Sweet Raisin Tamales (Tamales Dulces)
These sweet raisin tamales soaked in a piloncillo and canela syrup are perfect as a sweet holiday treat! A tamal, swaddled in a corn husk, is the heart of all things Mexican. Opening one is like opening an intimate secret, a gift.
My grandma was always wearing an apron and in the kitchen cooking and dancing (when she thought no one was looking). She had an old transistor radio on top of her refrigerator and I used to love watching her turn up the volume when one of her favorite songs would play. She would sing and dance in her kitchen and I would pretend I wasn’t watching, but I was. It makes me smile now just picturing those sweet memories.
I always looked forward to Christmas and tamales – and I still do. It doesn’t feel like Christmas if the smell of tamales steaming is not lingering in the air.
My grandma not only made her legendary tamales filled with shredded pork simmered in a spicy red Chile sauce, but she also made tamales dulces (sweet tamales) filled with plump raisins and syrup made from piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar) and canela (cinnamon).
She wrapped these tamales uniquely to differentiate the two varieties – the spicy tamales were traditionally wrapped and the sweet tamales looked like miniature candies.
All the adults enjoyed the spicy tamales while the grandchildren loved her sweet tamales. A tamal, swaddled in a corn husk, is the heart of all things Mexican. Opening one is like opening an intimate secret, a gift.
Sweet Raisin Tamales (Tamales Dulces)
- 1 to 1/2 cups water, less water for sweeter tamales
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5 whole cloves
- 8 ounces piloncillo
Tamal Dough for Sweet Tamales
- 1/2 pound lard
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound fresh ground masa, unprepared for tamales
- 1/2 cup syrup
- 3/4 cup raisins, soaked in water for 30 minutes, and drained.
- Bring water with cinnamon stick, and cloves to a boil; remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 1/2 hour. Add piloncillo, on low heat, let the piloncillo melt. Remove from the heat, cover, and let cool.
- Place lard in a large stand mixer and mix until fluffy, scraping sides so the lard stays in the center of the mixing bowl. (The flat beater is the ideal accessory for mixing.) Add the baking powder and the salt to the lard and mix together.
- Add the masa and mix together. Slowly add the cooled syrup and raisins and fold into the masa and mix until combined.
- Use a deep pot or tamal steamer to steam tamales. If using a tamal steamer fill with water up to the fill line. Set the tamal rack over the water. Place tamales upright, with fold against the sides of the other tamales to keep them from unfolding. Cover pot with a tightly fitting lid. Set heat on high and bring to a boil, about 15 minutes. Lower heat and simmer for 1 to 1½ hours. Keep lid on tightly. To test if done, put one tamal on a plate and take off the corn husk. If it comes off without sticking to the tamal they are done.
Be sure to check out the published Muy Bueno cookbook for more tamal recipes.
14 Comments on “Sweet Raisin Tamales (Tamales Dulces)”
Enjoyed making them. Discovered too late that the pilloncillo did not completely dissolve so not very sweet but will make again.
Made this recipe today. But I used dried cranberries and added pecans. They were so delicious. This is a recipe I will continue to use.
Ok. Oui have tried and failed this recipe a few times. First time, I didn’t let the syrup cool enough. Is the masa supposed to be loose, like soup after mixing everything together? Am I supposed to use all the syrup? My Abulea made these. She died when I was young. And no one else made them so I am without assistance from my elder family. I cannot express how much it would mean to make these properly and share with my children. (I’ve been trying this recipe for the last 3 Christmas Eves. I’ve done trial and error receipes on my own for 6 years…at least. Something is always missing in the taste or the texture isn’t right.)
Tried this recipe and doubled it. Masa was way too greasy and didn’t hold it’s shape. Had to throw it all away.
I can’t find fresh masa in the Northeast. Will Maseca work?
Yes! Follow this recipe: https://muybuenocookbook.com/2018/12/tamal-dough-made-masa-harina/
I’m making the sweet tamales changed the ingredients a little I’ll wrap tonight then cook tomorrow.
How did it go?
I wish they distinguished the “syrup” as the combo of the poncillo syrup. I ended up putting real syrup in there then noticed the mixture was never mentioned again.
How many does this recipe make?
Hi Hannie — This recipe makes a small batch, about 12 to 17 small tamales.
Thank you for the recipe I made these for Christmas eve after craving them for a month. I added a bit pineapple but wished i had put more. I still loved the way the turned out delish.
These tamales sound wonderful. Not sure when, or if, I’ll get to make them, but I’m definitely saving the recipe.
Thank you for this post. Many years ago in San Diego, a friend’s mom prepared some for Christmas and I never forgot had wonderful they tasted. She used a combination of pineapple and raisins but I’m sure the recipes are very similar. Can’t wait to try these!