Mini tamale muffins

Tamales made easy

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Tamales are delicious, but oh-so-time-consuming! You can cook them up in a flash by making them into mini tamale muffins.

In Texas, we love our tamales. The problem is, even though they're really easy, it's pretty much an all-day job. These mini tamale muffins are quick to make and small enough for the perfect bite. They make a great appetizer, but you can also make them as a fun and easy-to-eat dinner option on movie night.

Mini tamale muffins recipe

Yields 40-48


  • Oil or butter (for sautéing)
  • 1/3 cup yellow or white onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground pork or beef
  • 2 packets taco seasoning
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 cups masa harina (corn flour, i.e., Maseca) 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/3 cups beef stock
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening, melted
  • Hot sauce (optional) 
  • 1-2 ounces cotija cheese
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • Fresh cilantro (optional)


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, preheat a small amount of oil or butter. Add the onions and sauté them until they just begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about a minute).
  2. Add the ground meat, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until well browned and no longer pink, crumbling the meat with your spoon as you go. Drain the meat mixture briefly on a paper towel-lined plate, then return the mixture to the pan.
  3. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning, the tomato paste and the water, then return it to the burner and cook it until the water is absorbed. Set aside.
  4. To make the masa de maíz (corn flour dough), Use a whisk to mix the masa harina, baking powder, salt and 1-1/2 tablespoons of taco seasoning (more or less to taste — this makes a very mildly seasoned dough, so if you like more flavor, you'll want more).
  5. Add the broth and mix until it becomes crumbly. Then add the melted shortening and mix it by hand until it comes together as a dough (do not over mix). Roll the mixture into a ball. Keep it covered with a damp towel while you're not using it so it doesn't dry out. If the mixture is sticky, you can refrigerate it for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  6. To put the muffins together, grease a mini muffin tin. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  7. Roll about 2 to 3 heaping teaspoons of the mixture into a small ball and place it into the greased muffin tin. The size of your dough ball depends on your preferred meat to dough ratio. Tamale dough doesn't rise, so what you see is what you get! But note that you're not steaming them, so the dough will be a bit drier than you're used to when it comes out of the oven.
  8. Use your fingers or the back of a small measuring spoon to press it into a cup, coming up the sides of the muffin cup, trying to make sure there aren't large holes (small cracks and holes will appear as you cook, and that's OK). Continue this process until all of the cups are full. Remember to roll the balls, replace the damp towel, press and repeat. The longer the dough is exposed to air, the drier it gets, which can cause it to crack.
  9. Spoon a little of the meat mixture into each cup and bake them for 15 to 20 minutes or until the dough is cooked through and the meat is just a bit crusty on top.
  10. Remove the muffins from the oven and allow them to cool slightly on a wire rack. When cool enough to handle, carefully pry the cups from the muffin cups with a knife or spoon and place them on a serving plate.
  11. Top them with a little hot sauce (if desired), crumbled cotija, green onion and cilantro (if desired).

More Mexican-inspired recipes

Christmas tamales recipe
Mexican street corn
Mole-crusted steak gorditas with avocado smash

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix the Fish. You can follow her on Twitter @HireHeather.