Tamales Oaxaqueños (Traditional Oaxacan Tamales)

Traditional Tamales Oaxaqueños stuffed with mole sauce and shredded chicken, so moist and flavorful! Those Oaxacan tamales are perfect to enjoy with warm champurrado or atole de Maizena.

Tamales Oaxaqueños piled on a Mexican clay serving platter.

About Oaxacan Tamales

Tamales Oaxaqueños are a traditional dish from the State of Oaxaca, in Mexico. It consists of a tamal stuffed with shredded meat and mole sauce, and then wrapped and cooked with banana leaves.

This is one of those recipes that have a rich history and it has been passed down from generation to generation. There’s not only a way of making Oaxacan tamales as they can be made with different fillings and ingredients.

From the stuffing which can be made with chicken, pork, beans, mushrooms, or even seafood, to the traditional sauces like the black mole, tomatillo sauce, and pipián. Tamales Oaxaqueños are truly a versatile dish so flavorful and rich.

A Mexican tamal Oaxaqueño unwrapped to show the moist and fluffy texture.
A super moist Oaxacan tamal opened.

The main difference between Oaxacan tamales and regular tamales is that the first are wrapped in plantain leaves, while the latter are commonly wrapped in corn husks.

As you can imagine, those Oaxaca-style tamales are extremely appreciated in Mexico and can be found year-round sold all over the country.

They can be eaten any day or for any occasion, but they are more popular during Día de los Muertos, Christmas, or Día de la Candelaria (Candlemas).

Did you know? According to historians, Aztecs cooked tamales together as community to celebrate religious parties, offer them to the dead, and certain social events. They used meat from turkeys, frogs, rabbits, flamingos, guinea pigs, and fish, along with beans, chilies, and squash as filling.

Ingredients Needed

  • Masa harina: You can find this type of flour at Mexican online stores or on Amazon.
  • Lard: Use pork lard or substitute with a good extra virgin olive oil.
  • Chicken broth: Use the one from cooking the chicken or substitute it with vegetable stock.
  • Baking powder: To add some fluffiness to tamales.
  • Salt: To taste.

For the filling:

  • Chicken: Use chicken thighs or breasts.
  • Mole: I am using store-bought mole from Doña Maria brand, feel free to use your favorite brand or make this recipe with homemade mole.
  • Stock: From cooking the chicken.
  • Seasonings: Garlic, oregano, and salt.
  • Extras: I used cinnamon and chocolate to tweak the jarred mole sauce, those two ingredients are totally optional.
Ingredients for Tamales Oaxaqueños displayed with names on a marble surface.

Wrappers: Traditional tamales Oaxaqueños call for banana leaves, those adds a subtle and unique flavor typical of them.

Banana leaves can be found in other countries sold in frozen packets at many Latin-American or Asian food stores.

In Mexican stores look for them as hojas de plátano, or you can simply replace them with parchment paper to make this recipe.

How To Make Tamales Oaxaqueños

Make the filling:

Place chicken, garlic, oregano, and a good pinch of salt in a pot. Cover with 2 inches of water and cook until chicken is nicely tender.

Cooked chicken in a stock pot.

Allow to slightly cool down then shred chicken and set aside. Strain the chicken broth and set it aside too.

Shredded chicken in a bowl and broth in a large cup.

Add Doña Maria mole paste to a cooking pan along with chocolate, cinnamon, and 1 ½ cup of stock.

Mole paste with chocolate, cinnamon, and broth in a pan.

Place the pan over medium-low heat and bring to a simmer. Cook until there are no lumps left and the sauce has thickened a bit.

Cooking mole sauce in a pan.

Mix in the shredded chicken and cook for 5 minutes until you’ll have a thick mixture, not too saucy (read notes).

Chicken mole mixture fully cooked in a pan.

Remove the pan from the stovetop and allow the mixture to reach room temperature while you continue with the recipe.

Make the tamales dough:

Place lard in a mixer with a pinch of salt. Mix at high speed until the lard will become smooth and puffy. 

Fluffy lard attached to a mixer wire whip.

Add masa harina and baking powder. Set the mixer to low speed and pour about 2 cups of chicken stock.

Taste the dough and add more salt if needed, then mix at high speed for 2 minutes or until you’ll have a fluffy dough.

Masa dough ready for tamales.

Soften the banana leaves

Heat a large griddle or comal over high heat. Take one banana leaf sheet at a time and hold it for a few seconds against the pan, just enough to soften so it will be easier to wrap it.

Softening a banana leaf sheet on a comal.

Repeat will all sheets. Make 12 strips with one of the sheets that will be used for securing the tamales.

Assemble tamales

Place a generous scoop of tamales dough in the middle of a leaf sheet and spread it a bit.

Spreading masa dough on a banana leaf sheet.

Spoon in the center some of the chicken mole mixture (be generous) and spread it also a little bit, but do not cover all the masa dough.

Adding chicken mole mixture on top of dough.

Fold first the two longer sides of the banana leaf to bring them together, overlapping one edge to the other and then making a sort of burrito.

A collage with 2 photos showing how to wrap a Oaxacan tamal.

Fold the two remaining sides under the tamal and use two strips of banana leaf to tie and secure the tamal.

Tying a Oaxacan tamale.

Repeat the steps until all ingredients are used.

Cook tamales

Place a steamer rack inside a large stockpot. Add enough water just a little bit below the rack level, then fold the steam rack with a few banana leaves.

Lay all tamales inside the pot and then cover them with more banana leaves.

Placing tamales Oaxaqueños on a large pot.

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 needed.

Fully cooked tamales Oaxaqueños on a large pot.

Recipe Notes

  • As you cook the mole sauce it will get thicker, you can add a little bit of chicken stock, but remember that you will use the mixture to fill tamales, so don’t make it too saucy or it will come out when you stem the tamales.
  • Treat the banana leaves carefully as they are delicate and can break easily.
  • Make sure you don’t heat the leaves too long or they will toast and become brittle.
  • The ingredients are enough for 12 large tamales, if you want more pieces, use smaller sheet leaves and add less dough and filling to each.

What To Serve With Tamales

For an authentic Mexican eating experience, serve Tamales Oaxaqueños with a hot drink, below are our recommendations:

How To Store And Reheat

Oaxacan tamales leftovers (still wrapped) can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in an airtight container or in the freezer, wrapped in cling film for up to 3 months.

For reheating, follow the tips:

  • Steamer: Place the wrapped tamales in the steamer and heat them up for about 10 minutes.
  • Microwave: Unwrap the tamales and reheat them in the microwave in 1-minute intervals.
  • Stovetop: Heat a little bit of oil in a non-stick pan and heat unwrapped tamales until slightly crispy on the outside.
  • Grill or griddle pan: Heat them still wrapped until the leaves have charred marks and the tamales are heated through.

Watch The Video

Tamales Oaxaqueños.

Tamales Oaxaqueños (Oaxacan tamales)

author Maricruz
12 tamales
Those tamales Oaxaqueños are so flavorful, super moist, and perfect to serve with hot chocolate or champurrado.
prep 30 minutes
cook 1 hour 15 minutes
total 1 hour 45 minutes

Equipment

  • stand mixer

Ingredients 

For the dough

  • 3 ½ cups masa harina
  • 1 ½ cup pork lard (or extra virgin olive oil)
  • 2 cups chicken stock (from cooking chicken)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • salt (to taste)
  • 13 large banana leaves sheets (read notes)

For the filling:

  • 125 g Doña María mole jar (or homemade mole sauce)
  • ¼ tablet Abuelita chocolate (or 1oz dark chocolate )
  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 cup chicken stock (from cooking chicken)
  • salt (to taste)

For cooking chicken

  • 1 ½ lb chicken thighs and drumsticks (or 2 chicken breasts)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ Tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions
 

Make the filling:

  • Place chicken, garlic, oregano, and salt in a pot.
  • Cover with 2 inches of water and cook until chicken is tender (50 minutes).
  • Strain the broth and allow chicken to cool down.
  • Shred chicken, cover, and set aside.
  • Add Doña Maria mole paste to a cooking pan with chocolate, cinnamon, and 1 1/2 cup of the broth.
  • Cook over medium-low heat until there are no lumps left and sauce has thickened a bit (5 minutes).
  • Add the shredded chicken to the pan, mix to coat, and cook for 2-3 minutes more (read notes).
  • Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to reach room temperature.

Make the tamales dough:

  • Place lard and salt in a large bowl, beat at high speed until smooth and puffy.
  • Add masa harina and baking powder. Set the mixer to low speed and pour 2 cups of chicken broth.
  • Taste and add more salt if needed, then mix at high speed for 2 minutes or until you’ll have a fluffy dough.

Soften the banana leaves

  • Heat a large griddle or comal over high heat.
  • Take one banana leaf sheet at a time and hold it for a few seconds against the pan, just enough to soften so it will be easier to wrap it. Repeat will all sheets.
  • Make 12 strips with one of the sheets that will be used for securing the tamales.

Assemble tamales

  • Place a generous scoop of tamales dough in the middle of a sheet and spread it a bit.
  • Spoon some of the chicken mole mixture in the center and spread it also a little bit.
  • Fold first the two longer sides of the banana leaf to bring them together, overlapping one edge to the other.
  • Fold the two remaining sides under the tamal and use two strips of banana leaf to tie and secure the tamal.
  • Repeat the steps until all ingredients are used.

Cook tamales

  • Place a steamer rack inside a large stockpot.
  • Add enough water just a little bit below the rack level, then fold the steam rack with a few banana leaves.
  • Lay all tamales inside the pot and then cover them with more banana leaves.
  • 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 needed.

Notes

  • Traditional Oaxacan tamales call for banana leaves, which add a subtle and unique flavor typical of Oaxaca tamales.
  • Banana leaves can be found in other countries sold in frozen packets at many Latin-American or Asian food stores. Or you can simply replace them with parchment paper to make this recipe.
  • As you cook the mole sauce it will get thicker, you can add more chicken broth, but remember that you will use the mixture to fill tamales, so don’t make it too saucy or it will come out when you stem the tamales.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 498kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 23g | Trans Fat: 0.04g | Cholesterol: 29mg | Sodium: 307mg | Potassium: 232mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 130IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 78mg | Iron: 4mg
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