Basic Mexican Tamale Dough Recipe

A large silver bowl filled with tamale dough
A light and flavorful dough to make the best tamales.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Why It Works

  • Back lard adds a mild porky flavor.
  • Beating the dough until light and airy creates the most tender tamale.
  • Resting the masa for an hour allows for better hydration and lighter tamales.

This master dough recipe for Mexican tamales starts with either fresh masa (the nixtamalized corn dough used to make tamales and tortillas) from a tortilleria or masa harina (nixtamailzed corn flour that's reconstituted with water or stock). Then lard, baking powder, and chicken stock are beaten into it to create a light, tender, and flavorful tamale that can be stuffed with your favorite filling, like green chili and pork, rajas and queso, or red chili with chicken.

Recipe Facts



Prep: 20 mins
Active: 15 mins
Chilling Time: 60 mins
Total: 80 mins
Serves: 30 tamales

Rate & Comment


  • 2 pounds fresh masa for tamales from a tortilleria or 3 cups of masa harina para tamales mixed with 2 cups water or chicken stock and left to rest, covered, for 15 minutes (see note)

  • 8 ounces lard, preferably back lard (see note)

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same by weight

  • 1 cup homemade chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium broth, plus more as needed


  1. Combine lard, salt, and baking powder and, using an electric mixer, beat at medium-high speed until well whipped, about 1 minute.

    whipping lard in a stand mixer for tamale dough

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  2. Add one-fourth of the masa at a time to the lard, beating between additions until thoroughly incorporated. Add chicken stock and continue beating until dough is light and has a soft and spreadable hummus-like texture. Cover masa with plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

    making masa in a mixer for tamale dough

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  3. Remove masa from refrigerator and re-whip, adding additional chicken stock 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary, to return it to original hummus-like texture. Use tamale dough in any tamale recipe (see links above for ideas, assembly, and cooking instructions).

    A bowl of freshly made masa

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Special Equipment

Electric mixer


Fresh masa can be purchased at local tortillerias, if you are lucky enough to live near one. If not, masa harina, such as Maseca para Tamales (available at most well stocked supermarkets) can be used. Pork back lard is preferable for its mild pork flavor, although more neutral tasting leaf lard or vegetable shortening can be substituted.

This Recipe Appears In

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
111 Calories
8g Fat
9g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 30
Amount per serving
Calories 111
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 7mg 2%
Sodium 119mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 34mg 3%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 37mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)