It's the holidays and you know what that means. Food! Lots and lots of food. Tamales are a big tradition for my family, but I've started trying to stick more to my paleo diet lately. That means no corn for me. I know, I know, it's utter blasphemy. Fortunately, I figured out how to make the BEST paleo tamales ever!
The “masa” for my paleo tamales is made with a velvety combination of pumpkin seeds and coconut flour. The texture is spot-on, and then I impart tons of flavor with salsa verde and smooth, soft, golden butter.
Why Paleo Tamales Matter
We eat tamales during Las Posadas, a tradition in which we celebrate the days leading up to Christmas at different homes around the neighborhood. My family celebrated this in a HUGE way with our old church in Washington state, having meals at different members' homes with piñatas and living nativities and pageants reenacting the story of Joseph and Mary. The community where we live now tends to put more emphasis on Christmas Eve, but the whole week still holds a special place in my heart. It's tradition, and it's important to me.
The best part is that my whole family gobbled up these paleo tamales and they totally didn't know the difference. I'm excited to be able to celebrate right along with them!
- 36 dried corn husks, soaked overnight
- 1-1/3 cups coconut flour
- 1 cup pumpkin seed flour (you can simply grind pumpkin seeds)
- ¾ cup tapioca flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1-and-a-half (16-ounce) jars HERDEZ salsa verde
- 2 cups shredded chicken
- Beat together coconut flour, pumpkin seed flour, tapioca powder and baking powder. Slowly incorporate butter and salsa. Set aside.
- Spoon 1-2 Tbsp of the mixture into the middle of each corn husk. Top with 1 Tbsp chicken.
- Fold the sides in and then fold the bottom of the tamale up like a burrito.
- Place, open end up, in a steamer basket in a pot full of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low to steam the tamales for about 2 hours. Let cool.
Tamales are daunting to a lot of people for one of two reasons. First, they're afraid that the process is going to require a bazillion ingredients. We solve that problem with the addition of a bunch of HERDEZ salsa verde. That takes care of the flavor and the moisture all in one fell swoop.
Second, people aren't sure how to fold tamales. There are a TON of different ways to fold a tamale, and I won't pretend to be an expert. My family tells me that I put too much meat and not enough masa on mine. I like meat, what can I say? Regardless, the concept isn't rocket science and you don't need fancy equipment to do it. Lay a corn husk out with the narrow end pointing towards you. Spoon masa (or paleo tamale mixture) into the center of the wide end – the area furthest from you. Fold one side over the paleo tamale mixture, fold the other side over that, and fold the bottom up. Place it open end up in a steamer basket.
I tried out a lot of different flour combinations for my paleo tamales, and found that pumpkin seed flour is just the thing to give it the perfect texture. This ingredient is a little hard to come by, so you can simply grind up pumpkin seeds in a food processor. Don't over-grind, though, or you could wind up with pumpkin seed butter.
Mmmmmm, pumpkin seed butter.
It's kind of challenging to tell when paleo tamales are done cooking, so I suggest removing one with tongs, letting it sit for a few minutes, and then opening it up to make sure that the masa mixture has set.