Sweet Chocolate Tamales (Tested)

Serves     Makes 24


This recipe for chocolate tamales is the result of my dear friend Alice Krause’s madly creative genius brain. When it comes to dreaming up desserts, Alice’s brain has no limits! Here is her sweet variation on tamales. While the recipe may look daunting it can be made ahead. Both filling and batter can be made several days ahead, as can the finished tamales. The crème anglaise can be made ahead as well. Re-steam (or even microwave) tamales before serving.



(divided into 3 parts–for the masa, the filling, and the crème anglaise)


For the masa

1 or 2 pkgs. dried corn husks

2/3 cup Crisco shortening

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 cups Masa harina

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup whole milk

1 cup coconut milk

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon


For the filling

4 dried ancho chiles, candied (see instructions below)

½ cup butter (1 stick)

½ cup cocoa

1 cup sugar

¼ cup flour

1 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

2 eggs

1 tbsp. tequila

1 tsp. vanilla

Pinch of salt


For the crème anglaise

2 cups half-and-half or whole milk

2 vanilla beans

4 large egg yolks, at room temperature

½ cup reserved ancho chile syrup


Prepare the cornhusks. Place the husks in a salad spinner, cover with hot water, place lid on to keep them submerged, and let sit for a couple of hours until the husks are pliable. Drain off excess water.

Select 24 of the largest and most pliable husks—ones that are at least 6 by 7 inches. If you can’t find enough good ones, overlap two smaller husks as your base. Keep the husks covered with a dish towel to prevent them from drying out while you work on preparing other ingredients.


Prepare the masa. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the vegetable shortening and butter until very light, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and half of the masa and beat until combined.

Mix the milk and coconut milk together and alternately add with the remaining masa in several additions to the batter until the mixture is the consistency of medium thick batter.

Add baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, beat for 30 second more, to a soft consistency. Set aside until tamale making time. (For the lightest textured tamales, refrigerate the batter for an hour or so, then re-beat, adding additional milk or water to bring the mixture to the soft consistency it had before.)


To make the candied ancho chiles. De-stem and de-seed the chiles. Cut into small pieces. In a small sauce pan add half-cup sugar and half- cup water; boil to dissolve sugar. Add the chiles and simmer for an additional 5 minutes; drain the chiles and reserve ½ cup of the liquid for making the crème anglaise in the following recipe.


Prepare the chocolate filling. Melt butter in saucepan with cocoa and stir until smooth.

In a food processor, combine sugar, flour, pepitas, and candied ancho chiles. Process until a coarse, sandy texture is achieved, about 30 seconds. Add this to the cocoa-butter mixture in the saucepan. Whisk in the eggs, tequila, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Transfer to a bowl.


Set up the steamer

Pour a couple of inches of water into the base of your steamer. (Pro-tip: place a quarter on bottom of the pan, when you stop hearing the clanging of the quarter, time to put more water in steamer base.) Line the bottom of the steamer with leftover cornhusks to protect the tamales from direct contact with the steam and to add more flavor. Make sure to leave space between the husks so condensation can drain.

Whew! Now you are ready to start assembling the tamales. You have your bowl of masa, your bowl of chocolate filling, your corn husks prepared, and your steamer pot ready and waiting.


Form the tamales

The very best explanation that I can give you as to how to form tamales can be seen right here. (For our recipe, use about ¼ cup masa and 1 tablespoon of chocolate filling.) The video only lasts 1 minute. When you’re done watching come back and we’ll talk about how to steam them.

As they’re made, stand the tamales on their twisted bottoms on the corn husk lined steamer. If you don’t have that many tamales that you are making, or you find that they are toppling over, you can use little wads of aluminum foil placed strategically in the pot to keep them upright.

When all the tamales are in the steamer, cover them with a layer of leftover cornhusks; separate the tamales with extra cornhusks. Set the lid in place and steam over a constant medium heat for about 1 1/4 hours.

Watch carefully that all the water doesn’t boil away; to keep the steam steady pour boiling water into the pot when it is necessary Tamales are done when the husk peels away easily.  Remove the steamer tray of tamales from the heat for a few minutes to set.

For the best textured tamales, let them cool completely, then re-steam about 15 minutes to heat through.

Serve tamales opened up on a plate with a drizzle of the crème anglaise, and perhaps a few toasted pepitas.


For the crème anglaise

To make the custard. Set a fine strainer over a medium bowl and set the bowl in a shallow container of ice water.

Into a 2-quart saucepan, pour in the cream or milk. Split the vanilla beans and scrape the seeds into the milk. Add the bean pods as well. Simmer over low heat until small bubbles appear around the rim, approximately 5 minutes.

In another bowl, whisk ½ cup of the cooled ancho chile simple syrup and egg yolks just until combined. Whisk in half of the hot half-and-half in a thin stream. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sauce has thickened slightly, 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately strain the sauce into the bowl in the cold ice water bath to stop the cooking. Serve right away or refrigerate until chilled.


Notes and Instructions

Recipe and photo credit: Alice Krause