Guest Blogger + Vegan Cumin Zucchini & Cinnamon Yam Tamales = Honorary Mexican

IMG_0593I believe I have enough Mexican friends and eat enough Mexican food and live close enough to Mexico to be an honorary Mexican. I’m super excited about this post. My beautiful friend, Nicole, and I made vegan tamales the other day. Nicole is my forever foodie friend, and here is her guest blog post:

The idea of making some vegan tamales came around last year when I ate the baby from the King Cake. Well, I think it was a hard bean that represented “the baby.” For those who are not aware of these barbaric ways, a King Cake or Rosca de Reyes is typically made from Christmas Eve to Epiphany, when the three Kings (Wise Men) came to visit baby Jesus. There is a trinket put in the cake, sometimes it is a tiny ceramic baby baked in the bread, sometimes it is a hard bean. The person who finds the “prize” must then host the next party or provide the family with tamales (and atole). I had a year to complete this task and now that 2013 is hot on our heels, I finally made the tamales!

This is not the traditional recipe, but it is an amalgam of what I’ve read, eaten and desire. My friend is vegetarian and I wanted to make sure that she could eat them.  The best thing about these little corn husk presents are the juicy kernels of fresh, sweet corn. There’s an ongoing debate about lard, people. I replaced the traditional lard with coconut oil. And it was goooood.


  • Vegan Masa (makes about 15 mid sized tamales)
  • 4 c. masa harina (corn flour)
  • 2½c. dissolved “Not Beef” Vegan Beef Bouillon Cube in water
  • 1 c. coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ c. fresh corn kernels


Cumin Zucchini

  • ½  c. red onion, diced
  • 1 c. zucchini, diced
  • 1 c. medley of yellow, red, and orange bell peppers, diced
  • ½ c. black beans
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Cumin (to taste)


Cinnamon Yam

  • 1 c. yam, diced
  • 1 c. fresh corn kernels
  • ½ c. red onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Cinnamon (to taste)



  • Mixer (we used a standing mixer with a blender blade)
  • Hands
  • Mixing bowls
  • Frying pan
  • Big pot to steam
  • A steam contraption so the tamales do not boil at the bottom
  • Soaked corn husks in hot water for 45 min- one hour

Our makeshift steamer


First, I would make sure that I get my corn husks soaking in some warm-hot water. You can already preselect the sizes to make sure that you’ll have large enough husks to hold such deliciousness. Make sure that they are completely immersed. Also, dissolve the bouillon cube in at least 2 ½ c. of water to make the vegan broth.


Then, I would have someone industrious and with a keen eye for detail dice up your mise en place: all the fillings. Saute the ingredients for each filling separately with a tablespoon of grapeseed oil on medium heat. I do not measure salt or spices, put in what your palate likes, tasting after each addition. However, take care to caramelize the Cinnamon Yam mixture, letting it bring out its natural sweetness slowly. Then add the cinnamon near the end. Put the fillings aside for assembly.

Making Masa:

In a standing mixer, or with buff arms and a big stick, put in the flour, salt, and coconut oil and blend on a low setting until it resembles something like coarse meal. Then gradually add the broth until in your hands it resembles play-dough. My way to test: take a tablespoon of the mixture, flatten it over your flattened fingers about a ¼ in. thick and wiggle your fingers to see if it bends or breaks. You want it to bend, but not with too much liquid where it is mushy.  Add the fresh corn and blend it in.

Assembling Tamales:

With your best corn husks, dry them with a towel and put about  ⅓- ½ c. or so of the masa and flatten in about ¼ in. thickness, evenly, in the middle out to the sides like a squat rectangle or square. Add the mixture like a strip down the middle of the masa following the length of the corn husk. With the husk, wrap the masa around and push to seal it— fold it like a letter, length-wise. Then fold the bottom up, press to seal the masa on the bottom, make a tie out of some long strips of husk to keep it closed. At the top, you can keep it open, but press the top masa to close it up, too.

IMG_0577 - Version 2

Put your assembled tamales, standing upright, in a big pot. Steam for about 1 hour. 


How to know when they’re done: when you pull them out, let them set for a minute, pull the husk at the open end and it should easily pull away from the masa. You can eat them immediately, refrigerate for a week, or freeze them and eat them any time. (I would try to eat them before they start tasting like freezer, though.) Add salsa, guacamole, or any additional condiments that make these tamales sing for you.





This entry was posted in Comfort Food, Dinner, Guest Blogging, Vegan and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Guest Blogger + Vegan Cumin Zucchini & Cinnamon Yam Tamales = Honorary Mexican

  1. Oh my gosh! So ambitious!! I love tamales but alas, am very lazy. What beautiful tamales you and Nicole made!

  2. Sophie33 says:

    Waw! What an amazing, tasty & alternative recipe! I love it all! 🙂 Great food!

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