"Beefy" Vegan Tamales

Hot tamales!

No, not those.

Hot Tamales Candy

(Bleck. I don’t know what they put in those things, but they do not taste like cinnamon to me.)

Naw, naw, I’m talking these hot, “beefy” vegan tamales…

…steaming fresh and wrapped up like a gift of food should be.

"Beefy" Vegan Tamales

It’s a present inside of a present!

Okay now, before I continue, on behalf of my mother, let me set one thing straight. The word “tamales” (pronounced ta-MAH-less) is the plural of “tamal” (ta-MAL). There is no such thing as a “tamale” (or ta-MAW-lay or ta-MAW-lee). Now repeat after me: “One tamal, two tamales. One tamal, two tamales…” We cool? Good, moving on…

Tamales are arguably the most traditional Christmas dish in Mexican culture.

They consist of masa (corn flour) dough filled with desired mixture, wrapped up in corn husks, then steamed to perfection (when done correctly).  Growing up, someone in the family inevitably made a big batch to share almost every year around this time. Even the neighbors and coworkers sometimes had extra to go around (the neighbors next door would steam theirs in banana leaves… mmm what a treat).

Savory tamales were typically filled with shredded beef, pork, or chicken simmered in red, green, or smoky mole sauce. There were also cheese-filled tamales with “rajas” (sliced peppers), but I never liked those. And as if tamales for dinner weren’t enough, we also had sweet tamales for dessert. Usually we had pineapple tamales studded with plump raisins, but on a few rare (and cherished) occasions, someone would offer strawberry tamales.

"Beefy" Vegan Tamales

As you might have guessed, there isn’t a single, uniform, “master” tamal recipe. Every abuelita, doñita, hermana, tía, prima, commadre, and vecino* has their own style – some better than others. Some tamales I’ve tried had bland fillings, others were really dry or, worse still, super greasy (the dough is traditionally made with lard, after all).

*Didn’t mean to leave out any other males from the list; it’s just that the only tamales I recall eating that were made by a man were those made by my restaurant-owner vecino (neighbor). 

I, personally, had never made tamales of any kind until this week. As much as I love cooking, the idea of attempting such a delicate and time-consuming dish on my own just never appealed to me. But, this being my first Christmas as a vegan and not wanting to miss out on traditional holiday food motivated me to make some blessed-good vegan tamales. Challenge accepted.

These vegan tamales are moist and not at all greasy.

The protein-packed filling is a little spicy (but not too much) and has lots of Mexican-style flavor that reminds me of the way beef tamales are seasoned. Plus, you can feel good knowing that these are 100% cholesterol-free, lower in fat and sodium, and none of our animal friends were harmed in the process. Amen, to that!

"Beefy" Vegan Tamales

Happy Xmas! 🙂

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