Update December 22, 2021: This recipe is now available in Web Story format with video instructions! You can view it here.
Cinco de Mayo is coming up – and while I don’t exactly have a vested interest in commemorating the military victories of our neighbors to the south, I will take any excuse to appreciate delicious Mexican food.
I absolutely love tamales, and from the moment I first read about steaming them in a pressure cooker via this epic Mexican feast on hippressurecooking, I’ve been eager to try out a big batch in my Instant Pot.
Basically… excuse to eat Mexican food + excuse to play with Instant Pot = TAMALE PARTY, AMIGOS.
Making tamales is sort of a big production, but I think it’s perfect dinner party material. Last weekend I had a couple of friends over, and we treated it as our activity for the evening. Before they arrived, I soaked the corn husks, prepped some tasty fillings, and set everything up on the table along with some chips + guac and festive drinks. After a quick lesson, everyone gets to have fun folding up little packages of dinner while chatting and snacking.
With Instant Pot (or another pressure cooker) it’s much easier to pull this off, because the cooking process is so much faster and totally hands-off. Cooking my batches took no more than 45 minutes from first button press to full natural release. With a traditional steamer, the masses may start to get restless during the 1.5+ hours the tamales will need to cook. But under pressure, once your batch is folded and loaded into the pot, just pour your guests another cocktail and dinner will be ready before you know it!
For our fillings, I decided to offer both meaty and vegetarian options. The veggie filling was finely diced and sauteed zucchini, onion, and Anaheim pepper, mixed up with crumbled queso fresco (yum!). The meat was Smitten Kitchen’s southwestern pulled brisket, which was amazing, and I made it in Instant Pot, too! Only 70 minutes for perfectly tender brisket versus 8-10 hours in the original slow-cooker recipe!
And if you’re going through the trouble to cook tamales, definitely make a huge batch, because they freeze flawlessly. We sent our friends home with leftovers to enjoy, and we stowed away a big bag in our freezer too.
Don’t miss my next post, in which I share the perfect make-ahead dessert for your tamale party: Horchata Sorbet!!
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Instant Pot Tamales
- dried corn husks soaked in hot water
- masa harina dough use your favorite recipe, purchased dough, or the basic Masa Dough below
- savory fillings of your choice
- 1 cup water
- 6 cups dry masa harina
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup avocado oil or fat of your choice, eg. lard, butter, corn oil
- 3-4 cups chicken broth
Prepare Masa Dough:
- In a large bowl, combine masa harina, baking powder, and salt. Mix well, then mix in your choice of fat. Slowly pour in the broth or water a bit at a time, while stirring – adding just enough to make a soft, pliable dough.
- For each tamale, set a soaked corn husk on a flat surface. Scoop about 1/3 cup of masa dough onto the wider top end of the husk, and spread it into an even layer about 1/2 inch thick, in a rectangular shape tightly bordering the top edge of the husk. Leave at least 1-2 inches of corn husk uncovered on the left and right sides of the dough, and ample space to the bottom of the dough to allow room to fold over the husk to contain the filling.
- Spoon about two tablespoons of your filling onto the masa, arranging it along the center of the dough from the top to bottom of the slab. Pick up one (left or right) edge of the corn husk, and use it to fold one side of the masa dough over to the center of the filling. Set down the first edge of the corn husk and repeat with the other edge; use the husk to firmly fold over the second side of the masa dough, and press down to join a solid layer of dough covering the filling. After the tamale is formed, gently but tightly wrap the left and right edge of the corn husk around the tamale, then fold the bottom of the corn husk up to close the package. Set the tamale seam-side-down while continuing to fold the rest.
Pressure Cook Tamales:
- Pour 1 cup water into Instant Pot and place the trivet rack. Arrange the tamales, open-side-up, vertically in the pressure cooker. Lean them against the sides of the pot and prop them up against each other to maximize your capacity, but leave a small amount of empty space to allow enough airflow for the pot to properly pressurize and the tamales to cook evenly.
- Close the lid and set the valve to sealing position. Press “Steam” and adjust the time to 25 minutes. Let the tamales come to pressure and cook. When the timer rings after cooking, wait for the pressure indicator to release naturally for at least 10 minutes before opening the lid and serving.