Chicken poblano and goat cheese tamales

by ali

Some people are lucky enough to have amazing Tamale recipes from their mother or grandmother…I happen to have recipes from my cooking magazines and the cookbooks of our favorite chefs. Instead of using just one recipe, I have combined what I believe are the best elements of 3 different recipes here into what I think is most appealing flavor wise and practically speaking; I didn’t need to make 38 tamales after all, just 18 (enough to eat, freeze and give away). 

Tamales with goat cheese, chicken, chicken broth, poblanos, red chiles, masa

Tamales in Steamer

A couple great things about this recipe, and the reasons I started making these tamales:

1.) It is a great way to use the boiled chicken you have leftover from making your chicken broth recipe.

2.) It also uses chicken broth in the tamale masa itself – making the masa tender and moist when cooked.

So here is my recipe and instructions for…

“Traditional” Chicken, Poblano and Goat Cheese Tamales

There are Four elements to these Tamales:

The Masa

  • 2 cups Masa corn flour,
  • 1.5 cups Lard, 2 cups Chicken broth (+1)
  • 1 cup Red Chile sauce
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 8 oz package of dried corn husks to wrap your tamales in.

Red Chile sauce

  • 1 tbsp lard
  • 2 tbsp chipotle powder
  • 2 tbsp red chile powder
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups chicken broth, salt (to taste)
  • 1 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp Mojo de Ajo
  • 1 serrano chile cored seeded and diced

The Filling

  • 3 cups shredded cooked Chicken
  • 3 poblanos seeded and diced
  • 16 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 diced white onions
  • 2 tbsp lard
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1 cup red chile sauce
  • 1 cup+ goat cheese (divided between tamales)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano

The Cream Sauce (optional)

  • 2 cups crema mexicana
  • 2 chipotle chiles (best from can)
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1/2 cup crushed walnuts
  • salt to flavor
  • cilantro for garnish

Mojo De Ajo (click link for recipe)

Before you start on step one, remove corn husks from the package and soak them in hot water for at least two hours – they need to be soft so they don’t break when you go to wrap the tamales.


I start with the Red Chile Sauce because it ends up in almost everything, imparting a lovely tangy flavor to all the elements it is incorporated into.

Heat a Large Skillet over medium high and add 2 cups of chicken broth. whisk in all the chile powders, cayenne, paprika, and mojo de ajo with crushed garlic confit. Let simmer for 10 minutes then pour liquid into a blender. Add diced serrano chile, 2 garlic cloves and oregano and blend until smooth.

Chipotle, ancho, red chile, serrano, chicken broth, vinegar, lard, onions, garlic

Red Chile Sauce

In saucepan, add 1 tbsp lard, then incorporate blended chile sauce back in, reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer sauce to a bowl or measuring bowl with a pour spout (for ease later) . Whisk in cider vinegar and season with salt or pepper to taste. Should not be too salty. If you desire a bit more heat, add a touch of tabasco. Allow sauce to cool.


Now it is time to start on your filling! Because I HATE doing dishes, I recommend rinsing the first saute pan and reusing it for this step. There is nothing worse than a whole day of cooking and THEN having to clean every pan you own.

Prepare all your ingredients for the Filling: Tomatoes, Corn, Peppers, Onions, Raisins, Garlic, Sherry, Lard, Red Chile Sauce, Etc.

Poblano Peppers and Tomatoes

Poblanos and 2 Cups Tomatoes

Pour your sherry and raisins into the pan and bring to a simmer on medium heat, then remove from heat and pour into a bowl – let the raisins plump up in the sherry. Should take about 30 minutes.

Raisins, Sherry, Sautee, Tamales

Raisins in Sherry

Heat lard in the saucepan over medium heat and add sliced onion and garlic, sauteeing until onions soften. Add tomatoes and juices, chiles, corn, and cook until chiles soften about 10 minutes.

Corn, Tomatoes, Onions, Peppers, Garlic

Tamale Filling Part one

Mix in cooked shredded chicken then raisins with sherry. Incorporate Red Chile Sauce to flavor the filling.  Stir together and season to taste with salt and pepper allowing it to simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes or longer. Most of the sauce should have dissolved but it will still be very moist.

chicken, chiles, red chile sauce, garlic, peppers, onions

Tamale Filling Part 2

Set out goat cheese to allow it to soften and crumble into small pieces to be used in Tamales


Make the Masa.

In a large stand mixer, like a Kitchen Aid (I love mine!), measure out lard, salt, baking powder and start mixing on slow.

Masa in Mixer

Masa in Mixer

Incorporate the Masa a bit at a time until it becomes crumbly, then add the chicken broth in slowly until it is more soft. With the mixer running slowly, pour in the red chile sauce.

Masa with Red Chile Sauce in Mixer

Masa, Red Chile Sauce, Mixer, Kitchen Aid

Dough should be the consistency of thick Hummus or very soft cookie dough when thoroughly mixed. Remove from mixer and chill for 30 mins -1 hour to firm up dough.

Final Masa, Red Chile flavor, Tamale

Final Masa seasoned with Red Chile


Composing your tamales.

Get a large Stock Pot (ad link) on the stove with about 3 -4 inches of water going. Insert a Steamer rack  so your tamales will sit about an inch above the water.

Remove one large corn husk from water and lay it flat – curled corners up on a hard surface such as a wooden cutting board.

making tamales, husk, masa

Assembling the Tamales

Scoop out roughly 1/2 cup of masa dough and flatten with your fingers it onto 1/2 of the widest end of the husk.

Pour 1/2 cup (or so) of filling from your pan, top with goat cheese.

Tamale, Filling, Cheese, Chicken, Masa, Husk

Tamale Assembly part 2

Begin folding husk from the edge covered with masa and filling, tucking end tightly around the filling as you roll it. Fold Bottom of Husk up into second fold and turn over.

Tamale Assembly, Chicken, Masa,

Tamale Assembly step 3

Place a 6 inch length of twine underneath and tie it firmly around the middle of the tamale – making sure the end is wrapped up under the string. The top of the tamale will be open, you can tuck the filling back down in and top it off with a bit more masa.

Tamale Assembly, tieing, string, chicken, masa

Tamale Assembly 4

Place the bottom folded end of the tamale down into the pot – the open end will be facing up.

Fill your pan with tamales, then cover and turn up the heat to steam them for 1.5-2 hours (depending on the size of your tamales). Don’t forget to CHECK TO REFILL WATER in the pan after every 30 minutes.

You can tell your tamales are done when the masa peels away easily from the husks. You will want to remove one from the pan, unwrap it and check the masa for firmness.

Tamale cooked

Tamale Check

It should be mostly firm, not squishy. It will firm up more as they cool. When your tamales are done, turn off the heat and let them sit in the covered pan for 15 minutes before serving.


While Tamales are steaming, this is a perfect time to grab a margarita and put your feet up for a couple of minutes OR start cleaning up your kitchen. After you’ve taken a little break, pull out your cream sauce ingredients.

In a Cuisinart or blender, pour your chipotles, crema mexicana (or sour cream with a couple teaspoons of milk), your walnuts and your molasses. Blend until smooth – it will have little chunks because of the walnuts. Season to taste with salt. Put it in the fridge for use on the finished tamales. (sorry no photos this time!)


Pull your tamales out of the pan, unwrap on the plate and drizzle cream sauce across the top or add it on the side. you may also want to include a slice of lime and some cilantro for garnish.

Final Tamales, Finished, Cooked, Chicken Tamales

Finished Tamales

Enjoy! And don’t forget – you can add or delete any ingredient to tamales, just use your tastebuds and cooking instincts to experiment, and don’t forget to always TASTE AS YOU GO!

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Chicken poblano and goat cheese tamales, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
  • Ali

    I have to make these again soon…wow were they good.

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