Tamale Recipe

Informant Information:

Clerisse Cornejo is a student at the University of Southern California. She comes from a mixed background (Japanese/Mexican), and is originally from Fontana, CA.

Traditional Recipe:

So on the other side of the family which is majorly Mexican like Mexican. We always try to get together on Christmas Eve and watch our tia make tamales. It takes a few hours and sometimes we help if she wants it. So the recipe is like masa on the outside which is like a corn based paste I guess that forms the outside of the tamale inside they’re usually stuffed with chicken, beef, or pork, and homemade chile. So at this point it’s all about getting the masa which you can make yourself or buy from somewhere else. I think my aunt usually buys it or she might even switch between the two actually. Then they soak the corn husks in hot water and this makes the casing around the entire tamale including the masa. It’s like a second layer. Once the corn husks are boiled they remove them from the water, add the masa, and fillings and spread it throughout consistently. Afterwards they’re folded in the proper shape and they’re steamed in this big pot called an oya. And they sit there for awhile and cook. After a certain amount of time we remove them and they’re ready to eat. I don’t put sauce but it’s typical for somebody to put more chile/another topping on their tamales.”

Q: Would you say this is a traditional/standard recipe?

“Definitely. I don’t think there’s too many unique ways to make tamales outside of picking different ingredients. We use pretty conventional ingredients so they’re pretty normal tamales.”

Q: Why on Christmas Eve?

“I think it’s because they take so long to prepare and make. So, families often make them for a special time of the year like birthdays or specific holidays they celebrate with their families.”


The informant’s recipe, upon further investigation, is fairly standard to other authentic tamale recipes. The only difference is that other recipes call for more chile oil/sauce. I was also able to find out that an “oya”, as the informant calls it, is actually a dutch oven.