This easy Tamales de Rajas recipe is filled with roasted poblano peppers and melted cheese! This traditional Mexican dish is naturally vegetarian and gluten free.
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Tamales de Rajas are finally here!
You’ve probably heard of tamales that are filled with meat and some type of chile sauce, like red pork tamales and green chicken tamales, but these tamales de rajas are just as good and are ready to eat in less than half the time!
Tamales are a big deal in my house. They’re traditionally made for special occasions like Christmas, New Years, Easter or whenever there’s a big family gathering. Since my family only makes them a couple of times a year, we usually make a lot when we do! Needless to say we have leftovers for days.
With the holidays right around the corner, I’m excited to share the easiest and least complicated tamale recipe I know – Tamales de Rajas con Queso.
What are Tamales de Rajas?
Tamales de Rajas are a traditional Mexican dish made from a corn dough that’s filled with slices of roasted poblano peppers and cheese. The dough and fillings are wrapped in corn husks and steamed until cooked.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Tamales de rajas are one of the easiest tamales to make! Here’s what you need:
- Peppers: I used poblano peppers as that is what is traditionally used. Poblanos are fairly mild and have heaps of rich flavor when roasted. If they’re a little too spicy for your liking, you can use anaheim or even bell peppers instead. If you prefer a spicier pepper, you can use jalapeños or serranos.
- Cheese: There are various cheeses that work great in these tamales. My personal favorites to use are Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack as they add a really great flavor to each bite. If you want to go a bit more traditional, you can use Chihuahua or Oaxaca cheese instead.
- Tamale dough: For the dough, you’ll need some masa harina (I used Maseca), canola oil (or other neutral-tasting oil), broth, baking powder, and salt. Many traditional tamale recipes use lard or shortening, but my family has always made it using canola oil and it tastes great! The masa isn’t greasy and it’s still very flavorful and fluffy.
- Corn husks: You’ll need about 25 or so corn husks to spread out your masa and then fill it with the peppers and cheese. You can find dried corn husks at most Mexican grocery stores or you can order them online.
How to Make Tamales de Rajas
1. Soak the corn husks: You’ll need to soak the corn husks in hot water since they’re sold dried. Soaking them for an hour or so before using them will help soften them up and make them very pliable. When you’re ready to use them, simply remove them from the water and pat them dry with paper towels.
2. Make the dough: Make the masa by combining masa harina, salt, baking powder, vegetable oil, and broth.
(Full instructions are located in the recipe below, but if you’d like to see step-by-step photos on how to make the masa, take a look at this masa for tamales post.)
3. Roast, peel, and slice the peppers: Place the poblanos on a baking sheet under the broiler or directly under an open flame. Roast until all the sides are blackened and blistered, then transfer them to a large bowl and cover it with plastic wrap and let them ‘sweat’ for 10 minutes.
Then, using your fingers, rub off the blackened skins. Slice the peppers open, and remove the stems, seeds, and large veins (or keep them in if you prefer it spicy), then slice into strips and set aside.
4. Assemble the tamales: Spread a heaping spoonful of masa onto the smooth side of the corn husk using the back of a large spoon in a thin layer. If spreading the masa is too difficult with a spoon, you can use your fingers to mold it in place. Don’t get discouraged if spreading the masa is difficult at first. Just keep trying and you’ll get the hang of it!
Next, add the filling by placing one stick of cheese and a few strips of roasted poblano peppers into the center of the corn husk. Fold together the long edges like a book, then once more before folding up the pointy edge.
5. Steam: When all the tamales have been assembled, place them open side up in a large steamer pot that’s been filled with water and topped with a steamer insert.
Steam them for 1 hour and 15 minutes, remove them from the pot, and let them rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Are these Tamales Vegetarian?
Traditionally, tamales are made with lard, which makes them not suitable for vegetarians. However, as long as I can remember, my family has always made them with vegetable oil – typically canola oil – making them vegetarian friendly. And since the masa is made of corn, it’s also naturally gluten free!
Which means tamales for everyone!
Storing, Freezing, and Reheating
To store: Place the tamales in an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to one week.
To freeze: Place the cooled tamales in a freezer-safe container, and freeze for up to 6 months.
To reheat: You can re-steam the tamales for 15 minutes in a steamer pot, heat them in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes, heat them on a hot griddle for 2 minutes on each side, or microwave them in batches for 1-2 minutes on high.