Mexican Tamales with Salsa Verde Chicken Filling

Feliz día de la independencia, México! (Happy Independence Day, Mexico!)

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of challenges from friends and acquaintances to make more dishes in 40/30/30 and one of the most recent ones have been around Mexican food.

A friend of mine (who I met in VIPLYF) is a proud Mexican – having emigrated from Mexico a few month ago, she wanted to see if I could make some of her favorite Mexican dishes in 40/30/30 after having tried my Al Pastor burrito recently (recipe for this will be posted soon, I promise!). One of these challenges (her list is long – I still have to tackle a few more of her requests) was to make Mexican tamales in 40/30/30.

I’ve always been a big fan of tamales – growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area and being surrounded by the hundreds of fabulous Mexican taquerias (plus having an ex-boyfriend who’s Mexican and learning some wonderful homemade Mexican cuisine from his mother also helped) – really gave me the appreciation and the distinction of what true Mexican tamales are supposed to taste like. Plus, I did my research and attribute a lot of the skills I learned to making tamales from Serious Eats.

Although prepping for this recipe literally took me an entire day to make, the results were worth it – the fact that most typical tamales can range between 170 – 330 calories PER TAMAL, I was able to decrease the calories to 110 per tamal.

The secret:  swapping out the lard for Smart Balance Light! Surprisingly this substitute worked really well, and it gave the tamales a nice, clean flavor. Not only that, Smart Balance Light only contains 50 calories per tablespoon, while lard has…a ton…hahaha (120 calories to be exact).

In order to add more protein, I decided on creating a simple filling that used shredded chicken breast braised in salsa verde sauce…and the results were spectacular…

So far, I’ve had two taste tester reviews on this dish, and one taste tester commented that I was “truly a fake Mexican” (she’s from Central America)….LOL

So…if you’re craving for some tamales and want to make them healthier – please take these for a spin. I promise you that you won’t be disappointed…:-)


(makes 31 tamales)

For the masa:
3 cups corn meal for tamales
1 cup Smart Balance Light
1-2 cups water
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt.

For the filling:
32 oz. raw boneless and skinless chicken breast
2 12 oz. bottles of salsa verde sauce
1 cup water

1 package corn husks (available at your local Latin-American grocery store)

  1. Let corn husks soak in water for at least 1 hour.
  2. To create the filling:
    1. In a large stock pot or crock pot, add chicken, salsa verde sauce and water. Cover and braise under low heat for 3-4 hours, until chicken is tender and easily falls apart with a fork.
    2. Once chicken is cooked, remove meat from the liquid. Adjust the temperature to high heat and reduce the liquid until there is approximately 1/2 cup of sauce left. (Please note to stir and watch the pan frequently, as the liquid can easily burn.
    3. Mix reduced liquid with chicken and set aside.
  3. To create the masa:
    1. Using an electric mixer at high speed, beat Smart Balance butter spread, salt and baking soda until whipped thoroughly (it should be light and airy). This should take about 2-3 minutes.
    2. In batches of 1/2 cup at a time, add the corn meal to the butter mixture and beat for 2-3 minutes, or until well-combined.
    3. Once all corn meal has been added to the butter mixture, slowly pour water into the corn meal mixture, 2 tbsps. at a time. The final consistency should look like hummus.
    4. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator to rest for 1 hour.
  4. To create the tamales:
    1. Take one corn husk (straight side pointing towards you).
    2. Measure out 3 tbsps. of masa and spread into a rectangle about 3 inches long and 5 inches wide, leaving at least a 1-inch border from the edge of the corn husk on all sides of the masa.
    3. Add 2 tbsps. of the chicken mixture into the center of the masa rectangle.
    4. Fold the corn husk in half (lengthwise) to cover the filling and folding over the ends to create a tube.
    5. Create a packet by folding over the tapered tend toward you and securing this end by taking a 1/4-inch strand of husk and tying it around the tamal.
  5. To cook the tamales:
    1. In a large stock pot, fill with at least 1 liter of water. In a large steamer basket, add at least 8-10 tamales and place in the stock pot (be sure not to crowd the basket)! Cover and let the tamales steam for at least 1-2 hours, or until the tamales have separated from the husks. While cooking, please be sure to watch the water level in the stock pot and add water as needed.
  6. Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Tamales 2

 

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