Fresh Masa for Tamales is light and fluffy and full of corn flavor. With this easy to follow recipe and video, you can make the Best Authentic Mexican Tamales at home!
You can use this Fresh Masa Recipe for any homemade tamales or tamales inspired recipe that calls for masa.
Fluffy masa is the secret to truly amazing tamales and it is sooo easy to make! It takes about the same amount of time to make fresh masa as it takes to whip up a cake mix or a batch of frosting. It is sooooo worth the effort.
What is Fresh Masa For Tamales?
The number one question my friends ask me about making tamales is, "What is fresh masa?" "Masa" means dough. "Fresh masa" is tamales dough made from fresh ground corn that has gone through a special process called "nixtamalization." The corn in this masa has never been dried. It is NOT made with corn flour.
The nixtamalized corn (called nixtamal) is ground into a coarse dough. Next, it is mixed with whipped lard, stock, baking soda and salt to make masa. Click here to read my post about masa, corn and nixtamalization.
Fresh Masa is NOT Masa Harina!
Masa Harina is a dried corn flour that comes in a bag on the same grocery store shelf as the other types of flours.
Do not buy masa harina for this recipe.
How to Buy Fresh Masa (corn dough)
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 of the dough to make sure you are purchasing the actual masa sin preparar para tamales (the unprepared corn dough made form Nixtamal).
- First, you will need to make a fun trip to your local Latin market or grocery store that has a full service Latin food section.
- Next, locate the refrigerated section of the store, the produce section 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" which means "masa (dough) sin (without) preparar (preparing) para (for) tamales." In other words, this is PLAIN ground nixtamal dough.
- 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). See photo of label above.
- DO NOT buy prepared masa that already has lard, chicken stock, salt etc... mixed into it for this recipe.
Do not purchase Masa Prepared for Tamales for this recipe, it will have too much lard.
What is Masa Made Out Of?
Now that you have the correct dough, you only need 5 ingredients to make the best masa ever!
- Masa sin preparar para tamales (masa without preparing for tamales) that's the ground "dough" made from nixtamal . It is easy to find at LatinMarkets and some grocery stores.
- Lard or a lard substitute. Authentic Mexican Tamales are made with real lard and that is the recipe my family and friends love. This recipe is made with real lard. Buy the lard at the Latin Market or any grocery store. You should be able to find it at your favorite grocery store. We use Morrell Snow Cap Lard. This masa recipe is for Morrell Snow Cap Lard and other shelf stable lards. Lard sold in the butcher section is not as firm as shelf stable lard and you will need to adjust the recipe for it.
- Broth - I use the delicious liquid created while 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 the secret for light, fluffy masa for tamales.
How to Make Fluffy Masa for Tamales (Masa Para Tamales)
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).
- Spoon the lard into a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth and fluffy.
- 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.
- Second, sprinkle salt and baking powder evenly over the masa mixture and blend in well.
- Next, add the remaining masa ( a little at a time) and beat until it is 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 ready to go! If it does not float, beat the mixture longer and test again. If masa does not float, add more lard and beat again and test again. Your masa is fluffy when it floats in water.
- Spread the masa on softened corn husks the same way you would spread frosting on a cake. Or use a masa spreader.
- Spoon your favorite filling into the center of the masa and roll into a tamal.
You are going to love this recipe for the fluffiest masa ever! You will have delicious, Authentic Mexican Tamales right from your own kitchen!
If you have any questions about this recipe, please leave them in the comment section of this post. You can reach me on Everyday Southwest's Facebook Page. I love to hear from you!
Tools I Use for Making This Recipe
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Fresh 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 ⅓ 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.
Serving Size1 grams
Amount Per Serving Unsaturated Fat 0g
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Thank you for the tip about the float test for the masa. Very handy since sometimes my mix had turned out too dry.
You are welcome, Jade. The float test really helps make sure your masa is light and fluffy.
This sounds so awesome. Can't wait to try it. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Relle, this recipe is really the best. It is not difficult but, it does take a little extra time. It is so worth it!
Greetings, This looks great. However 5 lbs. seems like overkill for my small family. How many Tamales does this make?
Hi Daniel, What a great question, This recipe does make a lot of tamales! We use it for our tamalada (tamale rolling party). It makes about 60 tamales depending on how thick or thin you spread the masa. It is very easy to cut the recipe in half so that you will have around 30 tamales.Tamales are very easy to freeze and taste just as delicious when you freeze them.
I cannot wait to try this recipe! We love homemade tamales.
You make things so easy to understand. This is a process I’ve always been intimidated by. No more!
Masa for tamales looks really nice
I’m confused the Mexican store told me that I can use the same masa for tortilla and tamales.
HI Juanita, Yes, I suppose you can you masa for tortillas but, the texture will be finer than the masa ground for tamales. I like the coarser texture, it holds up better in the steamer (doesn't get mushy). The finer ground masa can feel a lot like corn flour. If you use the finer masa for tortillas, please let me know how you like it.