Soft, fluffy and flavorful tamales de rajas are filled with roasted poblanos and melty cheese. Naturally gluten free, those tamales will become one of your favorite Mexican recipes!
Best cheese for tamales de rajas
If you can find Quesillo where you live (also know as Oaxaca cheese), go with it. Otherwise use any of the follow options to make your tamales de rajas:
- Asadero (Mexican melty cheese)
- Queso fresco (Mexican cheese, it doesn’t melt).
- Queso panela (same as above).
- Monterey jack (or Pepper jack).
- Primo Sale (Italian cheese, doesn’t melt).
- Fontina (Italian cheese, melty)
- Mozzarella Filante (not the one that comes in water)
- Feta (Greek cheese, a little bit salty).
Substitutes for poblano peppers
Tamales de rajas are traditionally made with poblano peppers, but although the flavor of that Mexican pepper is delicious and unique, it can be very difficult to find it outside of Mexico. Those below are some options to replace poblano peppers and still enjoy those delicious rajas tamales.
- Green bell peppers.
- Friggitelli peppers (Italian peppers).
- Anaheim green peppers.
- Moroccan green bell peppers.
- Tiger skin peppers (Chinese peppers).
The Step By Step Recipe (with photos)
Before you start making your tamales de rajas, place the corn husks into a large bowl and cover with warm water. Allow them to soak while you continue with the recipe. *If you using aluminium foil to wrap your tamales, skip this step.
Also, prepare your steamer or large stock pot with a steamer basket. Fill the pot with water just before it touches the basket.
Make the filling
Roast the green peppers using your favorite method (in the stove, grill, or oven). Place them in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel.
Allow to rest for 15 minutes then peel them, discard the stem, open them and discard the seeds. Cut peppers into strips.
Prepare your other fillings to have them ready to make tamales. Cut the cheese and place salsa on a bowl.
Make the dough
Melt the lard in a pan and allow it to cool down without solidifying again. You can also use your favorite vegetable oil if you want, and don’t need to heat it up.
Place corn masa harina in a large bowl and add salt. Pour in the water or chicken stock little by little, while mixing with your hands. Mix to combine until you will have a soft dough that doesn’t stick to your hands.
Add lard to the dough and mix well to combine. You need to end with a slightly sticky dough. You can now taste your dough and adjust with salt if needed.
Make the tamales
Drain the corn husks and pat them dry with kitchen paper towels.
Place 2 spoonfuls of tamales dough in the middle of a husk and, using the back of a spoon, spread it on the surface as in the photo below.
Add one tablespoon of molcajete salsa (optional) in the middle, then a few strips of roasted peppers and finally some cheese.
Now, fold the right side of the corn husk to the center of the tamal, trying to cover a little bit more than half the piece.
And then repeat with the left side, making some sort of burrito.
Take the narrow end of the husk and fold it towards the center.
Place the tamal in the steamer standing up with the open side up, use some aluminium foil to fill some gaps and help tamales to stand up. Repeat the steps until all ingredients are gone.
Bring the water in the steamer to a boil, cover the pot and cook the tamales for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, checking occasionally and adding more water when is needed.
Recipe useful notes
- If your steamer is small, you can place tamales in 2 layers, just make sure they all are standing up and close to each other so the filling won’t come out.
- If you can’t find corn husks, you can use aluminium foil to make the wraps.
- To check up if tamales de rajas are cooked, remove a tamal from the steamer and let it cool slightly. If the dough doesn’t stick to the husk they are ready.
- Want to make them vegetarian? Replace the lard with olive oil or avocado oil.
How To Store and Reheat
Once cooled down, place the tamales (still wrapped in husks) in a container with a tight lid and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
You can also place them in a bag and freeze them for up to 3 months.
There are many ways for reheating tamales, but my favorite so far is in a steamer, because they come out just as freshly cooked, so soft. So, just add water to the steamer, place the basket and arrange the tamales de rajas then reheat for about 10 minutes.
*If tamales are from the freeze, first allow to thaw then reheat.
Tamales de Rajas
- 2 ½ cups Masa Harina
- ⅔ cup pork lard (or vegetable oil)
- 2 ½ cups lukewarm water (or chicken stock)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- salt (to taste)
- 12 large dried corn husks (read note 1)
For the filling
- 2 poblano peppers (read note 2)
- 7 oz Oaxaca cheese (cut into pieces, read note 3.)
- 1 cup molcajete salsa (read note 4)
For toppings (optional)
- Mexican crema
- molcajete salsa
- Place corn husks into a large bowl and cover with warm water. Soak while you continue with the recipe (read note 1).
- Prepare your steamer or a large stock pot with a steamer basket. Fill the pot with water just before it touch the basket.
Roast green peppers
- Roast the peppers using your favorite method (in the stove, grill, or oven). Place them in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel.
- Let peppers to rest for 15 minutes then peel them, discard the stem, open them and discard the seeds.
- Cut peppers into strips and set aside.
Make the dough
- Melt the lard in a pan and allow it to cool down without solidifying.
- Place corn masa harina in a large bowl. Add salt, baking soda and baking powder.
- Pour in the water while mixing with your hands little by little until you will have a soft dough (about 3 minutes).
- Add lard to the dough and mix to combine until you'll have a slightly sticky dough. Taste and adjust with salt if needed.
Make the tamales
- Drain the corn husks and pat them dry with a kitchen towel.
- Place 2-3 spoonfuls of tamales dough in the middle of a husk and, using the back of a spoon, spread it in the middle.
- Add one tablespoon of molcajete salsa in the middle, then a few strips of roasted peppers.
- Finish with some bites of cheese.
- Fold the right side of the corn husk to the center of the tamal and then repeat with the left side.
- Take the narrow end of the husk and fold it towards the center.
- Place the tamal in the steamer standing up with the open side up. *Use some aluminum foil to fill some gaps and help tamales to stand up.
- Repeat the steps until all ingredients are gone and the steamer is filled up.
- Bring the water in the steamer to a boil, cover the pot and cook the tamales for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, checking occasionally and adding more water when is needed.
- Use aluminum foil if you can’t find corn husks where you live, but be aware that by doing so you’re missing the wonderful taste from steamed husks.
- Poblano peppers can be substituted with green bell peppers, Anaheim, or Italian peppers.
- You can sub Oaxaca cheese with mozzarella, monterey jack, queso fresco, ranchero cheese, fontina, feta, etc.
- Salsa for filling is optional, omit if you want your tamales to not have spicy. However, you can also use your favorite spicy salsa, either homemade or store-bought.
- Want to make them vegetarian? Replace the lard with olive oil or avocado oil, and use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
DID YOU KNOW? Tamal (singular) comes from the Nahuatl word Tamalli and it means envuelto (wrapped).