A Christmas tradition: red and green chicken tamales

By Claudia Zapata | 2016-12-17 18:31:03 | 0 Comments

I love my vegan and vegetarian tamal recipes from 2014 and 2015. Butternut squash, poblano peppers and corn, and spinach and mushroom tamales were even better than expected; and last year’s zucchini and corn, cactus in a spicy tomato and habanero sauce, and spicy black beans, were also amazing.

But, even though Sean enjoys the creative veggie fillings, he always asks, “can you make some chicken ones, too?”

I get it. I grew up eating chicken tamales. Every Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house, we had two options: menudo (tripe soup) and tamales. I would pick tamales. And, then more tamales. I liked the bean tamales, too, but the chicken were always my favorite.

So, this season, I decided to pay an homage to my grandmother and make Sean happy by going old school. Typically, chicken tamales are prepared in a green sauce, but because my husband grew up in Arizona, he’s partial to sauces with red chiles, and I made a big batch of both. I also prepped the spicy black bean and corn and poblano from previous years, because they’ll be my tradition.

Another new tradition – skipping the lard and using refined coconut oil. The refined oil doesn’t have the hint of coconut flavor and the texture is similar to lard so it makes for a very moist “masa.” For the masa recipe and assembly instructions,  see here.

Serve the tamales warm with salsas and guacamole.

Feliz Navidad!

A Christmas tradition: red and green chicken tamales
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4 dozen
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Traditional chicken fillings for tamales. Also great for tacos or chalupas any time of year!
  • 5 # boneless chicken breast
  • 5-6 large garlic cloves, whole
  • 1 large yellow or white onion (chop half the onion, slice ¼ in slivers, and keep the remaining ¼ intact)
  • salt
  • 4 large vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 can Chile chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 5 tomatillos
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño, vein and seeds removed
  1. Fill a large stockpot with water and add the boneless chicken, 3-4 garlic cloves, ¼ of an onion (not chopped) and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cook on medium-high until chicken is cooked and tender, about 45 mins to an hour. Let cool and remove the chicken. Shred and set aside (note: save the chicken broth for the masa if making tamales).
  2. For the red sauce: on medium heat, sauté the chopped onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, three chile chipotles from the can along with 2 Tbsp of the juices, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes. Add roughly half of the shredded chicken (add a little at a time until the chicken is well-covered in sauce but not overly juicy). Cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the tamales.
  3. For the green sauce: Roast the tomatillos and jalapeño in a sauce pan or directly on a gas flame turning until slightly charred, about 5-7 minutes. Place in a Vitamin or good blender with the cilantro, 1 large clove of garlic and 2 tsp of salt. Set aside. Sauté the onion slivers until they begin to caramelize. Add the sauce and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes. Add the chicken (again, gauge the chicken vs. sauce, adding just enough to cover the chicken but not make it overly juicy. you may have extra chicken). Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the tamales.




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