Homemade fresh Masa for Tamales is fluffy and full of corn flavor. With this easy to follow recipe and video, you can make the Best Authentic Mexican Tamales.
The secret to truly amazing tamales is the masa. It should be light and fluffy with a texture from the fresh ground corn. Fresh masa is not hard to make, it takes about the same amount of time as mixing up a cake mix or frosting but, it is SO worth the effort.
You can find the fresh ground corn dough in your local Latin Market and at some of your favorite grocery stores. Be sure to check the label to be sure you are purchasing the actual masa sin preparar para tamales (the unprepared corn dough made form Nixtamal).
What is Fresh Masa for Tamales?
This is the number one question friends ask me about making tamales— What is fresh masa ? The word “masa” simply means “dough.” Fresh masa is the corn dough made from ground corn that has been treated by nixtamalization .
Fresh masa IS NOT Masa Harina. Masa Harina is a dried corn flour that can be purchased in a bag on the grocery store shelf with the other flours. You can make tamales out of that but, this post is about FRESH MASA.
Do not buy masa harina for this recipe.
How to Buy Fresh Corn Dough (Masa)
- First, you will need to make a fun trip to your local Latin market or grocery store.
- Locate the refrigerated section of the store or the area of the store where they are making fresh tortillas, the bags of masa will be in one of those areas.
- If the label on the bag is in Spanish, it will say “masa sin preparar para tamales.” It is translated as “masa (dough) sin (without) preparar (preparing) para (for) tamales.” In other words it is PLAIN ground nixtamal dough for tamales, NOT tortillas.
- The best way to tell if you have the correct masa is to look at the ingredient label on the bag. The masa you want to buy has only corn, lime and maybe salt. There will be NO LARD, NO Stock, NO other ingredient in the masa (dough).
- DO NOT buy prepared masa that already has lard, chicken stock, salt etc… mixed into it for this recipe.
5 Ingredient for Fresh Masa for Tamales
Now that you have the correct dough, you will only need 5 ingredients for the best masa ever!
- Masa sin preparar para tamales (masa without preparing for tamales)
- Lard. Yes real lard. You can pick it up at the Latin Market while you are there. You should be able to find it at your favorite grocery store. We use Morrell Snow Cap Lard. This recipe is formulated for a lard product like Morrell Snow Cap Lard, lards sold in the butcher section are not as firm and the recipe may need to be adjusted for them.
- Broth- We use the delicious cooking liquid created when cooking the tamale meat. If you are using a rotisserie chicken or prepared meat, you can use canned beef, pork, chicken or vegetable stock instead.
- Salt- be sure to add the salt for flavorful tamales.
- Baking Powder- Shhhh…. it’s a family secret for light, fluffy masa for tamales.
How to Make Fluffy Masa for Tamales (Masa Para Tamales)
Now that you have everything you need, let’s get started! To make the best masa ever-
NOTE: This recipe makes a lot of masa. If you don’t have a stand mixer, no problem, just divide the ingredients in half and mix them in two batches (as seen in the video). I have burnt out the motor of a hand mixer by trying to mix the masa all at once.
- First, place the lard in a large mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer and whip the lard until smooth and creamy.
- Add the some of the masa (corn dough) a little at a time by taking golf ball sized bits of masa and dropping them evenly around the lard or dropping them in one at a time if using a stand mixer.
- Then, sprinkle salt and baking powder evenly over the masa mixture and blend in well.
- Add the remaining masa a little at a time and beat until light and fluffy. The texture should be similar to cake batter.
- Test the “fluffiness” by dropping a small, teaspoonful size of the finished masa for tamales into a glass of water to see if it floats. If the masa floats, great! You are finished! If it does not float, beat the mixture longer and test again. If your masa for tamales still does not float, beat in a little more lard and test again. Your masa is fluffiest when it floats in the water.
You are going to LOVE this masa recipe!
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Masa for Tamales
- 1½ pounds lard second choice: vegetable shortening
- 5 pounds fresh ground masa (masa sin preparar para tamales NOT masa harina
- 1 cup broth or cooking liquid from your meat mixture or low sodium beef, pork, chicken or vegetable broth
- 5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Note: If you are using a hand mixer, divide the ingredients in half and mix in 2 batches. This amount of masa and lard will burn out a hand mixer.Beat lard with a stand mixer (or a hand mixer and two large bowls) to the consistency of whipped cream (takes about 15 minutes on highest setting). Add 1/3 of masa a little at a time in small, golfball sized pieces. Sprinkle baking powder and salt over the lard mixture. Beat until well combined.Add remaining masa a little at a time in small, golfball sized pieces.With the mixer on slow speed, add the beef broth into whipped lard and masa mixture while the mixer is going. Turn the mixer to high and continue whipping the mixture until a small spoonful of masa floats in cold water.