Tamales are a project, but many hands—even tiny ones—make lighter work.

At home, chef Jorge Guzmán makes tamales with his family to celebrate his heritage. Jorge, a James Beard Award finalist chef who helms the acclaimed Minneapolis restaurant Petite León, walks us through his tamale-making process and tips for success.

prepping tamales step one
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki

Step 1

For each tamale, place the husk with the narrow end facing you.

Tip: Jorge wraps some of his tamales in banana leaves (sold frozen at Latin markets). If you choose to try them, know that they need to be softened over a gas flame or grill.

prepping tamales step two
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki

Step 2

Top with a good spoonful of masa (a dough made with masa harina [corn flour], lard or butter, and stock).

prepping tamales step three
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki

Step 3

Add a bit of filling.

prepping tamales step four
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki

Step 4

Fold the sides up over the masa and filling. 

prepping tamales step five
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki

Step 5

Bring them together, turn the tamale 90 degrees, and use your fingertips to press the filling down, so it mushes into a cylinder shape.

prepping tamales step six
Credit: Kevin Miyazaki

Step 6

Fold the lifted-up sides over, so they wrap around the cylinder.

prepping tamales step seven
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki

Step 7

Fold the narrow end upward, over the seam.

tamales in blue steamer pot
Credit: Kevin J. Miyazaki

Step 8

Arrange tamales, open ends facing up, in a steamer basket.

Tamales Recipes

You have the step-by-step instructions for how to make tamales. Now, try these three delicious recipes from chef Jorge Guzmán.

Secrets for Success

Tamales take time, but these tips from Jorge will set you up for even better results.

Go in Stages

Braising meat the same day that you stuff tamales will take forever, Jorge warns. Prep and chill fillings ahead, so that tamale day is just about filling and rolling.

Don't Overfill

The masa swells, so leave an inch or so between the dough and the top edge of the wrapper to avoid a mess in the steamer.

Skip Tying

It looks nice for a restaurant, Jorge says, but takes too long. The tamales will hold together fine without.

Store Extras

Jorge freezes leftover tamales for easy weeknight dinners. They reheat well in the microwave.