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Vegetarian Tamales with Spinach, Corn and Cheese Filling

Recipe to make vegan tamale with steamed cornmeal dough stuffed with spinach, corn and bean filling. They are portable and so tasty.
Author: Pavani
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Prep Time: 1 hr
Cook Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time: 2 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 24 Tamale


  • 24~30 Corn Husks

For the Filling:

  • 1 tablespoon Oil
  • 1 Small Onion, chopped
  • 2~3 Garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 cup Frozen Spinach, thawed
  • 1 cup Corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup Cooked Black Beans
  • 1 Small Green Pepper, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • ½ teaspoon Chili powder
  • To taste Salt & Pepper

For the Vegan Masa Dough:

  • cups Mexican masa harina
  • ¼ cup Non-hydrogenated Vegetable Shortening
  • ¼ cup Non-hydrogenated vegan Margarine
  • 1 teaspoon Baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon Garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt
  • cups Vegetable stock


Prepare the Corn Husks.

  • Dried corn husks need to be soaked in warm water prior to using to make them soft & pliable. Fill a deep pan with warm water and soak the dried husks for 15~20 minutes.
  • Soak more husks than you need for the recipe because there might be rips and tears and also you need a few extra to line the steamer basket and tie the tamales. Once the husks are ready, then drain and keep them ready.

Prepare the Filling:

  • Heat oil in a saute pan on medium heat, add the onions and cook till they translucent. Stir in the garlic cloves and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
  • Add green pepper, corn and spinach. Cook covered till the veggies are tender, about 3~5 minutes.
  • Stir in cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Mix well and turn off the heat.

Prepare the steaming equipment:

  • Set up the steaming basket. Fill the pot with 2~3" of water, or whatever level will stay below the steamer basket. Line the steamer basket with a few corn husks and keep ready.

Prepare the Masa dough:

  • In a large mixing bowl, with a handheld mixer or in a stand mixer, cream together the shortening and margarine until creamy and light.
  • Sift in the masa harina, baking powder, garlic powder and salt, then continue to beat for about 3 minutes, until a sandy looking mixture forms.
  • Pour the vegetable stock into the masa mixture and continue to beat until all the liquid is absorbed and a fluffy dough forms, about 5 minutes.
  • The tamale dough should have a moist -- almost like mashed potato consistency - and should be easily spread with a rubber spatula. If the mixture seems too wet, then sprinkle in another tablespoon or two of masa harina. If too dry, then drizzle a tablespoon of vegetable stock until the desired consistency is reached. Use this dough right away for making tamales.

Assemble the Tamales:

  • Once Step 1~4 are done, get ready to make the tamales.
  • For each tamale, spread a generous ¼cup of dough down the center of a pliable soaked corn husk, leaving at least 1½" on either end. This will form a oblong of 4~5" wide and ⅜~½" thick. Spoon 1 generous tablespoon of filling down the center of the tamale dough, then top with a little of the grated cheese.
  • Grab both the edges of the corn husk that are not covered with dough. Bring the edges toward each other and push the sides of the masa dough together to encase the filling. Gently press the tamale to form a firm, solid tube shape. Tightly twist each end of the tamale wrapper and tightly tie each end with a soaked corn husk strip. You can even use kitchen twine to tie the tamales.
  • About half way through the tamale making, turn the steam basket on and get the water going. So that the steamer will be ready for you when the tamales are done.

Steaming in a Steamer:

  • Fill a large saucepan with 2~3" water. Line the steamer basket with a few soaked corn husks. Set the tamales upright in the basket, starting from the sides of the basket and working inward. Top with any leftover corn husks.
  • Place the steamer basket in the pot, cover and steam for at least 45~55 minutes. Halfway through cooking, make sure to see if the water in the steamer has all evaporated. If it is, then pour water.
  • Check one to see if they are done, if not steam for an additional 5~10 minutes.

Steaming in Instant Pot:

  • Add about 2 cups of water in the instant pot container. Place the prepared tamale in a steamer basket. Close the lid and put the vent to sealing. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Let the pressure reduce naturally.


  • Never, ever start making tamale just before meal time. These require some preparation and cooking time, so make sure you give yourself enough time to make them.
  • Look for MASECA brand instant masa harina. When in doubt, check where it is made or imported from - it should be from Mexico (or Central America). Do not buy masarepa from Colombia or Venezuela.
  • Set up an assembly line, so it is easy and stress-free to make this recipe.
  • Soak more husks than you need for the recipe because there might be rips and tears. Also you need a few extra to line the steamer basket and tie the tamale.
  • Dough should be cooked as soon as it is made.
  • Cooked tamale can be frozen for up to 3~4 months. Simply microwave until heated through before serving.


Nutrition Facts
Vegetarian Tamales with Spinach, Corn and Cheese Filling
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.