How to Assemble and Wrap Tamales

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How to Assemble and Wrap Tamales, part of the tamale tutorial. Includes photo instructions for 5 tamale folding and tying techniques.

Most often, you'll be using dried corn husks to wrap your tamales. You can purchase these from Latin markets.

At least 30 minutes before assembling your tamales, soak the dried husks in hot water -- use a heavy plate or other object to keep the husks submerged. After soaking and before using, rinse the husks to remove any dirt or corn silk. Separate and stack the husks in a large bowl. To prevent the husks from drying out while working, cover the bowl with a clean, damp towel.

You can make ties to secure the wrappings by tearing a few of the husks, lengthwise into 1/4 inch strips. If you need longer ties, simply tie 2 or more strips together.

If you prefer to use banana leaves to wrap your tamales, look for fresh or frozen ones in well stocked Asian or Latin markets.

Where you place the filling on the husk will depend on the wrapping style you choose (see some of the most popular below), however, no matter how you tie them, the masa should always be spread on the smooth side of the corn husk. You'll use between 1/3 - 1/2 cup masa per tamale. Count on between 2-4 tablespoons of fillings/sauces per tamale, depending on the recipe you are making. When adding fillings and sauces, place them in the center of the masa before wrapping.

There are many ways to wrap tamales -- below are some of the most popular. I like to use a different tying style for each flavor of tamale I make, that way my guests can easily tell them apart.

Click the links below for these Tamales Tying Methods:

Page 2: Easy Foldover Method -- One Folding Method -- 3 Variations

Page 3: Double Tie Method

Page 4: Corunda Method

Tamales: Easy Foldover Method -- One Folding Method -- 3 Variations

This is probably the quickest and easiest way to fold a tamale. You can opt for a single tie or a double tie (as shown in the photos) or just fold it up place in the steamer without tying at all.

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1. Spread masa on the smooth side of a corn husk with the back of a spoon, keeping the masa on the upper half of the husk, as shown.

2. Spread sauce over the masa.

3. Add desired meat or tofu fillings.

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4. Fold the two longs sides of the husk towards the middle.

5. This is how your tamales should look at this point.

6. Fold the bottom part of the husk (the part without the masa spread on it) and fold up towards the top.

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7. If you don't paln on tying your tamale, it's now done and ready to be stood upright (otherwise the filling will fall out) in your steamer.

8. Alternately, you can fold up the bottom, then tie a single tie around the middle of the tamale, to hold the bottom flap in place.

9. Another option is to use 2 ties -- one in the middle, as in photo 8 and one trhat gathers up and closes the top of the tamale. In this case, since the filling is tied in, you can stack your tamales in the stemer instead of standing them upright.

Click Page 3 for Double Tie Tamale Tying Instructions

Tamale Tying -- Double Tie Method

While a little more time consuming, the double tie method looks great and really holds together well during the steaming process.

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1. Spread the masa on the smooth side of a corn husk, leaving at least 2 inches on each end. Add desired sauces and fillings, if you are using them in your recipe.

2. Fold the side of the tamale towards the center.

3. Twist each end and secure with a tie.

Click Page 4 for Corunda Method of Tying Tamales

Tamale Tying -- Corunda Method

This method of tying makes need little tamale bundles that sort of resemble the packs that hobos used to carry on sticks. Corundas usually have the fillings mixed right into the masa dough, although you could also use this tying method for other tamales as well, just add your sauce and fillings like we did in the foldover method.

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1. Spread the masa on the smooth side of a prepared corn husk, leaving at least 2 inches on top and 3 inches on the bottom without masa.

2. Fold in the sides of the corn husk.

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3. Fold the bottom of the husk up so that the bottom and top edges meet.

4. Tie a tie around the top of the bundle.

Fabulous Food Recommends: Tamales by Mark Miller, Stephan Pyles, and John Sedlar (2003,Wiley)

Click here for more great recipes and information about Tamales and discount ordering through