Grandmother’s Chicken Tamales in Green Sauce

cropped-tamales-header-raw.jpgHow well do you know your tamales? The word “Tamale” is actually “Tamal” in Spanish, which comes from “Tamalli,” which means “carefully wrapped.” Called the Festin de Dioces (Feast of Gods) by those who made them some 2,000 years ago, they were first reported in Friar Bernardino de Sahagun’s General History of the Things in the New Spain.

A single tamale is an entire universe within Latin American food. In Mexico alone you can find hundreds and hundreds of completely different recipes. Most fall into the sweet or salty categories. Here’s just one of those recipes for you to try.

Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of honour and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures for ever. He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the Lord is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant. ~ Psalm 111:2-5

Grandmother’s Chicken Tamales in Green Sauce
10 servings


  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1lb of pork lard
  • 2lbs tamale flour
  • 2 cups of chicken broth (lukewarm)
  • ¾ cup of boiling water with the outer skins of the tomatillos
  • 4 boiled green tomatillos (careful not to boil too long, they explode!)
  • 5 boiled serrano peppers (depending on how hot you want it, go for 10 even!)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 small yellow onions
  • corn husks wet, as needed (some depends on if you wrap in one or two)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Filling Preparation
In a blender mix the tomatillos, garlic and onion.
Heat a little bit of the lard in a frying pan and then add the mixed green sauce.

Boil the chicken breasts. Once cooked, pull them apart and add to the green sauce with a little of the chicken broth. (Save the rest of the broth for the tamale paste!)

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Boil until it reduces a bit and gets a bit thicker.

Tamale Preparation
Beat the lard until it gets spongy.

Add the tamale flour and some of the broth and the tomatillo skin water until you arrive at a pretty consistent paste.

Add salt to your taste.

Keep beating. You’ll know it’s ready when you put a bit in water and it floats.

Final steps
Put some of the tamale paste (about a large round spoonful) in a wet corn husk.

Add some of the filling to the middle.

Wrap the tamale. And repeat until all are done.

Steam cook for about an hour.

Submitted by: Fr. Lorenzo Lebrija+, Pastor on behalf of the Bishop, St. John’s Episcopal Church, San Bernardino, CA 90026

For a downloadable/printable version of this recipe, visit:

Tomorrow: Spritz Cookies