Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's Tamal Mexicano Basic Masa

It's all about the lard, baby.

"Fat is your friend," said Barrio Cafe chef Silvana Salcido Esparza at her recent tamale making class (read about it here). "Once a year, go for a walk!"

Well, there's also salt, liquid, and ground corn that's been dried and boiled in lye, but making the masa fluffy with fat is the secret to mouthwatering tamales. Get the masa right, and the rest is a breeze. 


1 lb. lard
3 lbs. finished fresh corn mixture (available at Ranch Market and other Mexican grocers)
1 c. chicken or pork stock
2 1/2 tbs. kosher salt

Beat the lard in a a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until very fluffy and fully aerated, about 3 minutes, using a paddle attachment. 

Still mixing on medium speed, begin adding the fresh corn mixture a handful at a time. If the mixture seems too stiff, add stock a little at a time, up to 1 cup. When all the masa has been incorporated, the mixture should be very light and delicate, the texture of frosting. Slowly beat in kosher salt. (Make it a bit saltier than you want the tamales, since they'll be steamed.)

To test the readiness of the dough, drop a teaspoon of it into a glass of ice water. If it doesn't float, continue to beat. If it does float, the mixture is ready to be spread onto corn husks, but can hold if other ingredients, such as the filling, need to be prepared. Makes enough masa for 45-50 tamales.

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig