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Tamales de Vera Cruz (Zacahuil)

Tamales de Vera Cruz

The tamale dough is interesting as it contains ground almonds. The filling is two types of chile peppers and turkey. Then all are wrapped in banana leaves, then steamed.



  • 1 dried ancho chile pepper
  • 1 dried chipotle chile pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup canned fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground hoja santa leaf or 2 tablespoons chopped fennel leaves
  • 2 cups finely chopped cooked turkey


  • 1/2 cup lard
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1/4 cup ground blanched almonds
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chicken broth


  • 24 (8 x 6-inch) banana leaves


  1. Filling: In an ungreased medium skillet toast ancho and chipotle chile peppers over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until peppers are fragrant, turning frequently. Let cool.
  2. Remove stems, seeds and membranes from peppers.* Tear peppers into pieces. Place pepper pieces in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder. Cover and process until finely ground. Set aside.
  3. In the same skillet heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Sprinkle oil with flour; cook and stir until mixture is light brown. Carefully add broth and tomatoes; cook and stir over medium heat until smooth. Stir in hoja santa or fennel leaves. Stir in turkey and ground chile peppers. Set aside.
  4. Dough: iIn a large bowl beat lard and baking powder with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes or until smooth. In a medium bowl combine masa harina, almonds, and salt. Alternately add masa mixture and broth to lard mixture, beating until mixture resembles a thick creamy paste.
  5. Assembly: To assemble each tamale, spread about 2 tablespoons of the tamale dough into a 4x3-inch rectangle in the center of a banana leaf rectangle, so long sides of dough run lengthwise on the banana leaf. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling down center of the dough rectangle. Bring a long edge of the banana leaf over to the opposite side of the filling and roll up layers. (If banana leaves break, press pieces together to seal.) Twist or fold under ends of leaves. Tie twisted ends with banana leaf strips or 100% cotton kitchen string.
  6. To steam, stand tamales upright in a steamer basket in a larrge tamale pot Don't pack tamales too tightly, but fill the space. Pour at least 1-1/2 inches of water in the bottom of the pan. Bring to boiling; cover. Reduce heat to medium-low. Steam for 45 to 60 minutes or until dough pulls away from banana leaves and is spongy and cooked through.
  7. To serve, transfer tamales to a serving platter. Carefully unwrap tamales before eating. If desired, serve with salsa.

Photo credit: (c) Can Stock Photo / lunamarina

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