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It’s that time of year again when the cold starts creeping in and we yearn for a nice mug of hot chocolate and a tamal. If you have never tried a sweet tamal you are in for a treat. These vegan chocolate tamales are made by beating vegan butter and sugar, adding corn masa flour, ground Mexican chocolate, cinnamon, and warm almond milk. It is filled with bittersweet chocolate chips and chopped pecans. The best tamal is a warm tamal just out of the steamer, and the scent of cinnamon and the melted bittersweet chocolate interior of this tamal will surely conquer your taste buds.
We love tamales in this house both savory and sweet. Our favorites are the red chile jackfruit tamales, potato adobo tamales, and strawberry tamales. We love them so much that two years ago I self-published an ebook to help you make all kinds of vegan tamales. The book is called Vegan Tamales Unwrapped and contains over 18 different vegan tamal recipes for you to enjoy this Christmas season, with a step-by-step picture guide to making the dough, wrapping the tamales, and placing them in the steamer. The recipes include both savory and sweet tamales.
Recently, while doing some research on tamales I read that there is very little evidence that tortillas were part of the Mayan diet, at least not until 900 AD. However, tamales can be found in the Aztec and Maya civilizations as far back as 7000 BC according to their hieroglyphs. It is thought that they were often carried by warriors, hunters, and travelers since they are the perfect portable food individually wrapped in corn husks. Who would have thought???
The Recipe: Vegan Chocolate Tamales
- If you would like to make these tamales with fresh masa, replace the masa harina with 2 lbs. of fresh masa.
- I used Ibarra chocolate for this recipe, but there are many other vegan options.
- You can also make these with coconut oil or vegetable shortening.
- If you would like to make these without fat, use unsweetened pumpkin puree to replace the fat.
Vegan Chocolate Tamales
Vegan Chocolate tamales filled with roasted pecans and chocolate chips.
- 1 cup (8 oz.) Vegan Butter, room temperature
- 1/3 cup Sugar, granulated
- 4 cups (1 lb. 2oz) Masa harina
- 1.5 tsp. Baking powder
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 1/2 cups (9 oz.) Mexican chocolate, ground
- ½ tsp. Cinnamon, ground
- 2 cups Almond Milk, unsweetened, warm
- 2 cups Water, warm
- ½ cup Pecans, chopped
- 2 cups Chocolate chips, bittersweet
- 30 Corn husks dried
To prepare the husks:
- Soak the corn husks in hot water, in a large pot or in your kitchen sink. Place a plate over them to weigh them down so they are completely submerged. Let them soak for at least an hour.
To make the dough:
- Chop the Mexican chocolate into small pieces and grind to a powder in the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate the chocolate with a standard kitchen grater.
- Beat the butter and sugar, on medium-high speed, with an electric mixer, until the butter has doubled in size and is nice and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the Mexican chocolate, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and beat for 1 minute to incorporate into the butter.
- Add half of the masa harina then add the almond milk. After it is completely incorporated, add the other half of masa harina and water. Beat at low speed, until thoroughly mixed. It should have the consistency of a thick cake batter. If necessary add more water until you reach that consistency.
- For lighter and fluffier tamales, let the dough rest for an hour in the refrigerator. Remove the dough from the fridge and rebeat it, adding enough liquid to get it to the consistency it had before.
- Remove the corn husks from the water and set on paper towels.
To set up the steamer:
Fill the bottom with water making sure the water is not touching the steamer rack. Line the rack and sides of the steamer pot with corn husks. Set aside.
To wrap the tamales:
- Pull 24 pencil thin strips off of the corn husks and set aside. Take a husk and dry off the excess water on it with a paper towel. Place the husk in your hand with the tapered side away from you and the smooth side up. Using a spoon, spread 2-3 tbsp. of the dough (¼ inch thick) onto the corn husk, forming a 3 - 4 inch square. Leave a border of at least 3/4 inch on each side of the square.
- Place 5-10 chocolate chips, and a sprinkle of chopped pecans in the center of the dough. Bring the two long sides of the corn husk together, this will cause the masa to surround the filling, and roll them in the same direction around the tamal. (If the husk is too small, fold one of the long sides towards the center, and then fold the other long side on top.) Fold down the empty tapered section of the corn husk, forming a closed bottom. This will leave the top of the tamal open. Tie with a corn husk strip to secure the bottom of the tamal.
- Place the tamal in the steamer vertically leaning against the side of the steamer, with the folded part of the tamal on the bottom. Repeat this process until you run out of dough and all the tamales are in the steamer. Cover them with a layer of corn husks. If the steamer is not full, fill the empty spaces with more corn husks. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Turn heat down to medium and cook for 40 minutes. Check the tamales, when they separate easily from the corn husk it means they are done. If they are not done, steam for 10 more minutes and check again.
- Remove steamer from the heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Uncover and let cool. Don’t be alarmed if the tamales seem really soft. As they cool, they will firm up.
If you would like to make these with fresh masa, replace the masa harina with 2 lbs. of fresh masa. You can also use 8 oz. of coconut oil or 8 oz of cooked, unsweetened pumpkin to replace the fat.