International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Tamales de Elote

A platter of tamales de elote

(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 Elote 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.

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