Tamales Azules de Elote

December  9, 2020
3 Ratings
Photo by Rick Andrew Martinez
  • Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • makes 12 tamales
Author Notes

Tamales are very traditional for the holidays. My family in Texas would make about 20 dozen tamales rojos de puerco (red pork tamales) every Christmas. The whole family would get together at my parents house and we would stuff and roll all morning and eat all afternoon. I knew I wanted to make a tamal for Sweet Heat but decided to make it as different as I could to the ones I grew up with. Tamales de elote are common throughout Mexico, especially around harvest time in late summer and fall when the fresh corn is picked.

I used blue corn masa to add both a sharp contrast to the white corn but also, I love the deep, almost nutty flavor of the blue corn. And of course there is piloncillo, Mexican unprocessed brown sugar and lots of dried chile de árbol. The syrup may be my favorite part of the dish. It will make your house smell like the holidays and not only can you use this for your tamales, but it would be great on French toast, waffles, roasted sweet potatoes, coffee, or anything that needs a hit of sweet heat! —Rick Martinez

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Tamales Azules de Elote
  • 4 ears of corn or 4 cups corn kernels, ends trimmed, leave husk on
  • 4 (400g) masa harina (such as Bob’s Red Mill), preferably blue
  • 3/4 cup (170g) browned butter, still liquid
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal or 1 ½ teaspoons Morton (8g) kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed chile de árbol, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup piloncillo or dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 3” stick canela or cinnamon
  • 4 wide strips orange zest
  • 1 cup crema or crème fraiche
  • 3/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook corn in the boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes for American sweet corn and about 30 minutes for Mexican elote. Remove corn from water and let sit until cool enough to handle. Carefully remove husks from each ear of corn, keeping each husk whole without tearing. Transfer husks to a plate and set aside until ready to assemble. Cut kernels from cobs and place in a large bowl; cut cobs in half and reserve.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir masa, butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ½ teaspoon chile de árbol and 2 cups water until a soft, sticky dough forms. Add cooked corn and stir until completely combined. Cover the mixture and let sit for 30 minutes and up to 3 hours. In a small saucepan over high heat, bring piloncillo, allspice, canela, a large pinch chile de árbol, and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened and very fragrant, about 12 minutes. Remove the syrup from heat and add the orange zest; let the mixture cool cool. Strain spiced syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a measuring glass; discard spices.
  3. On a large cutting board or flat work surface, arrange 1 of the reserved corn husks so the wide end is closest to you. Fill a ½ cup measure with masa and corn mixture and place masa onto the husk. Use a spoon (or fingers) to create a 5-inch log in the center running up the length of the husk; leave the narrow end clean. Keeping the wide end of the husk closest to you, fold one side of the husk over the masa, then fold the other side over to cover. Holding the tamale seam-side up, fold the narrow, pointed end of the husk away from you and under the tamal. Set the closed tamal on a rimmed baking sheet, seam-side up. Repeat with remaining husks and masa.
  4. Line a large saucepan with a few remaining husks. Stack 2 to 3 halved reserved corncobs in the center of the pot. Using the cobs as support, prop tamales upright, with the folded end down and the seam side facing up, around cobs; this will take 4 to5 tamales. Continue stacking tamales around the cobs, leaning them against one another, they will look like a tamale tent around the cobs. Pour 1¼ cup water and ¼ teaspoon salt into pot, being careful not to get any inside tamales. Bring liquid to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot and simmer the tamales, undisturbed, adding more water as needed to keep some liquid in pot, 45 minutes.
  5. After 45 minutes, remove one tamal from pot; let it cool for 5 minutes. (If you don’t let it rest before checking, masa will stick to husk and appear gummy.) Remove the husk of the cooled tamal; if masa sticks to husk, it’s not ready. If that happens, carefully refold the tamal and return it to the pot. Cook the tamales for 5 minutes more and check one again. If husk peels back easily, tamales are done. Remove from heat, uncover, and let sit 10 minutes before unwrapping. Serve the tamales topped with crema, spiced syrup, queso fresco, and additional chile de árbol if desired.

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Rick Martinez

Recipe by: Rick Martinez

Rick Martinez is currently living his dream—cooking, eating and enjoying the Mexican Pacific coast in Mazatlán. He is finishing his first cookbook, Under the Papaya Tree, food from the seven regions of Mexico and loved traveling the country so much, he decided to buy a house on the beach. He is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit, New York Times and hosts live, weekly cooking classes for Food Network Kitchens. Earlier this year, he was nominated for a James Beard Award for “How to win the Cookie Swap” in Bon Appétit’s holiday issue.

3 Reviews

cookingwme December 24, 2021
I ordered some Blue Corn Masa online then made an attempt at these wonderful tamales! Now I am hooked on tamales. I may put everything I make into a tamale. Vegetables, meat, etc. Thanks, Rick, I don't know if you invented this recipe, they are genius. Today I am making the syrup for them. Tomorrow is the big Xmas tamale day! Whoop Whoop!
sarah December 10, 2020
Oh duh, i'm bad, it was on the top for how many in a single batch. My printer is down and I was writing it as fast as I could just to keep up. I missed it sorry!
sarah December 10, 2020
My great aunts would put a copper penny in the bottom of the pot before putting in the bed of Ojas. If they heard the penny clanking around it was time to add more water. I love blue corn tortillas! Please give me the amount of tamales you get with the recipe. I am going to try these! We make tamales rojo's with white corn. I can only find a small bag of Bob's Red Mill!! By the way you forgot to put the 2 amounts of water you added to the masa and the syrup, good thing for the video! Take care and stay safe!