Tamales‌ ‌Rancheros‌ ‌Veracruz‌ ‌Style‌

Photo By: Gabriela Cárdenas​​

Día‌ ‌de‌ ‌la‌ ‌Candelaria‌ ‌or‌ ‌Candlemas‌ ‌is‌ ‌celebrated‌ ‌every‌ ‌2nd‌ ‌of‌ ‌February‌, which ‌means‌ ‌one‌ ‌thing‌ ‌for‌ ‌every‌ ‌Mexican:‌ ‌tamales!‌

‌There‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌tradition‌ ‌of‌ ‌having‌ ‌a‌ ‌tamal‌ ‌party‌ ‌or‌ ‌“tamaliza”‌ ‌on‌ ‌this‌ ‌day.‌ ‌The‌ ‌lucky‌ ‌host?‌ ‌The‌ ‌person‌ ‌who‌ ‌got‌ ‌the‌ ‌baby‌ ‌Jesus‌ ‌inside‌ ‌the‌ ‌“rosca‌ ‌de‌ ‌reyes''‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌6th‌ ‌of‌ ‌January.‌ ‌Rosca‌ ‌de‌ ‌Reyes‌ ‌is‌ ‌a‌ ‌sweet‌ ‌bread‌ ‌with‌ ‌hidden‌ ‌plastic‌ ‌figurines‌ ‌representing‌ ‌baby‌ ‌Jesus.‌ ‌‌

Whether‌ ‌you‌ ‌are‌ ‌craving‌ ‌for‌ ‌tamales‌ ‌or‌ ‌you‌ ‌are‌ ‌the‌ ‌lucky‌ ‌one‌ ‌hosting‌ ‌an‌ ‌online‌ ‌tamaliza,‌ ‌this‌ ‌recipe‌ ‌is‌ ‌for‌ ‌you.‌ ‌Every‌ ‌bite‌ ‌of‌ ‌these‌ ‌tamales‌ ‌reminds‌ ‌me‌ ‌of‌ ‌Veracruz,‌ ‌where‌ ‌this‌ ‌recipe‌ ‌is‌ ‌originally‌ ‌from,‌ ‌I‌ ‌hope‌ ‌you‌ ‌like‌ ‌it‌ ‌as‌ ‌much‌ ‌as‌ ‌I‌ ‌enjoyed‌ ‌making‌ ‌these!‌ ‌‌

These‌ ‌tamales‌ ‌take‌ ‌a‌ ‌bit‌ ‌longer‌ ‌but‌ ‌believe‌ ‌me,‌ ‌it's‌ ‌worth it,‌ ‌and‌ ‌I‌ ‌am‌ ‌sure‌ ‌these‌ ‌will‌ ‌become‌ ‌a‌ ‌family‌ ‌favorite!‌ 

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Tamales Rancheros Veracruz Style

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes

Yields: 15 medium size tamales


  1. The‌ ‌original‌ ‌tamales‌ ‌are‌ ‌made‌ ‌with‌ ‌lard‌ ‌instead‌ ‌of‌ ‌shortening,‌ ‌you‌ ‌can‌ ‌use‌ ‌lard‌ ‌if‌ ‌you‌ ‌prefer,‌ ‌the‌ ‌amount‌ ‌will‌ ‌remain‌ ‌the‌ ‌same‌ ‌as‌ ‌the‌ ‌one‌ ‌in‌ ‌this‌ ‌recipe.‌ ‌

  2. If‌ ‌you‌ ‌are‌ ‌using‌ ‌frozen‌ ‌banana‌ ‌leaves,‌ ‌allow‌ ‌them‌ ‌to‌ ‌unthaw‌ ‌before‌ ‌washing‌ ‌and‌ ‌preparing‌ ‌them.‌ ‌ ‌

  3. If‌ ‌you‌ ‌have‌ ‌access‌ ‌to‌ ‌fresh‌ ‌acuyo‌ ‌leaves‌ ‌or‌ ‌hoja‌ ‌santa,‌ ‌use‌ ‌it‌ ‌instead‌ ‌of‌ ‌dried.‌ ‌

  4. Adjust‌ ‌the‌ ‌amount‌ ‌of‌ ‌chiles‌ ‌per‌ ‌your‌ ‌taste.‌ ‌If‌ ‌you‌ ‌have‌ ‌less‌ ‌tolerance‌ ‌to‌ ‌heat,‌ ‌add‌ ‌one‌ ‌more‌ ‌tomato‌ ‌and‌ ‌add‌ ‌1‌ ‌tablespoon‌ ‌of‌ ‌vinegar‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌water‌ ‌you‌ ‌use‌ ‌when‌ ‌boiling‌ ‌the‌ ‌chiles,‌ ‌this‌ ‌will‌ ‌cut‌ ‌the‌ ‌heat‌.‌ ‌

  5. Making‌ ‌tamales‌ ‌takes‌ ‌time,‌ ‌this‌ ‌is‌ ‌why‌ ‌I‌ ‌have‌ ‌divided‌ ‌this‌ ‌recipe‌ ‌in‌ ‌steps‌ ‌so‌ ‌you‌ ‌can‌ ‌plan‌ ‌ahead.‌ ‌For‌ ‌instance,‌ ‌you‌ ‌could‌ ‌make‌ ‌the‌ ‌sauce‌ ‌one‌ ‌day‌ ‌in‌ ‌advance‌ ‌and‌ ‌have ‌the‌ ‌ingredients‌ ‌ready‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌next‌ ‌day.‌ ‌

Photo By: Gabriela Cárdenas​​


  • (Conversions are approximate)

  • 1 cup and 2 tablespoons (250 grams)‌ ‌of‌ ‌shortening‌ ‌ ‌

  • 8 ¾ cups‌ ‌(1‌ ‌kilogram)‌ ‌of‌ ‌masa‌ ‌ ‌

  • 1‌ ‌cup‌ ‌of‌ ‌chicken‌ ‌broth‌ ‌

  • 3 ½ cups‌ ‌(300‌ ‌grams)‌ ‌chicken‌ ‌breast‌ ‌boiled‌ ‌and‌ ‌shredded‌ ‌ ‌

  • 4‌ ‌dried‌ ‌chipotle‌ ‌chiles‌ ‌(deseeded‌ ‌and‌ ‌deveined)‌ ‌ ‌

  • 1‌ ‌dried‌ ‌guajillo‌ ‌chile ‌(deseeded‌ ‌and‌ ‌deveined)‌ ‌ ‌

  • ‌3‌ ‌dried‌ ‌morita‌ ‌chiles‌ ‌(deseeded‌ ‌and‌ ‌deveined)‌ ‌ ‌

  • 3‌ ‌garlic‌ ‌cloves‌ ‌

  • ¼‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌white‌ ‌onion‌ ‌

  • 2‌ ‌tomatoes‌ ‌

  • 2‌ ‌peppercorns‌ ‌

  • 2‌ ‌corns‌ ‌of‌ ‌allspice‌ ‌ ‌

  • 1‌ ‌chicken‌ ‌stock‌ ‌cube‌ ‌

  • 1‌ ‌tablespoon ‌of‌ ‌dried‌ ‌hoja‌ ‌santa‌ ‌(acuyo)‌ ‌

  • 1‌ ‌teaspoon‌ ‌baking‌ ‌powder‌ ‌

  • Salt‌ ‌to‌ ‌taste‌ ‌

  • Water‌ ‌as‌ ‌required‌ ‌ ‌

  • 2‌ ‌tablespoons ‌of‌ ‌oil‌ ‌

  • 20‌ ‌banana‌ ‌leaves‌ ‌cleaned,‌ ‌dried‌ ‌and‌ ‌cut‌ ‌in‌ ‌rectangles‌, ‌approximately‌ ‌6x8‌ ‌inches (15.2x20.3 centimeters)

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Preparing the salsa for tamales

  1. Fill‌ ‌a‌ ‌medium-sized‌ ‌pot‌ ‌with‌ ‌enough‌ ‌water‌ ‌to‌ ‌cover‌ ‌the‌ ‌tomatoes‌ ‌and‌ ‌dried‌ ‌chiles,‌ ‌bring‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌boil‌ ‌and‌ ‌keep‌ ‌aside.‌ ‌
  2. In‌ ‌a‌ ‌small‌ ‌pan,‌ ‌heat‌ ‌1‌ ‌tablespoon‌ ‌of‌ ‌oil‌ ‌and‌ ‌once‌ ‌it's‌ ‌hot,‌ ‌add‌ ‌the‌ ‌garlic‌ ‌cloves‌ ‌and‌ ‌onion.‌ ‌Fry‌ ‌until‌ ‌golden‌ ‌brown.‌ ‌
  3. Remove‌ ‌the‌ ‌boiled‌ ‌chiles‌ ‌and‌ ‌tomatoes‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌pan,‌ ‌let‌ ‌them‌ ‌cool‌ ‌down‌ ‌and‌ ‌once‌ ‌room‌ ‌temperature,‌ ‌add‌ ‌them‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌blender‌ ‌with‌ ‌1‌ ‌cup‌ ‌of‌ ‌water,‌ ‌the‌ ‌onion‌ ‌and‌ ‌garlic‌ ‌previously‌ ‌fried‌ ‌and‌ ‌1‌ ‌cube‌ ‌of‌ ‌chicken‌ ‌stock.‌ ‌Blend‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌smooth‌ ‌paste.‌ 
  4. Pass‌ ‌the‌ ‌sauce‌ ‌through‌ ‌a‌ ‌sieve,‌ ‌the‌ ‌sauce‌ ‌should‌ ‌have‌ ‌a‌ ‌silky‌ ‌texture.‌ ‌ ‌
  5. Set‌ ‌the‌ ‌salsa‌ ‌aside.‌

Photo By: Gabriela Cárdenas​​

Preparing the masa

  1. Transfer‌ ‌your‌ ‌masa‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌large‌ ‌bowl‌ ‌and‌ ‌start‌ ‌adding‌ ‌one‌ ‌cup‌ ‌of‌ ‌water‌ ‌in‌ ‌batches.‌ ‌
  2. Dissolve‌ ‌the‌ ‌masa‌ ‌with‌ ‌your‌ ‌hands,‌ ‌adding‌ ‌water‌ ‌as‌ ‌required.‌ ‌You‌ ‌should‌ ‌liquify‌ ‌the‌ ‌masa‌ ‌until‌ ‌you‌ ‌have‌ ‌reached‌ ‌a‌ ‌thick‌ ‌paste‌ ‌which‌ ‌is‌ ‌smooth‌ ‌and‌ ‌lumpless.‌ ‌
  3. It‌ ‌takes‌ ‌around‌ ‌15‌ ‌minutes‌ ‌to‌ ‌dissolve‌ ‌the‌ ‌masa‌ ‌completely.‌ ‌
  4. Add‌ ‌one‌ ‌cup‌ ‌of‌ ‌chicken‌ ‌stock‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌large‌ ‌pot‌ ‌and‌ ‌bring‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌boil.‌ ‌Add‌ ‌the‌ ‌liquid‌ ‌masa‌ ‌mixture,‌ ‌constantly‌ ‌stirring‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌wooden‌ ‌spoon.‌ ‌
  5. After‌ ‌10‌ ‌minutes,‌ ‌add‌ ‌the‌ ‌dried‌ ‌acuyo‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌mixture‌ ‌and‌ ‌stir.‌ ‌Check‌ ‌if‌ ‌the‌ ‌masa‌ ‌needs‌ ‌salt‌ ‌and‌ ‌add‌ ‌if‌ ‌needed.‌ ‌
  6. Dissolve‌ ‌the‌ ‌shortening‌ ‌on‌ ‌a‌ ‌small‌ ‌saucepan‌ ‌until‌ ‌it‌ ‌reaches‌ ‌a‌ ‌liquid‌ ‌consistency.‌ ‌
  7. Add‌ ‌half‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌shortening‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌masa‌ ‌mixture‌ ‌constantly‌ ‌stirring.‌ ‌Let‌ ‌it‌ ‌cook‌ ‌for‌ ‌5‌ ‌further‌ minutes.‌ ‌
  8. Add‌ ‌the‌ ‌final‌ ‌batch‌ ‌of‌ ‌shortening‌ ‌and‌ ‌stir.‌ ‌If‌ ‌the‌ ‌mixture‌ ‌starts‌ ‌leaving‌ ‌the‌ ‌sides‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌pan,‌ ‌it‌ ‌means‌ ‌it's‌ ‌ready.‌ ‌The‌ ‌mixture‌ ‌should‌ ‌also‌ ‌have‌ ‌“ojitos”‌ ‌or‌ ‌little‌ ‌air‌ ‌bubbles‌ at ‌the‌ ‌bottom‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌pan.‌

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Preparing the banana leaves

  1. Pass‌ ‌the‌ ‌banana‌ ‌leaves‌ ‌directly‌ ‌through‌ ‌a‌ ‌medium‌ ‌flame.‌ ‌Be‌ ‌careful‌ ‌and‌ ‌avoid‌ ‌burning‌ ‌them,‌ ‌they‌ ‌just‌ ‌need‌ ‌around‌ ‌30‌ ‌seconds‌ ‌on‌ ‌each‌ ‌side‌ ‌as‌ ‌this‌ ‌will‌ ‌soften‌ ‌the‌ ‌leaves‌ ‌and‌ ‌folding‌ ‌the‌ ‌tamales‌ ‌will‌ ‌be‌ ‌easier.‌ ‌The‌ ‌leaves‌ ‌will‌ ‌become‌ ‌glossy.‌ ‌

  2. Use‌ ‌one‌ ‌banana‌ ‌leaf‌ ‌and‌ ‌cut‌ ‌strips‌ ‌of‌ ‌0.2‌ ‌inches‌ ‌(0.5‌ ‌centimeters)‌ ‌that‌ ‌will‌ ‌help‌ ‌you‌ ‌to‌ ‌tie‌ ‌the‌ ‌tamales‌ ‌before‌ ‌steaming‌ ‌them.‌ ‌

Photo By: Gabriela Cárdenas​​

Steaming the Tamales

  1. Add‌ ‌enough‌ ‌water‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌large‌ ‌pot,‌ ‌add‌ ‌a‌ ‌coin,‌ ‌this‌ ‌way‌ ‌you‌ ‌will‌ ‌know‌ ‌when‌ ‌the‌ ‌pot‌ ‌needs‌ ‌more‌ ‌water‌ ‌or‌ ‌if it ‌has‌ ‌evaporated.‌ ‌ ‌
  2. Add‌ ‌a‌ ‌steamer‌ ‌basket‌ ‌and‌ ‌place‌ ‌the‌ ‌tamales.‌ ‌
  3. Cover‌ ‌the‌ ‌pot‌ ‌with‌ ‌banana‌ ‌leaves.‌ ‌If‌ ‌you‌ ‌don't‌ ‌have‌ ‌enough‌ ‌banana‌ ‌leaves,‌ ‌you‌ ‌can‌ ‌use‌ ‌foil‌ ‌to‌ ‌cover‌ ‌the‌ ‌pot.‌ ‌
  4. Place‌ ‌the‌ ‌lid‌ ‌and‌ ‌steam‌ ‌for‌ ‌around‌ ‌2‌ ‌hours.‌ ‌If‌ ‌the‌ ‌pot‌ ‌needs‌ ‌more‌ ‌water,‌ ‌add‌ ‌it‌ ‌carefully‌ ‌as‌ ‌the‌ ‌pot‌ ‌will‌ ‌be‌ ‌extremely‌ ‌hot‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌steam‌ ‌could‌ ‌burn‌ ‌you.‌ ‌
  5. You‌ ‌can‌ ‌check‌ ‌if‌ ‌your‌ ‌tamales‌ ‌are‌ ‌cooked‌ ‌by‌ ‌carefully‌ ‌opening‌ ‌one.‌ ‌If‌ ‌the‌ ‌filling‌ ‌leaves‌ ‌the‌ ‌banana‌ ‌leaf‌ ‌easily,‌ ‌it‌ ‌means‌ ‌it‌ ‌is‌ ‌cooked.‌ ‌ ‌
  6. Serve‌ ‌warm‌ ‌and‌ ‌enjoy‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌side‌ ‌of‌ ‌black‌ ‌beans‌ ‌and‌ ‌more‌ ‌salsa.‌

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About the Author

Gabriela Cárdenas

Gaby is a passionate home cook from Mexico. Life took her to Mumbai, India where she fell in love with the country, the food and her husband Jasdeep. She is the brains behind @thepunjaxican, an Instagram account where she shares her favorite Indian and Mexican dishes with her own Punjaxican (Punjabi + Mexican) recipes as a homage to both ethnicities. Punjaxican is the type of fusion recipes she makes at home when they are “ni muy muy ni tan tan” Indian or Mexican.

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