How to Make Traditional Rice Tamales

Discover the rich history and flavors of rice tamales. This easy-to-follow recipe combines rice, butter, sugar, milk, and eggs to create a creamy and sweet delicacy. Learn how to make these traditional Mexican treats and indulge in a taste of the past.

How to Make Traditional Rice Tamales
A steaming plate of freshly made rice tamales, a traditional Mexican delicacy with a rich history.

In the world of gastronomy, tradition often serves as a delightful gateway to the past, offering a glimpse into how our ancestors prepared dishes that have stood the test of time. Today, we're taking you on a culinary journey back in time to explore an ancient recipe for rice tamales. These rustic and flavorful treats are a testament to the ingenuity of our culinary heritage.


Before you embark on this gastronomic adventure, gather the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup (0.24 l) of rice
  • 1 stick of melted and clarified butter
  • 125 grams of white sugar
  • 1 liter of fresh cow's milk
  • 2 egg yolks


Step 1: Preparing the Rice

The heart of our rice tamale adventure begins with the rice itself. First, wash the rice thoroughly to remove any impurities. Then, spread it out on a napkin, allowing the sun to do its magic. The sun-drying process not only adds a unique dimension to the flavor but also hearkens back to the days when natural methods ruled the kitchen.

Step 2: Milling the Rice

Once your rice is bone dry, it's time to get creative. Grind the rice into a fine powder, reminiscent of old-school grain mills. Pass this rice powder through a sieve to ensure a smooth texture, enhancing the quality of your final product.

Step 3: Creating the Sweet Paste

Place your finely powdered rice into a pan and pour in the melted, clarified butter, which adds a rich, velvety texture to your concoction. Next, add the white sugar, and let the magic begin.

Step 4: Whipping Up Sweet Alchemy

Grab a wooden spoon and start stirring, infusing the sugar and butter into the rice. The transformation from a powdery concoction to a sweet paste is a dance of aromas and textures. Cook it until it turns into a delightful, golden brown, almost caramelized paste.

Step 5: Adding Milk and Egg Yolks

Now, it's time to introduce the milk to the mix. Make sure it's warm to prevent your sweet paste from hardening. This addition is where the classic recipe takes a creative turn. Stir in one or two egg yolks to enhance the texture and richness of the paste. A touch of salt elevates the flavor, balancing the sweetness perfectly.

Step 6: Achieving the Right Consistency

Continuing to stir, the paste will gradually transform. You'll know it's ready when the wooden spoon can stand alone in the middle of the paste, creating an “eye.” This ancient technique ensures your rice tamales will have that irresistible chewiness.

Step 7: Filling and Cooking

The magic doesn't end with the paste. To create these authentic rice tamales, spoon the paste onto leaves and fill them with your choice of raisins, almonds, or yellow milk – a traditional option in the recipe.

Step 8: Patience Pays Off

Now, it's time to cook these rustic delights. Place your tamale-filled leaves into the pot. However, here's a crucial tip: resist the temptation to unwrap them until they've cooled. Doing so too soon might cause them to fall apart.


  • For a richer flavor, use whole milk instead of skim milk.
  • To make the tamales sweeter, add more sugar.
  • To make the tamales more savory, add a little salt to the batter.
  • If you are using a steamer basket, make sure to leave enough space between the tamales so that they can cook evenly.
  • If you are not using a steamer basket, you can steam the tamales in a large pot with a lid. Just make sure to add enough water to the bottom of the pot so that it does not boil dry.
  • Tamales can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat tamales, steam them for 15–20 minutes, or until they are heated through.

This recipe offers more than just a delicious taste of the past. It encapsulates a time when culinary traditions were passed down orally, each generation adding its unique twist. As you savor your handcrafted rice tamales, you're not just enjoying a delightful treat; you're participating in a centuries-old culinary tradition.