Tamales De Frijol, Texas Mexican Bean Tamales

Hello, fellow Vegans, welcome to traditional vegan cuisine, an oft-overlooked dimension of
Texas Mexican cuisine. 

These bean tamales are in every Mexican American home in Texas.  Well I can’t make such an absolute statement, but I can say that  they were definitely in my home and in every home of my large extended family and neighbors.  Even when we went to Nava, Coahuila, 45 miles south of the Rio Grande, our relatives who lived there served Tamales De Frijol.

Bean tamales are also in southern regions, like in Puebla, Mexico.  But they are slightly different and, of course, in Puebla they are sometimes served with Mole Poblano which is a truly wonderful combination.  We serve ours as is, or with Salsa Ranchera if you really need some additional tang. Either way, your taste buds will will have a holiday celebration.

Recipe: (makes one dozen tamales, or up to 16 if you stretch the masa)


For Masa and Husks:
16 dried tamale husks, Hojas de Maíz, soaked in hot water for at least 30 minutes.
1 lb masa for tamales. This is a coarser grind than masa for tortillas. It is called “masa quebrada.”
1/2 cup Canola oil.  I actually use organic palm oil shortening.  It works really great and has no transfats, since it is not hydrogenated. Also, as a solid fat it harkens back to pre-1500, before pigs, when we cooked with absolutely no lard anywhere to be seen.
1/4 to 1/2 cup water if needed

For the Chile Paste:
1 garlic clove
3 Chiles Ancho, cleaned, seeded and deveined
3 Guajillo Chiles, cleaned, seeded and deveined
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 cups water
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp salt or to taste

For the Beans:
1/2 lb beans.  If you want to, soak the beans overnight so that they will cook more quickly, 1 1/2 hours. If you don’t soak them (I never do) cooking time will be 4 hours.
1 tsp salt
4 cups water

First, place the corn husks in a large container and cover them with hot water. Let them soak and soften for at least 30 minutes and overnight if you like.
For the Beans:
1. Pick over the beans to remove any small stones or debris.  Rinse them in a colander.
2.In a large pot, add the beans and salt. Cover the beans with 4 cups of water, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered. If the beans have been soaked overnight you will cook them for 1 1/2 hours. If they have not been soaked, it will take 4 hours. They are done when completely soft when you press one between your fingers. Note: As they cook,keep checking to make sure you maintain the water level at least 2 inches above the beans.  Add additional water as needed.
3. When the beans are completely cooked and soft, heat a deep skillet on medium heat and add the beans and 2 cups of the liquid.
4. Using a masher, smash the beans until they are smooth and soupy, adding more liquid as needed.
5. By this time you will have made the chile paste, so add 3 Tbs chile paste to the beans and blend. If you don’t have the paste made, just set the beans aside until you are ready to add the chile paste.
6. After adding the chile paste, cook on low heat, uncovered, until they thicken and make a workable spread for the tamale filling.
For the Chile:
1. To devein the chiles, first lay the chile flat on a cutting board and, using a paring knife, cut a slit lengthwise. Then grab the chile with one hand and with the other break off the stem.  Open the chile along the slit and take out the seeds and veins.
2. In a large saucepan, cover the cleaned chiles with water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the chiles steep for 15 minutes so that they re-hydrate and become tender.
2. Drain the chiles, discarding the water.  Let the chiles cool a bit so as not to damage your blender, then place the chiles in a blender along with the garlic and cumin.
3. Blend to a very fine paste, adding water as needed. You will need to add 1/2 to 1 cup water.
4. In a Dutch oven, heat the Tbsp Canola oil and fry the chile paste until it begins to change color and most of the liquid has evaporated. There will be splatter, so be prepared for it.
5. Add the water and simmer for about 15 minutes and then adjust the  salt. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon, have a complex, non-green, non-pungent flavor. I think it tastes delicious.

For the Tamale Masa:
1.  In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, add 1/4 cup of the chile sauce to the masa and mix thoroughly.
2.  In a saucepan heat the oil to the point just before it shimmers.
3. Adjust the mixer to low and SLOWLY pour the hot oil (not warm but hot) into the masa to incorporate. It will sizzle as it makes contact. (watch out for splatter).
4.  When the oil is incorporated, turn up the mixer to medium and mix well.  Add water as needed to make a thick batter, a bit thicker than pancake batter.

To assemble the Tamales:  
1.  Beginning 3 inches in from the pointed end of the husk, use a small spatula or spoon to spread 2 Tbs masa on each corn husk.
2.  Spoon about 1 1/2 Tablespoon of the bean filling lengthwise on the masa, then curl the husk, enveloping the filling.
3.  Fold the pointed tip up laying it on the side opposite the seam.  This will keep the seam closed.
4.  Stand each tamal, open-end up, in the steamer basket, forming a circle of standing tamales leaning inward. Place some corn husks on top, then a kitchen towel and cover with a tight-fitting lid.
5.  Steam on high heat,for 45 to 50 minutes.

¡Buen Provecho!


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7 thoughts on “Tamales De Frijol, Texas Mexican Bean Tamales”

  • Hi! I’m thinking about trying this recipe but one question, are the guajillo and ancho chilies dried?

  • Hi, Elizabeth. You don’t have to melt the vegetable shortening. If you are using a mixer, blend the shortening into the masa and the chile and whip it all together. It will be nice and light. The rest is the same as in the recipe. Please let me know how it turns out.
    Good luck and happy holidays!

  • Hi! I am making tamales for the first time, and was searching for a vegetarian recipe that was similar to my late grandmother’s. This looks like it!
    I am opting to use the shortening as opposed to the oil. Do I melt it first and then mix it into the mass?

  • Do you have any idea what a reasonable measurement is for the pound of masa? The package I bought is 4.4 pounds and I don’t have a kitchen scale.

    This looks yummy. I’m going to give it a try!

  • Thanks for this heads up. Natural palm oil, the red kind, is ok to use, but not the processed type. Once it is processed, stay away. I agree with you, and will add a caveat that most palm oil is to be steadfastly avoided, not just for health reasons but for ethical, environmental reasons. Tnx.

  • Hi Adan,
    Looks like a tasty recipe. Sorry to burst your bubble, but palm oil is not hydrogenated because it is naturally hydrogenated (true for coconut oil too) which means it is a saturated fat (saturated with hydrogen), and saturated fats are NOT good for your health. Trans fats are worse, but saturated fats are nearly as bad.

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