Tamales de Rajas (cheese and peppers tamales).

Soft, fluffy and flavorful tamales de rajas are filled with roasted poblanos and melty cheese. Naturally vegetarian and gluten free, those tamales will become one of your favorite Mexican recipes!

Tamales de rajas con queso (rajas tamales).

Those rajas tamales are so good as they are, but if you want to bring them to the next level, serve them with Mexican crema, molcajete salsa and queso fresco on top, alongside with café de olla.

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).
Tamales de rajas served with cream and salsa on top.

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).
Poblano peppers on a concrete surface.
Poblano 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.

Pouring warm water over corn husks on a bowl.

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.

Roasted peppers cut into strips on a cutting board.

Prepare your other fillings to have them ready to make tamales. Cut the cheese and place salsa on a bowl.

Cheese cut on a cutting board and a jar with salsa on the side.

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.

Melted pork lard on a sauce pan.

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.

The corn masa dough.

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.

Showing the sticky tamales dough on hands.

Make the tamales

Drain the corn husks and pat them dry with kitchen paper towels.

Pat drying corn husks with 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.

Spreading tamales dough on a corn husk with a spoon.

Add one tablespoon of molcajete salsa (optional) in the middle, then a few strips of roasted peppers and finally some cheese.

Placing the filling on the center of a tamal.

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.

Wrapping a tamal.

And then repeat with the left side, making some sort of burrito.

Closing a tamal.

Take the narrow end of the husk and fold it towards the center.

Folding the tip of a tamal.

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.

Tamales placed standing up on a steamer.

Cook (steam)

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.
Tamales de rajas close up showing the fluffy and moist texture and the cheese filling.

DID YOU KNOW? Tamal (singular) comes from the Nahuatl word Tamalli and it means envuelto (wrapped).

Tamales de rajas recipe.

Tamales de Rajas

Soft, fluffy and flavorful tamales de rajas are made with roasted poblanos and melty cheese. Naturally vegetarian and gluten free, those tamales will become one of your favorite Mexican recipes!
PREP 30 minutes
COOK 1 hour 15 minutes
TOTAL 1 hour 45 minutes
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 12
Author: Maricruz

Ingredients 

  • 2 ½ cups Masa Harina
  • 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)

Instructions

  • 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 aluminium 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.

Cook (steam)

  • 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.

NOTES

  1. Use aluminium foil if you can’t find corn husks where you live, but be aware that doing so you’re missing the wonderful taste from steamed husks.
  2. Poblano peppers can be substituted with green bell peppers, Anaheim or Italian peppers.
  3. You can sub Oaxaca cheese with mozzarella, monterey jack, queso fresco, ranchero cheese, fontina, feta, etc.
  4. 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.
Nutrition
Calories: 256kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 185mg | Potassium: 97mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 128IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 2mg
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