Green Corn Tamales (Meatless Monday Entree)


Green corn tamales originated in Tucson, Arizona. The name may be misleading, as the corn used is not green. The color reference refers to the chiles. Many consider green corn tamales to be summer fare. However, if you are looking for a type of tamal to make that contains no lard and no meat, the green corn tamal is an excellent option. The masa in this recipe is made from scratch in the food processor. It tends to be less cohesive than other types of masa, but the difference in taste may amaze you. The softer texture also means the masa is easier to spread onto the corn husks.

I have never been to Michoacan, Mexico, but there they eat a type of pre-Hispanic triangular tamal called a corunda, that is also made from fresh ground corn, stuffed with requesón cheese and served with crema and red chile salsa on top. More similar to the green corn tamal is the uchepo, which is made from sweet ground fresh corn. It may be a coincidence, but it sounds to me like our beloved Tucson recipe has roots farther south. I’m sure people in Tucson would deny this vehemently.

For me, the hotter the green chiles used, the better. I love the combination of fiery chiles, sweet corn and melting cheese. There is a delicate quality to green corn tamales, and yet the flavor is not for wimps unless the mildest chiles are used.

Making tamales is always labor intensive, so it’s a great idea to gather friends around to help, and double or triple the recipe. That way, everyone can take some home, and there will be some left over for later.




(Makes 24 tamales)

32 oz. package defrosted non-GMO organic (Whole Foods 365 Brand frozen corn kernels)

1/4 pound Arrowhead Mills organic blue cornmeal

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup organic evaporated cane juice

1/4 cup half and half

Sea salt to taste

12 (1-ounce) strips cheddar cheese, halved

12 slices Manchego cheese cut from the round

1 6 Anaheim or Hatch green chiles, oven roasted , peeled and seeded (don’t use canned because the tamales will taste bland)


1. Grind corn kernels with cornmeal in food processor. Set aside. If you want a finer masa with less chunks of corn, reprocess it after 5 minutes.

2. Beat the shortening and butter in mixing bowl until creamy. Add sugar, half and half and season to taste with salt. Add corn mixture and mix well. The masa may seem thin, but don’t worry.

3. For each tamale, overlap 2 corn husks lengthwise. Spread 1/4-cup layer of corn mixture onto husks to within 1 inch of corn husk edges left. Place 1 of each variety of cheese strip and 1 chile strip over filling. You can add 1-2 tablespoons of the ground masa on top of the cheese and chiles if desired.  Bring edges of corn husks over filling to cover completely.

4. Place husks on square of parchment paper. Fold the bottom end of corn husks up, then fold sides over tamale. If desired, you can place each tamal on a piece of parchment paper and wrap the husk first, then wrap the paper over it. Tie string around ends to hold in place. Continue until all tamales are prepared. Place tamales on steamer rack and steam 1 inch over simmering water about 35 to 45 minutes.

Note: Each tamal weighs in at approximately 150 calories.

If you add coconut oil to cold ingredients, it will solidify and may cause problems when trying to mix the masa. My suggestion is to bring all ingredients to room temperature first.

I roast my green chiles in the oven directly on the rack at 350° until the skins brown and loosen. Then I take them out, let them cool, and usually, the skins slip right off. Remove the seeds and stems and the chiles are ready to use.

Serve with Mexican crema or sweet cream and red chile salsa on top, and savor every bite.

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  1. Reply msedano December 2, 2013

    manchego, oaxaca, mozzarella, jack cheese,the white melting cheeses meld with the flavor of those rajas to yield an ambrosial experience. i’ve not used manchego before but now that you mention it, that’s a grand idea.

  2. Reply Heather Zeleny August 16, 2015

    Green corn tamales may be common in Tuscon AZ, but they certainly did not originate there. This type of tamal is common all over the Southwestern US, Mexico, and Central America.

    • Reply Andrea November 10, 2015

      Actually, this recipe did originate in Tucson. There are other types of green corn tamales such as uchepos from Michoacan, but this recipe really represents the Arizona green corn tamal.

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