Makeshift “Tamales” with Kale, Beans, & Sofritos

The astronomical inauthenticity of these tamales: I didn’t make the dough with masa harina. I didn’t steam the tamales in corn husks. I didn’t include the incredibly generous amount of solidified fat usually incorporated into tamale dough. I, contrary to popular belief, am not una abeula. (You could, of course, sub 2 cups of masa harina for the cornmeal and brown rice flour, as well as steam the tamales in corn husks, which you can usually find in the frozen food section of many grocery stores, though I don’t know that you could transmogrify yourself into una abuela…).

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The infinitesimal authenticity of these tamales: I employed the traditional garlic-onion-pepper sauté known as sofrito as the base of the tamale filling. I cooked my own black beans from scratch. (Thus, I’ve earned the legitimacy to open my own Latin restaurant, right?).

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Why you should make these tamales: The savory aroma of the sofritos as they cooked all but tempted me to bathe in the sauté pot. Rich in flavor, silky-smooth in texture, and chock-full of nature’s most perfect vegetable (aka kale), the tamale filling (of which this recipe renders more than enough to fill the tamales) can also serve as the perfect taco filling, side dish, or main meal served atop brown rice or quinoa. You can easily find all of the ingredients (with perhaps the exception of brown rice flour) in basically any grocery store. They contain no animal ingredients (duh).

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Makeshift Tamales with Kale, Beans, & SofritosSoy Free, Nut Free, Low Sodium.

Makes about 13 smallish tamales.


7 tbsp coconut oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and chopped
1 large yellow or white onion, diced
1 lb (about 3 medium) green bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
A biggish pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper

3 cups cooked or 2 15-oz cans of black and/or pinto beans
3 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 large bunch of kale, coarsely chopped

2 1/4-3/4 cups finely ground cornmeal
1 cup brown rice flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 cups lukewarm water

14 rectangles of aluminum foil, about 12 inches in length and 4-6 inches in width

In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine 4 tbsp of the coconut oil with the garlic, onion, peppers, salt, and pepper. Turn the heat on medium-high and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat to low and sauté for another 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are very tender (and very fragrant, yum!). Add the beans, tomato paste, cumin, and maple syrup, and stir to combine. In batches, stir in the kale until wilted. Keep covered and warm until you are ready to prepare the tamales. You can also make this mixture in advance and keep it refrigerated—you don’t even need to heat it up again since you’ll be steaming the tamales later.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, brown rice flour, and baking powder. Whisk in the water and the remaining 3 tbsp of coconut oil until no lumps remain.

To assemble the tamales, spread 1/4 cup of the cornmeal batter onto the bottom half of one of your prepared aluminum foil rectangles, leaving about 1/2 an inch on either side and 1 inch on the bottom uncovered. Spoon about 2 tbsp of the filling into a line down the center of the batter. Fold both sides of the foil toward each other so that the batter encases the filling. Flip up the bottom inch of foil over the folded edges, then fold the top uncovered portion of foil over and around the filled portion of foil. You should have a pudgy little pouch of uncooked tamale now. Repeat the filling and folding process with the remaining batter, filling, and foil.

Steam the tamales for about 45 minutes, or until the batter is firm yet still moist. When cool enough to handle, unwrap the tamales and enjoy to your heart’s content, perhaps with a side of fried sweet plantains.

A perfect meal.

A perfect meal.

Recipe submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays, Wellness Weekend, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, and Allergy-Free Wednesdays.

Until next time, Ali.

One thought on “Makeshift “Tamales” with Kale, Beans, & Sofritos

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