Easy Vegan Tamale Recipes


Easy, Tasty, and Healthy

Tamales are ridiculously easy to make, and oh, so wonderful to eat fresh from the steamer, right from their corn husk wrappers. They're not something you can make just a few of, but fortunately, they store well, and are just as tasty when reheated.

Don't let the length of this recipe discourage you. This really is a very simple process, when taken in small, individual steps: make the dough; make the fillings; assemble the tamales; let the tamales steam while you clean up; eat, and revel in your tamale making skills.

It's also a riot to make these with a group of friends, especially if guacamole, chips, and sangria are available while waiting for the tamales to steam. Who can resist a few hours of friends and laughter that's capped off by homemade tamales, fresh from the steamer?

It's All About the Masa

Most tamales are made with a dough based on masa harina, a very finely ground flour made from corn that has been dried, cooked, ground up and dried again. Don't confuse masa harina with cornmeal, which has a different flavor and texture. Masa can be purchased in many grocery stores, in the same aisle as flour and corn meal, or ordered online.

I like Bob's Red Mill Golden Corn Flour Masa Harina. This is one of the few Bob's Red Mill products that is not labelled as organic, due to the soaking in lime water that processing requires. However, this product is made from non-GMO corn, and has a lovely, silky texture that many less expensive masas do not. Bob's also makes a gluten-free masa harina, for those with dietary restrictions.

2.8 stars from 41 ratings of Easy Vegan Tamales

Cook Time

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 1 hour
Ready in: 2 hours
Yields: About 48 tamales.

Basic Vegan Tamale Dough

The first thing you'll need to make tamales is a basic dough. This simple recipe is the one I always start with. Some people like to spice their dough with garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, or chili powder. I usually don't do this, and opt to bump up the spices in my fillings. This way, I can use the same batch of dough to make tamales that are savory or sweet.

This recipe will make enough dough for roughly four dozen tamales. That's generally the minimum I make at a time. If you want to make fewer, you can easily half, or even quarter, this recipe.

  • 4 cups masa harina
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Pour all the ingredients into a large bowl.
  2. Mix the ingredients together to create a dough that's sort of the same texture as cookie dough. I usually start mixing with a spoon, and switch to mixing with my hands when the dough starts to hold together.

Wrap It Up

The second thing you'll need to make tamales is corn husk wrappers. Most grocery stores in areas with a large Hispanic population will carry dried corn husks for making tamales, but I say that because I live in Texas, land of abundant Mexican foods. If your local stores don't carry dried corn husks, you can buy them online, or, in a pinch, you can use the green corn husks from fresh corn, or even parchment paper.

Soak the wrappers in water for ten minutes or so. I usually push a stack of them into a bowl, and let them soak while getting the dough and fillings ready.

Fill 'em Up!

The final thing you'll need to make tamales is a filling. Traditionally, tamales are filled with pulled pork, but from experience, I've learned you can put just about anything that will withstand steaming into a tamale.

Here are the recipes for four of my favorite fillings: two that are sort of traditional, and two that are a little farther off the beaten path.

Vegan Taco Meat Filling Recipe


  • 1/2 cup dry TVP (textured vegetable protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon taco seasoning
  • Water


  1. Mix TVP with your favorite taco seasoning.
  2. Cover with water, and heat in the microwave for a minute.
  3. Stir, and microwave again for another 30-60 seconds.
  4. Let it sit for a few minutes until all the water is absorbed.

Makes enough to fill a dozen tamales.

Black Bean & Green Chili Filling Recipe


  • 1 15 oz. can black beans
  • 1 4 oz. can chopped green chilies, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin


  1. Mix ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Taste, and adjust spices as desired.

This recipe makes a very mild filling. If you'd like more zing, add some red chili powder or flakes. For really fiery filling, use some or all of a small can of chilies in adobo sauce instead of the green chilies and cumin.

Makes enough to fill a dozen tamales.

Spinach & Garlic Filling Recipe


  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, grated


  1. Combine ingredients in a small bowl.

This filling can easily be spiced up according to your taste. I like to shake a little nutmeg or cumin over the filling before I wrap the tamale closed for cooking.

Makes enough to fill a dozen tamales.

Pumpkin, Squash, or Sweet Potato & Rice Filling Recipe


  • 1 cup cooked pumpkin, squash, or sweet potato, mashed
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • Cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice


  1. In a small bowl, mix pumpkin, squash, or sweet potato together with brown rice.
  2. Season as desired with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.

Here's another filling that you can spice up or down, according to your taste. To make this filling more savory, add a little black pepper and cumin with the cinnamon. For a sweeter filling, try a bit of maple syrup or agave.

Makes enough to fill a dozen tamales.

Assembly Instructions

  1. For each tamale, use two pieces of corn husk. Layer them on top of each other, so the narrow ends are going in opposite directions.
  2. Put about two tablespoons of dough onto the top layer of corn husk, and smash it flat.
  3. Add a tablespoon of filling down the center of the dough.
  4. Pull the sides of the top corn husk together, to sort of roll the dough over the filling. Wrap the edges around each other, and place the husk seam side down on the second husk. Roll the second husk around the first, creating a tube with the filling at the center. Tie the ends of the husks with string or strips of corn husk.

Cooking Instructions

  1. Place a steamer into a large pot of water. Bring the water to boil.
  2. Place the tamales in the steamer, and steam for half an hour. The dough will be more solid, but not hard.
  3. Snip the strings, unroll, and eat while still steaming.

© 2010 Lisa Vollrath

Are Tamales On Tomorrow Night's Menu? 40 comments

hlkljgk profile image

hlkljgk 5 years ago from Western Mass

i've always wanted to try a tamale, but it's hard to find veg ones. i never thought to make my own. :)

Leanne Chesser profile image

Leanne Chesser 5 years ago from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Awesome sounding vegan tamale recipes! I'll be back!

mysticmama lm profile image

mysticmama lm 5 years ago

Very cool!:)

I love tamales & was curious as to what a vegan tamale would be stuffed with...

JanieceTobey profile image

JanieceTobey 5 years ago

Now you've really got me hungry! Your vegan tamale's look delicious!!

Dawoud-Williams profile image

Dawoud-Williams 5 years ago

I've been looking for a good tamale recipe for awhile now, thanks.

thehiplady lm profile image

thehiplady lm 5 years ago

I've never heard of these before now and not sure i can get the corn husks in the UK but I'll check out google and see what's possible. They sound great and I know my family/friends would be wowwed by them

RealityTV LM profile image

RealityTV LM 5 years ago

Sounds great and now I am officially hungry. lol

TWOnline2 5 years ago

beans in tamales? who'da thunk it. creative

StephanieB-Writer profile image

StephanieB-Writer 5 years ago

I will def have to try some of these combo's! Has anyone tried using daiya cheese in them?

RecipePublishing 5 years ago

Oh how yummy!

MissBuffySpears profile image

MissBuffySpears 5 years ago

These look yummy!

ScareYouDiva profile image

ScareYouDiva 5 years ago

I love the idea of no-meat tamales

entertainmentev profile image

entertainmentev 4 years ago

Yes! I'm serving this up.

anonymous 4 years ago

These are great recipes! My family and I wanted to do tamales for Christmas (and we're all vegan) so this should be a lot of fun.

anonymous 4 years ago

Wow! I'm so excited! I had vegan tamales at a church event and just had to find a recipe. So I'm feeling ambitious and will give this one a try. By the way, I like to serve some green leafy veggie with my dinners. Thinking about a tossed salad made with leafy spinach? Any other suggestions? Thanks!

anonymous 4 years ago

Can these be cooked in a slow cooker? Anyone tried it?

lisavollrath profile image

lisavollrath 4 years ago from Euless, Texas Author

@anonymous: I Googled it, and yes, they can be---but one site said to steam them for 5-1/2 hours in a slow cooker, which seems like adding a lot of time to a very simple process.

anonymous 4 years ago

Thank you very much for this vegan tamal recipe, I recently became vegan eater because all body hurt, after a month I feel like new. I cooked tamales and they are super good.

anonymous 4 years ago

Thank you so much for taking the time to post such an in-depth, user-friendly recipe! I would have never tried making tamales if I didn't find your page. They were delicious and surprisingly easy! Best of all, no complaints from the meat eaters in the family!

anonymous 4 years ago

homemade tamales are so good indeed, don't mind at all when people bring these to grill events.

SandyDell profile image

SandyDell 4 years ago from Lenore, Idaho

Not tomorrow night, but one of these days ... now that I have read your lens and know how to make them!!

anonymous 4 years ago

thank you so very much for taking the time to do this, I was looking for a vegan recipe tamales for Vacation Bible School, most of the recipes out there are with lard, will definitely make this. Belen

anonymous 4 years ago

Thanks so much for this wonderfully easy recipe. I made them tonight. I modified the recipe a bit in the following ways--first I divided everything by 4 since it was just me & my daughter partaking (1c. masa harina, 3/4c. veg stock, 1/8c. oil, dash of salt). I didn't have husks, so I used parchment paper and simply rolled it up and twisted the ends. No steamer either, so I used a strainer over boiling water with lid resting on strainer. I filled with a vegetarian refried bean/soy cheese mixture. With my measurements, the recipe made about 6 small tamales. They turned out beautifully and oh so delicious! Thanks again.

samuel2013 3 years ago

i like this idea

anonymous 3 years ago

First time to make tamales and these turned out fantastic! I used lentils mixed with taco seasoning and onion and it turned out really well. THANKS

lisavollrath profile image

lisavollrath 3 years ago from Euless, Texas Author

@anonymous: Good idea! I'll have to give that a try next time I make a batch.

Franksterk profile image

Franksterk 3 years ago from California

Man, do these sound good. Which ones, you ask. All of them. BlessedBear hugs, Frankie

NibsyNell profile image

NibsyNell 3 years ago

These look so yummy!

anonymous 3 years ago

Made these today with soyrizo and pinto beans topped with green enchilada nom! Thank you for sharing!

LluviaDeArte profile image

LluviaDeArte 3 years ago

That is wonderful, the gentle way you got into it. The accidental Vegetarian is still the deliberately healthier. Good for you and congrats on kicking that evil cheese habit. Thank you for a great lens!

LluviaDeArte profile image

LluviaDeArte 3 years ago

I love the tamale ingredients you chose for fillings. Unique, yummy and best of all great for us, yes I will be trying these.

DealForALiving profile image

DealForALiving 2 years ago from Earth

Thank you for these vegan recipes. I have a vegan friend and she really could use these so I've been forwarding.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 22 months ago from Home Sweet Home

thanks for sharing your vegan recipe

Kathy Stutzman profile image

Kathy Stutzman 18 months ago from When not traveling, located in Colorado or Minnesota

Nice combination of fillings, I can't wait to try these. Thanks!

Besarien profile image

Besarien 18 months ago

This looks amazing! Not too much that is edible could be bad seasoned with taco sauce and wrapped in masa. Thanks for sharing this recipe! If I can find all the ingredients I might have to make veggie tamales sometime this week. I'll let you know what I think!

Michelle 13 months ago

Great! I wanted a non lard mass recipe. I'm using Bob's redmill 15 bean mix with squash. Corn, beans, with my burnt spice ( not burnt , just toasted) squash complete protein. And with my red sauce.

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 9 months ago from Northeast Ohio

This looks tempting to try something new this year. I would try some of these vegan tamales recipes in the future. Thanks for sharing.

Kristen 8 months ago

What an amazing recipe! Thank you so much :) I was absolutely craving some vegan tamales, and I made some with black beans, zucchini, bell pepper with green chile sauce. I also made some with shredded baked jackfruit seasoned with a packet of taco seasoning. I rolled some up with strips of chipotle in adobo sauce and some with roasted hatch green chiles. These were the best tamales I have ever eaten!!! Thanks again!

Mommyto3cars 4 weeks ago

Thank you for this awesome recipe! I was curious, what can I substitute instead of the oil? We have become oil free vegans and have been searching for an oil free tamales recipe. Has anyone made them without oil?

lisavollrath profile image

lisavollrath 4 weeks ago from Euless, Texas Author

The oil is what keeps the masa from turning into a hard nugget. You might try adding some cooked sweet potato or even white potato to the mix, to act as a binder, and keep the mix soft.

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