International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Tamales de Elote

amales de Elote Recipe (Central American fresh corncakes)

(Central American fresh corncakes)

Image Creative Commons by mmchicago

Average: 4 (65 votes)

Tamales de elote are a favorite breakfast food in Mexico and throughout Central America. In El Salvador and Guatemala they are often served as the starchy portion of a meal. The fresh elote, or corn, used in Central America has a higher starch content than that in the United States, but the addition of masa harina in this recipe produces a very good approximation of the original.

Makes about 12 tamales


  • Corn husks for wrapping -- 12 to 15 each
  • Lard -- 1/4 cup
  • Butter, softened -- 1/4 cup
  • Baking powder -- 2 teaspoons
  • Masa harina -- 2 cups
  • Warm water -- 1 cup
  • Salt -- 2 teaspoons
  • Corn on the cob -- 2 or 3 ears


  1. Add the cornhusks to a large pot. Pour boiling water over them and let them soak for at least 30 minutes to make them pliable.
  2. Add the lard, butter and baking powder to a food processor or mixer and beat until until light and fluffy.
  3. Cut enough corn kernels off the cobs to make about 2 cups. Scrape the cobs with a knife to get all their milk. Add the corn kernels and their milk to the food processor and pulse until fairly smooth but still a little chunky.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the masa harina, salt and warm water and knead to form a pliable mass. Pulse a little bit at a time into the corn and lard mixture until smooth.
  5. Drain the cornhusks and wipe dry. Lay out a husk with the pointed end up and add about 1/4 cup dough to the center. Fold in each side to cover the dough. Then fold up the bottom of the husk. Finally fold down the pointed top and insert it into the bottom to make a package. Tie the tamal with string if needed. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  6. Set up a steamer and steam the tamales for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove and serve hot with a little milk or cream poured over the top.

Tamales de Elot Variations

  • Savory additions: Shredded cheese, chopped chilies.
  • Sweet additions: Raisins, cinnamon, substitute milk for the warm water.
  • Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar if you like your tamales sweeter.


I make tomalees often, I came on this page to see how different mine are compared to the traditional style. My husband is El Salvadorian, and he and I make tomalees with these ingredients and we can't keep them around. As soon as they're made they're just as soon gone. Try adding simmered seasoned chicken, red peppers, hard boiled eggs(whites), chick peas, and green olives to the tomalee to fill in the corn dough. Try seasoning the dough mixture throughout with Knorr Chicken stock. These tomalees are unbelievable. Enjoy! :P

I have had a version of these tamales I believe. My husband is Salvadorian and a friend of his sells chicken tamales that have hominy, french cut green beans, potato and chicken inside a banana leaf, But will not share the recipe. I'm American and at a loss on how to make these. I want to surprise him this Christmas...can anyone help me?

I am not sure how much difference there is in El Salvador and Honduras when it comes to, I have learned to make the Honduran ones (probably a lil bit americanized)..i get frozen banana leaves, make the masa (seasoned well), cook the meat with lots of flavor, cook rice, and open a can of veg-all...lay a piece of aluminum foil on counter, put a good size banana leaf on it, spread masa, sprinkle with rice, put a couple "chunks" of meat, then top with the veggies (also adding a spoon or 2 of the juice from meat...roll up and steam for about an hour...they are absolutely DELISH!!!...hope this helps and sorry its after Christmas for you :(

Angela's Easy and Healthy Belizean Chicken Tamales.
Ingredients: TAMALE SHELL
6 Cups-MASA Instant Corn Masa Flour (Find in Hispanic food Section)
6 Cups Chicken Broth
1 Cup-Canola Oil
2 Tsp-Salt and 2 packets of Goya Chicken boullion
Aluminum Foil
Ingredients: CHICKEN
Boneless, skinless Chicken Breast, 1 Med Onion, 1 Package of Frozen Peas and carrots, 1 can of black beans, 1 Package of frozen corn and Achiote (Hispanic food isle) to season chicken. If you can't find the Achiote use red paprika and seasoning salt and black pepper to season the chicken.
Prepare Chicken: Rub the Achiote or Spanish paprika ,seasoning salt and black pepper on the chicken and marinate overnight or for 1 hour.
1. Brown chicken in 1 tbl spoon oil with onion until cooked-approximately 15-20 minutes. 2. When chicken is done, add peas and carrot, corn and black beans then cook for 5 minutes till peas are cooked. 3.You can also shred the chicken immediately after adding the veggies because it should be cool enough to handle.
1. Blend corn masa, canola oil, salt, Goya chicken bouillon and chicken broth until creamy, not too thick. 2. Lay out the foil sheets (12X12 sheets)
3. Place 2-3 tablespoonful of corn masa in the middle of foil and use the back of the spoon to spread corn masa into a thin circle. Leave about 3 inches of foil around the corn masa for folding.
4. Place 2-3 tablespoons of the chicken/peas/carrots and corn with gravy in the center of the corn masa.
5. To wrap tamale, bring two sides together and roll down to tamale then flatten fold on top of tamale. Roll both sides of tamales.
Cook: Using a Large Stock Pot, Place Three Cups of water in the pot.
2. Place a steamer plate or improvise with something to keep water away from tamales.
3. Stack tamales in your pot and steam tamales for 45-60 minutes.
4. Enjoy-To heat leftover tamales do not microwave. Instead place them in a sauce pan with ¼ cup of water and boil for 5 minutes.

My husband is from hondurasband we season the mass with onions cilantro bell peppers celery jalapanos. We also cook the mass. I put meat rice potatoes peas

While the country is named El Salvador, its people, recipes, etc. are called salvadoran.

To help you distinguish.
El Salvadorian is like saying United Statesian
Salvadorean is like Americanean

Actually, salvadoren may be closer salvadoreño.
But salvadoran sounds nicer.

I was born and raised in El Salvador it is nearly an insult not knowing the proper dialect.

Hi - is there an acceptable subsitute for lard? Maybe something a little healtier?
I really love corn and look forward to trying this recipe!

I've tried many substitutes. In my opinion there is no way around it. Unless of course you want to be eating something that chews like rubber. Another word of advice. Don't eat them all of the time. I serve my tamales w/ a salad and rice or beans on the side so that we taste the tamale and enjoy the flavor but not to get filled on them alone.

Lard and beef tallow behave differently when used in baking and cooking than any other fat. That said, I have gotten good results with alternatives, less "authentic" but still satisfying. At least, for baking and frying. I haven't made tamales, but I'm going to try making them with a mixture of butter and non-hydrogenated shortening. (If you are more cost conscious, I think regular margarine + shortening will work okay.)

Mixing fats works for me. I like to mix a little butter in with olive oil to get the buttery yumminess without so much cholesterol. In baking, butter makes things crispy & flakey, without the good soft-chewiness that lard gives. Shortening makes bread fluffier & flakier, like for biscuits. Olive oil makes dough heavier, but creates some of the soft-chewy-holding together that you could get with lard.

Examples: for scones I use butter, for biscuits I use shortening, for savory scones (with spices & cheese) I use olive oil. These are all the same recipe/ratio base.

In frying, peanut oil was always my mom's healthier choice. It has a better flavor than canola -- which can be greasy if not hot enough -- soy, or blended vegetable oil. Corn oil can be a little less expensive, so I've been using that.

I'm in Seattle, where it's pretty hard to find any of the real Salvadorean cooking components. For me, it's been all about experimentation.

If it makes you feel any better I'm near DC and enjoy Mexican food and you can only get Salvadoran out here!

In DC there are restaurants that are Mexican.....there are some authentic Mexican ones in Riverdale MD, Glen Burnie MD and other places gotta look harder. I come from a Mexican father and Salvadorean mother so I know whats authentic practically from both sides. Well I at least hope so.

Oh please please please can you tell me what their names are? I miss Mexican food!

Some big names in DC are Mexican: Lauriol Plaza, Oyamel, Rosa Mexicana, Alero...

I happen to love Mixtec, too, in Adams Morgan.

But I prefer Salvadorean. Best one by far isn't exactly a restaurant: Francis Carry Out in Mt Rainier. They cook food for the Latin American markets, and you can get what they're cooking--tamales, arroz, habichuelas, always huevos rancheros (unless they're out of eggs), tortillas, PUPUSAS! yum!! There is one small table, and maybe 3 or 4 stools at the counter. The food is to die for.....on Thursday nights, they cook elote, and usually on Friday morning they have some packaged on the counter for sale.
True home cooking with lots of love--and priced at a song & a dance.

Just across the river, Arlington is wall-to-wall Salvadorean fare and Peruvian pollo a la brasa. Try El Paso Cafe on Pershing drive near Glebe Road for Salvadorean; Super Pollo on Wilson Blvd near Geo Mason Drive for Peruvian chicken -- a little limier than you'd expect but delicious.

Just remember this recipe uses 1/4 cup lard, which is 2 ounces, and that is only 1 teaspoon lard per tamal.

I've been making vegetarian tamales with vegetable shortening for years and they're delicious and tender -- not at all rubbery as one of the commenters has experienced. In fact, I sometimes make Mexican-style tamales with a "beef" filling (using fake meat crumbles or TVP and lots of onion, garlic and spices) that have fooled many an omnivore. For more flavor, use chicken broth or vegetable broth in place of the warm water in the dough.

Yes you can substitute lard with shortening

You can use vegetable shortening instead of lard in other recipes. I'm sure it is the same for this one.

I am from the occidente of the country from son sonate and our tamales de elote are made with sugar instead of salt and we eat them as a snack with some sour cream they are delicious I am sure that this tamales you are talking about are supper delicios too I would have to try them!

Yo soy 100% salvadorena y me da gusto ver como personas de otras culturas gustan de estos platillos y gracias por compartir las recetas.Saludos desde Boulder Colorado.

I fed this to my Narwhal and he enjoyed it immensely. !!