combined.
To assemble tamales:
- Tear 3 of the soaked cornhusks into thin strips for securing tamales once they're rolled.
- Lay one soaked cornhusk on a work surface and scoop 2 heaping tablespoons, side by side, on the center of the husk. Use the back of the spoon or your fingers to spread to an even 1/4 - 1/2-inch thickness, leaving the edge of the cornhusk bare to avoid oozing. Starting at one long side, roll up cornhusk as you would a burrito and fold ends toward each other to overlap in the middle. Secure tamale by wrapping one or two strips of cornhusk around and tying a knot. Repeat with remaining cornhusks.
To cook tamales:
- Arrange tamales in a single layer on a bamboo or other steamer rack. Set over boiling water, and cover. Steam for 12-15 minutes or until tamales just start to ooze from their wrappers. Serve immediately.