Tamales Verdes de Pollo

Those tamales verdes de pollo are soft, moist, and with a flavourful filling made of tender chicken cooked in a tomatillo sauce. The combination of flavors and textures makes for a delicious and satisfying meal that is enjoyed by many.

Tamales verdes de pollo or chicken tamales with green sauce is a Mexican dish made of masa, shredded chicken, and salsa verde. The green sauce is usually made with tomatillos, chilies, cilantro, and aromatics.

Each corn husk is spread with a layer of corn masa and then filled with shredded chicken cooked in a rich green sauce. The tamales are rolled up and steamed for about an hour or until the masa is cooked through.

The result is a flavorful tamal with a moist and tender filling and a hearty and fresh flavor at the same time, perfect to serve with champurrado or your favorite atole!

A close-up of tamales verdes de pollo opened.

Ingredients

  • Masa harina: A special type of corn flour used to make the dough for tamales. You can find it at most Mexican grocery stores or buy it online.
  • Pork lard: Aside from the rich flavor it adds, pork lard helps to keep tamales verdes de pollo from drying out. You can substitute it with oil, butter, or shortening.
  • Chicken stock: You will need it to make the masa and the green sauce. I used homemade chicken stock but feel free to replace it with store-bought.
  • Baking powder: Gives the masa a light and fluffy texture.
  • Corn husks: Dried corn husks are used to wrap the tamales.

For the filling:

  • Chicken: I used boiled chicken thighs with aromatics but feel free to use leftover roast chicken if you want.
  • Tomatillos: Tomatillos give this dish its distinctive tangy flavor and mild sweetness. I used a large can of cooked tomatillos.
  • Onion and garlic: Essential aromatics in Mexican cooking.
  • Chili peppers: You can use chiles serranos, jalapeño, or any type of fresh green chilies available to you.
  • Cilantro: Cilantro gives a nice fresh touch and color to the sauce.
  • Seasonings: Salt and black pepper, oregano, and cumin.

How To Make Tamales Verdes de Pollo

Place the corn husks into a large bowl and cover them with warm water. Let them soak while you continue with the recipe.

Corn husks soaking in a bowl with warm water.

Top Tip: Soaking the corn husks in warm water will make them more pliable and easier to work with when wrapping the tamales.

Prepare a steamer or large stock pot with a steamer basket. Fill the pot with water just before it touches the basket.

Make the filling

Place tomatillos, chilies, onion, garlic, cilantro, oregano, black peppercorns, and cumin in a blender. Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth and blend until you’ll have a thick green sauce.

Salsa verde made of tomatillos, chilies, and cilantro in a blender.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, and carefully pour the green salsa.

Add shredded chicken and bring to a simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes of until the sauce has thickened and slightly reduced.

Cooked shredded chicken in salsa verde.

Adjust salt to taste and turn off the heat. Set aside.

Make the dough

In the bowl of a stand mixer place lard with a pinch of salt. Mix at high speed until the lard will be smooth and puffy (about 10 minutes).

Showing fluffy lard with a spatula.

Add masa harina, baking powder, and 2 cups of chicken stock.

Mix at high speed for 5 minutes or until all ingredients are nicely combined into a smooth and sticky dough. Adjust salt to taste and set the dough aside.

Tamales dough in a bowl.

Assemble tamales

Remove husks from the water and lightly pat dry them with a kitchen towel.

Place 2 spoonfuls of tamales dough in the middle of a husk and using the back of a spoon or a spatula, spread it a little bit.

Spreading tamales dough in a corn husk.

Spoon some of the chicken mixture in the middle.

Adding chicken with salsa verde in the middle of a husk with dough.

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.

Folding one corn husk end to make a tamal.

And then repeat with the left side, making something similar to a burrito.

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

Place the tamal in the steamer you prepared before, standing up with the open side up. Repeat until all tamales dough is used.

Tamales verdes de pollo arranged in a steamer.

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 to the steamer when needed.

Once done, allow the tamales verdes de pollo to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes & Tips

  • Tamales verdes de pollo can be time-consuming to make, so plan to make them on a day when you have plenty of time. It’s also helpful to prepare the salsa verde and chicken mixture a day or two in advance to save time.
  • Make sure to spread the tamales dough evenly on the corn husks so that the tamales cook evenly.
  • Use a kitchen scale to divide the dough and make tamales verdes de pollo of the exact weight.
  • Add enough chicken filling to each tamale, but not to the point that will make it difficult to wrap.
  • Right after cooking, the tamales verdes de pollo will be very soft and moist, but as they cool down the tamales will become firmer.
A chicken tamal verde opened to see the filling and texture in the inside.

Store & Reheat

Tamales verdes de pollo last up to 5 days in the refrigerator and up to 4 months in the freezer.

The best way to store those chicken green tamales is in an airtight container or resealable bags.

To reheat, simply steam the tamales for about 15 minutes or microwave them (husks removed) on high for 1-2 minutes until heated through.

FAQ

What are tamales?

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish that have been enjoyed for centuries. They can come in a variety of flavors and styles, depending on the region and ingredients used.
They are usually served for breakfast or afternoon along with atole.

What are the different types of tamales?

There are many different types of tamales that vary not only in ingredients used but also in preparation. Here are some of the most popular:

Tamales de pollo (filled with chicken).
Tamales de puerco (filled with pork).
Tamales de elote (sweet tamales made with corn, without filling).
Tamales de rajas (filled with strips of roasted peppers and sometimes cheese).
Tamales Oaxaqueños (filled with mole sauce and wrapped in banana leaves).

What are tamales verdes made of?

Tamales verdes are made of masa dough, salsa verde (green sauce), and some type of filling, like chicken, pork, cheese, or vegetables.

What are green tamales called?

Green tamales are typically called tamales verdes or tamales de verde in Spanish. “Verde” means green in English, and the name refers to the green color of the sauce used to make the filling. The green color of the sauce comes from using green ingredients like tomates verdes (tomatillos), green chilies, and cilantro.

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Video

Tamales Verdes de Pollo

12 tamales
Tamales verdes de pollo are made with a tender filling of shredded chicken cooked in a flavorful and bright tomatillo sauce. Enjoy along with atole or your favorite hot beverage!
prep 30 minutes
cook 1 hour 15 minutes
total 1 hour 45 minutes

Equipment

  • Steamer

Ingredients 

  • 2 ½ cups Masa Harina
  • cup pork lard (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 ¼ cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • salt (to taste)
  • 12 large dried corn husks

For the filling:

  • 2 ½ cups shredded chicken
  • 1 can tomatillos (about 2 ½ cups)
  • 1 small onion (cut into chunks)
  • 4-5 serrano peppers (read notes)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small bunch cilantro
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • salt (to taste)

Instructions
 

  • Soak corn husks in a large bowl with warm water.
  • Prepare a steamer or large stock pot with a steamer basket. Fill the pot with water just before it touches the basket.

Make the filling

  • Place tomatillos, chilies, onion, garlic, cilantro, oregano, black peppercorns, and cumin in a blender.
  • Add 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth and blend until you’ll have a thick green sauce.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, and carefully pour the green salsa.
  • Add shredded chicken and bring to a simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes of until the sauce has thickened and slightly reduced.
  • Adjust salt to taste and turn off the heat. Set aside.

Make the dough

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer place lard with a pinch of salt. Mix at high speed until the lard will be smooth and puffy (about 10 minutes).
  • Add masa harina, baking powder, and 2 cups of chicken stock. Mix for 5 at medium speed.
  • Adjust salt to taste and set aside.

Assemble tamales

  • Remove husks from the water and lightly pat dry them with a kitchen towel.
  • Place 2 spoonfuls of tamales dough in the middle of a husk and using a spatula, spread it a little bit.
  • Spoon some of the chicken mixture in the middle.
  • 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 something similar to a burrito.
  • Take the narrow end of the husk and fold it towards the center.
  • Place the tamal in the steamer you prepared before, standing up with the open side up. Repeat until all tamales dough is used.
  • 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 to the steamer when needed.
  • Once done, allow the tamales verdes to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • You can make the salsa verde and chicken mixture a day or two in advance to save time.
  • Make sure to spread the tamales dough evenly on the corn husks so that the tamales cook evenly.
  • If you want your tamales to have the same size and weight, use a kitchen scale to divide the dough.
  • Add enough chicken filling to each tamal, but not to the point that will make it difficult to wrap.
  • Take in mind that right after cooking the tamales will be very soft and moist, but as they cool down the tamales will become firmer.
Nutrition Information
Serving: 1 tamal | Calories: 277kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 22mg | Sodium: 121mg | Potassium: 320mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 142IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 69mg | Iron: 3mg
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