How to Make Traditional Mexican Tamales with Mole

Discover the art of crafting traditional Mexican tamales, a centuries-old culinary tradition. Nixtamalize corn, make a savory mole and pork filling, wrap, steam, and enjoy the essence of Mexico in every bite. Optionally, indulge in sweet tamales for a delightful twist.

How to Make Traditional Mexican Tamales with Mole
Freshly wrapped tamales ready for steaming, a labor of love and flavor.

Tamales, a cherished dish of Mexico, have a history as rich and diverse as the flavors they encapsulate. These bundles of delight, wrapped in corn husks and stuffed with a tantalizing combination of ingredients, are a true culinary masterpiece. In this article, we will guide you through the preparation of traditional Mexican tamales, unveiling the secrets of a time-honored recipe that has been passed down through generations.


Before we dive into the culinary magic of tamales, let's take a look at the ingredients you'll need:

  • 7 cups (1.66 liters) of cooked corn
  • 750 grams of lard
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup (0.24 liters) of strong tequezquite water
  • Pure water
  • Salt
  • 3 cups (0.71 liters) of mole with pork meat
  • 1 bunch of corn husks for wrapping

Now that you've got your ingredients lined up, it's time to start cooking.


Step 1: Nixtamalizing the Corn

The first step in making tamales is nixtamalization. Nixtamalization is a traditional process in which dried corn is treated with alkaline substances, typically lime water, to make it more digestible and nutritious. The alkaline treatment enhances the flavor and transforms the corn into a dough-like consistency.

To nixtamalize the corn, place it in lime water and let it soak overnight. The next day, wash the corn thoroughly and allow it to dry in the warm embrace of the sun. Once it's sufficiently dry, grind the corn and then sift it through an ayate, a traditional Mexican straining cloth.

Step 2: Mixing the Dough

In a casserole, combine the lard and egg yolks and beat them together vigorously with a spoon. The goal here is to create a smooth and creamy mixture. Once the lard and egg yolks are well blended, add the ground corn.

For the ideal consistency, add a cup of strong tequezquite water. If the dough appears too thick, incorporate pure water in small increments until you achieve the desired texture. Don't forget to add a pinch of salt to taste. After these initial steps, let the dough rest for at least two hours. Be patient; this time is essential for the flavors to meld.

Step 3: Filling with Flavor

Now, let's talk about the heart of the tamale – the filling. In this recipe, we're making tamales with a savory mole and pork meat filling. Prepare a thick, sumptuous mole and blend it with the cooked pork meat. This filling will infuse your tamales with a deep, complex flavor that's impossible to resist.

For extra indulgence, you can stuff the tamales with more mole and pieces of meat as you assemble them. It's an excellent way to ensure every bite is bursting with flavor.

Step 4: Assembly and Steaming

Before we wrap our tamales, we need to create a steaming setup. In a large pot, craft a tapextle with sticks and leaves. Pour in water but ensure it doesn't overflow above the sticks. This ingenious method of steaming imparts a smoky, earthy essence to the tamales.

Now, it's time to assemble the tamales. Take a corn husk, scoop a generous spoonful of the dough onto it, and spread it out. Add a dollop of the mole and meat mixture in the center. Fold the husk to encase the filling, creating a snug bundle. Repeat this process for each tamale.

Place the wrapped tamales upright in your pot's tapextle, ensuring they are securely nestled and not submerged in water. Cover the pot with leaves and a cloth, sealing in the essence of the tamales.

Step 5: Cooking to Perfection

Set the pot on a regular fire, allowing the tamales to steam and absorb the enchanting flavors of the mole, meat, and corn dough. Keep an eye on the water level to ensure it doesn't run dry.

As the tamales cook, the aroma that wafts from the pot will transport you to the heart of Mexico. The anticipation is almost as delicious as the tamales themselves.

Step 6: Sweet Variation (Optional)

If you have a sweet tooth, you can use the same dough to create sweet tamales by filling them with milk. This delightful twist offers a balance to the savory tamales and is a delightful dessert or snack option.

Sweet tamales filled with milk, adding a touch of sweetness to the rich Mexican culinary heritage.
Sweet tamales filled with milk, adding a touch of sweetness to the rich Mexican culinary heritage.


  • If you don't have tequezquite, you can use baking powder instead. To accomplish this, add 1 tablespoon of baking powder to every cup of water.
  • To make sweet tamales, fill them with a mixture of milk, sugar, and cinnamon.
  • If you don't have a steamer basket, you can steam the tamales in a colander placed over a pot of boiling water. Just be sure to cover the pot so that the steam doesn't escape.

As your tamales steam to perfection, you'll find yourself embracing the traditional culinary wisdom of Mexico. The art of making tamales is more than a recipe; it's a cherished tradition passed down through generations. So, gather your ingredients, assemble your tamales, and relish the history and flavors that this cherished Mexican dish has to offer.