Tamales de elote (corn sweet tamales) are a traditional recipe from Mexico. A fluffy, buttery, and sweet tamal made with fresh corn and perfect to serve as breakfast or dessert.
You know that we Mexicans love tamales, they’re an essential meal for any occasion. Some classics like pork tamales or chicken tamales verdes are a big deal and making them is often a whole family affair!
Tamales de elote are sweet, buttery, and moist. They don’t contain any filling and are usually wrapped in fresh corn leaves which gives them a delicious and particular taste.
My abuela Elvira was from Michoacán where those tamales are known as Uchepos. Her tamales have been a staple in my family for generations and I grew up helping her to make them and enjoying them often for breakfast.
So I am happy to share with you this tamales de elote recipe with lots of useful tips to help you achieve the perfect sweet corn tamales ever!
- Elotes (fresh corn on the cob): Traditional tamales de elote are made with Mexican white corn, but a good substitute is yellow sweet corn which is easier to find outside Mexico.
- Flour: You will need corn masa harina (Maseca) and cornmeal to add some texture.
- Butter: At my home, we always use butter or lard for making those tamales. However, this can be substituted with vegetable oil or shortening.
- Sugar: A bit of granulated sugar is added to enhance the sweetness of the corn.
- Baking soda: For some fluffiness.
How To Make Tamales de Elote
Step 1. Cut the corn
Start by cutting off the two ends of each corn cob. This is to make it easier to remove the husks for wrapping the tamales.
Remove the fresh husks and silk strands. Wash the leaves, pat dry them, and set aside.
With a sharp knife, remove the kernels. Cut from the base downward with a gentle sawing motion.
Step 2. Make the sweet corn dough
Working in batches, put the corn kernels in a food processor or blender and grind them.
How finely you grind the corn will affect the texture of the tamales, I don’t puree it until it’s completely smooth; I prefer a rustic texture to make them fluffier after they’re cooked!
Place the blended corn into a large bowl. If you notice that the mixture is too runny, place it in a colander and let it drain for 10 minutes before proceeding to the next step.
Next, beat the butter with the sugar until fluffy and almost white. Make sure the butter is at room temperature and softened, so it will be easier to do this step.
Add the butter to the bowl with the blended fresh corn, and mix in the cornmeal and corn flour until everything is combined.
Step 3. Assemble
Put about three tablespoons of the corn mixture in the middle of a husk. Fold the left side of the husk over the right side to form a tube. Last, fold the bottom up to secure the tamal.
Step 4. Steam
Arrange the tamales in the rack of a steaming pot, making sure they are standing up with the open side upwards.
Steam for about 1 hour and 30 minutes or until tamales de elote are done. Make sure to check the steamer and add more hot water when necessary.
Once cooked, the tamales have a smooth consistency, it almost seems that they’re undercooked.
So the best way to test if they’re ready is to carefully open one, take a little bit, and put it on a plate.
Let it cool for about 2 minutes then taste it to check out the texture, it should be firm and spongy. And the tamal should separate easily from the husk.
Recipe Notes and Tips
- To prevent the corn kernels from spilling out all over your counter when you cut them, place a small bowl inside a large bowl and cut the corn as you normally do on a cutting board. The large bowl will catch up all those little kernels!
- If you notice the dough is too runny, adjust the consistency by adding 2-3 tablespoons of cornmeal or masa harina.
- If you want an extra flavor and aroma, add to the dough a pinch of cinnamon powder and 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
- If the corn husks are too small, use two or three to wrap each piece. You can also use dried husks as wrappers, just make sure to soak them in hot water to make them pliable.
In Mexico, there are lots of variations of tamales de elote. Some are made differently, and they also go by different names.
In Michoacán, they are known as Uchepos, while in Chiapas they are called picte.
In some states like Zacatecas, they also include a filling made with chile poblano, pork, and tomato sauce.
They can include also other ingredients to make the dough, such as piloncillo, pork lard, zucchini, epazote, and chile ancho.
How To Serve
In Mexico, we love tamales for breakfast and these tamales de elote are perfect to eat with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee in the morning.
My abuela Elvira, loved to serve them freshly made with lots of butter, or drizzled with crema and crumbled queso fresco on top. The combination of sweet and salty is truly delicious!
Store & Reheat
Tamales de elote can be stored in the fridge for 4-5 days. Once cooled completely, transfer them to an airtight container and refrigerate.
For freezing, individually wrap each tamal with plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn. They can stay frozen for 2-3 months.
The best way to reheat tamales is with a steamer. If they are frozen, allow them to thaw in the fridge overnight, then place them in your steamer for 10-15 minutes or until you see they are again fluffy and soft.
Another way is using the microwave, but you will need to remove the husks. Reheat in 1-minute intervals.
More Tamales Recipes
Tamales de elote (sweet corn tamales)
- 2.2 pounds corn kernels (about 5 or 6 corn ears)
- ½ cup butter (softened)
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup masa harina (Maseca or any other brand)
- ½ cup cornmeal
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Cut off the two ends of each corn ear.
- With a sharp knife, remove the kernels. Cut from the base downward with a gentle sawing motion.
- Working in batches place the corn kernels in a food processor or blender and grind them until you will have a paste.
- Place the corn into a large bowl. If you notice that the mixture is too runny, place it in a colander and let it drain for a couple of minutes.
- Mix the butter with the sugar until fluffy and white.
- Add the butter, masa harina, and cornmeal to the bowl with the fresh corn.
- Mix until everything is well combined.
- Put about three tablespoons of the corn mixture in the middle of a husk.
- Fold the left side of the husk over the right side to form a tube. Last, fold the bottom up to secure the tamal.
- Arrange the tamales in the rack of a steaming pot, making sure they are standing up with the open side upwards.
- Steam for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until tamales are done. Make sure to check the steamer and add more water when necessary.
- You can add both flours or only one type, whatever you decide just make sure the dough is not too liquid, so, if necessary add a little bit more flour.
- Once cooked, the tamales have a very smooth consistency, it almost seems that they’re undercooked.
- The best way to test if they’re ready is to open one (carefully, they can be very hot), take a little bit with a fork and place it on a plate, then let it cool for a couple of minutes. If the tamal has a firm, yet spongy texture, it is done.