These strawberry tamales are exactly what you've been needing. Imagine light and fluffy dough bursting at the seams with sweet, juicy strawberries to create the perfect on-the-go Mexican dessert or snack.
These sweet tamales (or tamales de dulce) are so easy to make and perfect for any occasion — birthdays, Christmas, or just a day off!
Once you taste this recipe, we know you'll end doubling the batch the next time around!
What is it?
The word "tamal" comes from the Nahuatl word "tamalii", meaning "wrapped food."
Tamales are made all across Central and South America, but they vary widely in their overall taste, size, and appearance.
Mexican tamales are traditionally made with four components: corn husks (for wrapping), masa harina (for the outer layer), lard, and some type of filling (usually meat, cheese, or beans).
Here in Mexico, tamales are eaten during Las Posadas, baptisms, and for offerings in the Day of the Dead festival.
Sweet tamales are common across the country, but Mexico city in particular adds sugar to the dough and stuffs them full of raisins.
No matter what filling, color, or shape you decide on, there's no "right" or "wrong" way to make tamales as long as you follow the basic steps!
This ancient food has been traced back to Mesoamerica as early as 7000 BC.
The tamales eaten today are said to be almost identical to the ones eaten thousands of years ago, just without the lard. So, tamales back then seemed to have started out vegan!
Tamales were prized for their portability, and it's been claimed that soldiers would carry them for quick energy while they had to walk long distances.
Originally, they were cooked over hot ashes in a buried fire. However, the Spanish introduced pots and pans to the indigenous, which initiated the technique of steaming tamales.
The Spanish also brought with them new flavors and ingredients to add to tamales (like meat and lard). Fast forward to today and you can find a wide variety of tamales — both savoury and sweet.
These sweet strawberry tamales are delicious on their own, or with a touch more jam smeared on top. We've also been known to enjoy them with a drizzle of cashew crema.
For a surprising filling idea, try stuffing your tamales de dulce with vegan queso fresco (just skip the onion powder). Trust us, you'll be amazed!
Also, try serving them with a creamy and refreshing horchata for the perfect afternoon treat.
Whatever way you decide to go, this recipe is completely plant-based and gluten-free!
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
What it is: masa harina is a special type of corn flour in which the corn used to make it goes through a process called nixtamalization. Corn is soaked in an alkaline solution (usually lime water), then it's cooked, dried, and turned into powder. This results in a better taste, texture, and bioavailability of vitamins.
Health: we love the fact that masa is naturally gluten-free, which means people with allergens are able to try most Mexican food (including these tamales de dulce). Corn also contains nutrients like vitamin A, calcium, and zinc.
Where to buy: masa harina is sold in a lot of grocery stores, but if you have trouble locating any, try international or Mexican food markets. The most common brand is Maseca, but there are tons of varieties online (some more natural ones too).
Taste: vibrant, juicy, and fresh strawberries are the perfect addition to make these sweet tamales even more delicious. The balance between sweet dough and fruity berries gives this recipe a light and summery taste.
Health: ranking in the top 20 fruits in regards to antioxidant capacity, strawberries are your secret healthy weapon! These antioxidants (known as polyphenols) have been shown to help with blood pressure regulation.
Taste: we use refined coconut oil because it has similar characteristics to lard (used in typical tamales recipes). Not only does refined coconut oil have a neutral taste, but it also contains a high saturated fat content to help shape the tamales once cooked.
Health: a lot of the health claims surrounding coconut oil are about the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) it contains. Some research has shown an increased rate of calorie burn by ingesting MCTs. However, there's a lot of conflicting studies and we just error on the side of "everything in moderation."
Taste: having no distinct taste, we use this leavening agent to give these sweet tamales a lighter, fluffier texture. Although it's not essential if you're using an electric mixer (we don't have one), using baking powder prevents your tamales from turning out too dense.
Fun fact: baking powder contains an acid and base, so it's activated once you mix it with liquid. On the other hand, baking soda is only an alkaline powder, which needs an acid to work (like lemon juice). The more you know, right?
If you have questions about this strawberry tamales recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: Sort through the dried corn husks and set aside any that are damaged. Soak the husks in hot water for about a half-hour, or until they are more pliable (they'll be easier to work with during assembly).
Note: if they are extra dry, you can even soak them overnight.
Step 2: whisk together the masa harina, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, stir together the hot water, plant milk (we used soy milk), and strawberry jam.
Step 3: using your hands or an electric mixer, beat the softened coconut oil until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes (or longer if you don't have a mixer). Add in the sugar and vanilla and whip for another few minutes.
Step 4: add half of both the dry ingredients and strawberry jam mixture to the bowl of oil. Stir until incorporated (we still use our hands for this). Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients and liquid, then fold in the diced strawberries.
Step 5: add a scoop of dough onto the wider end of a husk (smooth side up). Spread the dough towards the wide end into a thick layer using the back of a spoon or spatula.
Step 6: fold both sides of the husk towards the center so they touch, then tuck both around to one side of the husk to form a tube shape. Where the dough ends, pinch the bottom and fold the husk upwards. Secure the tamal with a string of leftover husk. Continue this process until the rest of the dough is gone.
Step 7: Heat some water in a large stockpot with a steamer rack inside. Cover the bottom with the leftover or damaged corn husks from earlier, then start leaning the tamales around the steamer in an upright position. Continue working inwards in a circular fashion until the pot is full.
Step 8: cover the tamales with more corn husks and a tea towel on top, and steam them for about 40-45 minutes. You'll know they're done when a tamal separates from the husk easily, and the center is spongy.
Note: if the dough does stick to the husk, close it up and continue steaming your tamales for another few minutes.
Step 9: when the tamales are done, remove them from the pot and let them rest for about 10 minutes to allow the dough to firm up. Serve your strawberry tamales while still warm for a delicious treat or snack. Happy eating!
Sweet tamales are great to have on hand for the perfect dessert or afternoon pick-me-up. Follow these instructions to keep them fresh and tasty.
You can keep these tamales de dulce in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Keep them wrapped in their husk so they stay nice and moist!
If you've made a large batch and can't eat them all, vegan tamales freeze extremely well. Allow them to cool, then store them in the husks in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months.
The best way to reheat your tamales is to steam them again for about 10-15 minutes (longer if frozen).
You can also warm them in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Either wrap them in foil or just heat them on a baking sheet.
If you're feeling a little lazy, you can always microwave your tamales in 30-60 second intervals until they're warmed all the way through.
If you prefer a shorter day of cooking, make the dough up to 2-3 days in advance of cooking the tamales. Just fold in the strawberries on the day of steaming.
You can also make the dough, wrap it in corn husks and freeze them in bags for up to 6 months. When you're ready to eat them, just steam them as per the recipe instructions.
💭 Pro tips
Time to share our tips and tricks we learned while experimenting with these vegan tamales for you:
- Whip the fat. Make sure you whip the coconut oil (or vegetable shortening) to give the tamales a lighter, fluffier texture.
- Check on the water. It's important to make sure the steamer doesn't dry out. You can place a heat-safe object in the bottom to hear the water boiling if you're worried.
- Double or triple this recipe. Once you get the hang of it, tamales are really easy to make. They also freeze well, so it's nice to have some on hand at all times.
🍴 Tasting notes
We love making vegan tamales for a fun (and delicious) way to spend the afternoon. They're:
If you try this strawberry tamales recipe, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
- Mixing bowl
- 1 package (~25) corn husks ($1.50)
- 3 cups masa harina ($0.38)
- 2 teaspoon baking powder ($0.01)
- ½ teaspoon salt ($0.01)
- ⅔ cup refined coconut oil ($1.49)
- ½ cup cane sugar ($0.03)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract ($0.22)
- 1 ½ cup unsweetened plant milk ($0.65)
- ½ cup very warm water ($0.01)
- ¼ cup strawberry jam ($0.31)
- 1 ½ cups fresh strawberries, diced ($1.38)
- 5-6 drops red food coloring optional
- First, remove the husks from their package and separate them. Sort through them and set aside any husks that have holes or damage.
- Then, add the husks to your kitchen sink or a large bowl of hot water and soak for 30-60 minutes. This will make the husks more pliable and easier to work with during assembly. If they are extra dry, soak them for a few hours or overnight.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the masa harina, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, stir together the hot water, plant milk, and strawberry jam. Set both aside.
- Next using your hands or an electric mixer, whip the softened coconut oil until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add in the sugar and vanilla and mix for 1-2 more minutes.
- Add ½ of the dry ingredients and ½ the strawberry jam mixture, stirring until incorporated. Then, add in the rest of the dry ingredients and the rest of the liquid, and mix until well incorporated, about 4-5 minutes. Lastly, fold in the diced strawberries.
- Dry the husks off with a tea towel to remove excess water. Lay one flat on your counter, making sure the smooth side faces up and the wider end is closer to you.
- Scoop approximately ⅓ cup of dough onto the middle of the husk. Spread the dough towards the wide end into a thick layer using the back of a spoon or spatula.
- Fold both sides of the husk towards the center so they touch, then tuck both around to one side of the husk to form a tube shape. Where the dough ends, pinch the bottom and fold the husk upwards. Secure the tamal with a string of leftover husk. Continue this process until the rest of the dough is gone.
- Add about 3-4 cups of water to the bottom of a large stockpot. Place a steamer rack inside and cover it with a layer of the damaged or leftover corn husks. Lean the tamales around the steamer in an upright position. Continue working inwards in a circular fashion until the pot is full.
- Cover the tamales with another layer of corn husks and a tea towel on top. Put the lid on your pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and steam the tamales for 40-45 minutes.
- To check if they are fully cooked, remove 1 tamal at 40 minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes, then attempt to open the husk. If the tamal separates from the husk easily, and the center is spongy, they are ready. If the dough still sticks to the husk, close it up and continue steaming for an additional 5-10 minutes.
- Note: make sure to keep a close eye on the water level of your pot during steaming. You don’t want to end up with a dry pot!
- When the tamales are finished cooking, remove them from the pot and let them rest for about 10 minutes to allow the dough to firm up. Serve the tamales while still warm with more jam on top. Happy eating!
- We use refined coconut oil in this recipe so it doesn't taste too coconutty, but if you don't mind a mild coconut flavor, use regular coconut oil!
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more tasty recipe ideas, check out our:
- Savoury tamales for a change of flavor to something more lunch or dinner-appropriate.
- Fresas con crema if you want another a rich, refreshing, and easy-to-make strawberry dessert.
- Gorditas de piloncillo for crispy corn cakes infused with unrefined cane sugar and cinnamon.
- Mexican buñuelos for a crunchy fried fritter that's coated in cinnamon and sugar!
If you can't find corn husks to wrap your tamales, you can use banana leaves or parchment paper.
We recommend using coconut oil or vegetable shortening because it emulates the saturated fat content from lard (which is typically used in tamales).
If your tamales mixture is too runny, add 1-2 tablespoons of masa at a time until it reaches the right consistency. It should be somewhere between cake batter and cookie dough.
If your dough mixture is too thick try adding 1-2 tablespoons of water or plant milk until you get to the right consistency.