An easy Mexican tamale recipe with a homemade masa dough and spicy pinto bean filling. These Gluten-Free Pinto Bean Tamales are vegan and top 8 allergy-free, making them a great meatless weeknight meal the whole family will love!
Who’s never had a tamale before? I hadn’t…until last year when I made these pinto bean tamales! Maybe you don’t even know what a tamale is; that’s about to end right now! A tamale is a traditional Mexican dish of a homemade masa (corn) dough wrapped and steamed/baked in a corn husk with a filling of either meat, cheeses, vegetables, chilies, beans, even fruits or nothing at all! It’s also part of Central American, South American, and Caribbean cuisine (not just Mexican). They can be served as a breakfast or dinner meal and they’re also a common street and festival food!
Tamales are a Mexican comfort food and I can see why. It’s like getting to eat soft corn tortilla dough, but with a little extra flare attributed to the filling, spices, and salsa you can enjoy with the dough. That’s why you can have them “naked” (no filling) or with a sweet or savory filling! Lucky for us celiacs, tamales are typically naturally gluten-free (unless you’re using some contaminated masa or you fill it with…gluten). Yay for corn!
For my first tamale-making experience, I chose to do a simple, slightly spicy, pinto bean filling. Nothing fancy, but it perfectly compliments the masa dough which is just corn flour and vegetable broth! All steamed together to infuse the flavors in a corn husk, which, let me tell you, are the bane of my existence. The reason it took me 20 years of life to make tamales was because corn husks were always that single “ingredient” that teased me with its availability whenever I wanted to buy some.
I had seen corn husks at a grocery store years ago, but wasn’t “skilled” enough to make tamales. As I got older and my pursuits to try and make anything and everything I can grew stronger, I wanted to go find those corn husks again. Of course, they disappeared in all my local grocery stores and I wasn’t going to place an order online for some corn husks. Eventually though, I found them in an obscure store, picked them up, and had a tamale-making party (by myself). Now, such a tease, I have seen seeking big ‘ole corn husks EVERYWHERE! Which is annoying. But that always seems to happen. When you want something, you can’t find it, when you find it, well…
I ended up with a HUGE bag of corn husks (way more than I wanted or needed), plus a massive 5lb bag of corn flour. I just wanted enough to test a tamale recipe once or twice…but to feed an army (I still have the massive bag of corn flour on the high shelf of my baking cabinet and it makes the entire cabinet smell…like corn). You know what’s next on my list to make with the corn flour (if it’s still good)…corn tortillas! But let’s stick to tamales right now! I like to think of tamales as a “Mexican dumpling”. The masa dough of the dumpling with the pinto bean filling, all steamed within the corn husk. Open up the corn husk on our plate, and eat the “masa dumpling” with some salsa and boy, do you have a delicious and comforting meal!
Gluten-Free Pinto Bean Tamales
- 8 Corn Husks (soaked in warm water)
- ¼ Cup Vegetable Broth (for steaming)
- Masa Dough:
- 2 Cups Masa (Corn) Flour
- 1½ Cups Vegetable Broth
- 1 Tsp Baking Powder
- Pinto Bean Filling:
- 1 15oz Can of Pinto Beans (drained, rinsed)
- ½ Cup Diced Green Chilies
- ½ Cup Diced Onion
- 2 TB Chopped Fresh Cilantro
- 1 Tsp Minced Garlic
- 1 Tsp Dried Oregano
- ½ Tsp Chipotle Powder
- Soak the corn husks in warm water while you prepare your dough and filling.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- In a large bowl, combine the corn flour and baking powder while slowing adding in the 1½ cups of vegetable broth. Knead well to combine.
- In a food processor, combine all the pinto bean filling ingredients and pulse until you get a chunky hummus-type texture.
- For each corn husk, spread about a few tablespoons of the masa dough (depends on the size of your corn husk) to cover the center of the husk and add 2 tablespoons of the pinto bean filling in the center of the spread dough.
- Fold the sides of the corn husk inward, while tucking in the bottom ends to seal up the tamale.
- Place each prepared tamale in a cast iron skillet, tightly packed together and add the ¼ cup of vegetable broth to the bottom of the pan as steaming liquid.
- Cover the pan with foil and place in the preheated oven to steam and bake for about 20 minutes.
- Remove and let cool a bit before serving.
- Serve the tamales with your favorite salsa or vegan sour cream. (Discard the corn husk...do not eat it!)
So good! Just unwrap those tamales from the corn husks and dig in to the nice soft dumpling dough, filled with that spicy pinto bean goodness! It’s such a simple dish, ingredient wise, but tastes amazing and is so satisfying! A new addition to add to your gluten-free, vegan, ALERGY-FREE Mexican nights! I’m curious now to try some sweet variations. Dried fruit is a big one for sweet breakfast tamales and I may just have to give that a go soon! For now, I leave you with these savory pinto bean tamales to experiment with!
So tell me:
+ Have you ever had tamales? What’s your favorite kind?
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