• Beef tamales are a staple throughout Mexico and Central America. A corn maize meal known as masa harina is made into a paste, often incorporating slow-braised beef or pork. The paste is traditionally placed in corn husks and steamed. A bit of effort goes into these tamales but it’s worth it. As masa harina is hard to track down, for a close substitute we suggest grinding corn tortillas into a fine powder. 

    Beef tamales

    Serves: 4 - 6
    Cooking Time: 4 hrs


    • Beef

    • 500g beef short ribs
    • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
    • Maldon Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • 10ml (2 tsp) ground cumin
    • 10ml (2 tsp) ground coriander
    • 10ml (2 tsp) dried chilli flakes
    • 500ml (2 cups) water
    • juice of 2 limes
    • Filling

    • 2 dried ancho chillies
    • 30ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
    • 30ml (2 tbsp) cake flour
    • 250ml (1 cup) reserved beef stock
    • 5ml (1 tsp) cumin seeds
    • 5ml (1 tsp) ground cumin
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 10ml (2 tsp) fresh oregano, chopped
    • 5ml (1 tsp) white vinegar
    • Maldon Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • 200g lard
    • 5ml (1 tsp) salt
    • 3 cups masa harina OR 12 corn tortillas, finely ground
    • 12 mealie husks soaked in warm water for 3 hours



    Preheat the oven to 180°C.


    Place the beef ribs in a medium roasting dish with the garlic, seasoning, cumin, coriander, chilli flakes, water and lime juice. Cover with foil and roast in the oven until the beef is tender and falling off the bone, about 2 hours and 30 minutes.


    Remove from the oven, cool and shred using two forks, reserving the beef stock.


    For the filling, toast the ancho chillies in a pan (do not burn). Cool, remove stems and seeds. Crumble and grind in a clean coffee grinder or in a pestle and mortar.


    Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the flour and brown slightly. Pour in 125ml (½ cup) of the reserved beef stock and stir to form a smooth paste.


    Mix in the ground chillies, cumin seeds, ground cumin, garlic, oregano, vinegar and seasoning. Add the shredded beef, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.


    Place the lard and salt in the bowl of a food processor and mix until light and fluffy. Add the masa harina or ground corn tortilla flour and beat at low speed until well mixed. Pour in the remaining beef stock a little at a time until the mixture is the consistency of soft cookie dough.


    Drain the water from the mealie husks. Flatten out each husk with the narrow end facing you, and spread approximately 30ml (2 tbsp) of masa mixture on the top two-thirds of the husk. Spread about 15ml (1 tbsp) of meat mixture down the middle of the masa. Roll up the husk starting with one of the long sides. Fold the narrow end of the husk onto the rolled tamale and tie with a piece of butcher’s twine.


    Place the tamales in a steamer basket and steam until the masa is firm and holds its shape, about 1 hour. Make sure the steamer does not run out of water. Serve immediately, allowing each person to unwrap their own tamales. Allow any leftovers (still in husks) to cool, uncovered, in the fridge.