Tamal Dough made with Masa Harina

If you have the Muy Bueno cookbook or have been following my blog you know that I usually recommend purchasing fresh ground corn (unprepared masa) from a tortilleria (tortilla factory) or in the refrigerated section of a Latin supermarket to make Tamal Dough (Masa para Tamales).

If you do not have access to a tortilleria or Latin supermarket do not worry — I have an alternative recipe for you.

It calls for masa harina (corn flour), which is used to make corn tortillas, sopes, tamales, and many other Mexican and Central American foods. Masa harina is readily available in the Hispanic aisle of your grocery store and online.

This recipe makes about one dozen tamales so feel free to double, triple, or quadruple this recipe, as needed.

This recipe can easily be made my hand in a bowl, but whipping the lard in a stand mixer makes for fluffier and lighter tamales.

If you are making tamales with chile – add a bit of chile sauce to your masa for added flavor.

Now that you have masa for tamales go and make your favorite filling for tamales. Try these savory fillings:

Tamal Dough made with Masa Harina


  • 2/3 cups lard or shortening
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups masa harina (corn flour)
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups warm homemade chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium broth
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chile sauce (optional)


  1. Combine lard, salt, and baking powder using an electric mixer, beat at medium-high speed until well whipped, about 1 minute.
  2. Add one-fourth of the masa at a time to the lard, beating between additions until thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Slowly add chicken stock and continue beating until dough is light and has a soft and spreadable hummus-like texture. If it’s too dry, mix in a little more broth; if your dough is too loose, add more masa harina until you get the desired texture. Add chile sauce (if using) and stir to combine.
  4. Test the masa by taking a small piece (1/2 teaspoon) and dropping it into a cup of warm water. If it floats it is ready; if it sinks, add a little more lard, beat for another minute and test it again. Repeat this process until the masa floats.
  5. Cover the masa and set aside and make tamales with your filling of choice.

I’d love to see what you cook!

Tag #MUYBUENOCOOKING if you make this recipe.

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Photography: Jenna Sparks