Hot Tamales….New Orleans Style


Many people that grew up around the New Orleans area remember Manuel’s Hot Tamales.  Manuel began selling his tamales in 1933 on the street corner of Canal Street and Carollton Avenue in New Orleans out of a push cart similar to an ice-cream push cart.  Just like a lot of other New Orleans’ greats….Manuel’s, as they say in NOLA, “ain’t der’ no more!” (sigh)

I, unfortunately, never had the privilege to eat a Manuel’s Hot Tamale, but have spent many years with my husband hearing about them as he searched for a comparison.  Through his search, I have tried quite a few tamales. Some good and some NOT so good.   If you’ve followed my blog long enough, you may recall a Chicken Tamale Pie recipe that I shared with you.  Needless to say, I have become very fond of tamales.

The New Orleans Style tamale is somewhat different than other tamales.  To the best of my knowledge, the New Orleans tamale is wrapped in a tamale paper instead of an actual corn husk.  It is also rolled in cornmeal v’s the masa corn flour.  It is also cooked long and slow in a spicy tomato sauce v’s steamed.  If you know of any differences, please share them with me and the readers. 

It was last summer when my husband came across a copy cat recipe for Manuel’s Hot Tamales.  He asked if I would give making them a try, and I did. (Anything for love, right? Besides they say the best way to the man’s heart is via the stomach.)  I had always heard that it was a long process of rolling the tamales so I enlisted the help of two little kids. They had the job of soaking 100 tamale papers one at a time.  I did the rest.  Never making a tamale before, I really had no idea what to expect.  After a day’s worth of work, I have to say that we were all a little disappointed in my tamales.  My tamale rolling skills were not that great and somewhere along the way I discovered that I forgot to add the right amount of chili powder. But like most things, without failure one can not improve. 

Just recently, I teamed up with my brother in law, Rusty (who enjoys creating recipes and eating hot tamales) in a quest to make a really good “hot” tamale.  We took the recipe that I had used previously and with what we both know about cooking, I think we came up with a very good recipe. (I am by no means saying that the recipe I had used was a bad one because I am made errors with it.)  We had to substitute a few things along the way because of running short of a few ingredients, but we took good notes and made good substitutions…..

I am excited to share the recipe with you.  Please take notice of the notes as to what, why and how we arrived at the recipe, and of course you can use your good cooking judgment as to how you may adjust the recipe.  I also provide the link to the recipe I used last summer.   As always, please  contact me with any questions. 

For a pictorial of the steps, please click here: Hot Tamale Pictorial

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Hot Tamales….New Orleans Style of Course

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  1. 1.5 lbs of ground chuck
  2. 1.5 lbs of ground pork (our adaptation/addition)
  3. 3 minced onions (our adaptation)
  4. 1 minced green bell pepper(our addition)
  5. 4 stalks of celery (our addition)
  6. 3 teaspoons of granulated garlic
  7. 3 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
  8. 1 teaspoon of freshly cracked pepper
  9. 3-4 teaspoons of kosher salt
  10. 1 teaspoon of paprika (our addition)
  11. 1/4 teaspoon of marjoram (our addition)
  12. 1 teaspoon of ground cumin (plus and added 1/8 cup which is our adaptation)
  13. 3/4 cup of chili powder
  14. 2 envelopes of Old El Paso Original Taco Seasoning (our addition/adaptation: 1 envelope is for the dry seasoning for the meat and the other is totally an optional pinch or so in your cornmeal for rolling the meat)
  15. 1 8oz can tomato sauce
  16. 1 10 oz can of diced tomatoes (Our adaptation…We drained and pureed them)
  17. 2 quarts of chicken broth (OPTIONAL…our adaptation instead of covering them in water to cook them. See direction for details)
  18. 3-4 cups of yellow cornmeal divided in the recipe. See directions for details. (This is our adaptation. I used Aunt Jemima because it had the less % of sugar and I had read in a recipe that using a cornmeal with the less sugar was recommended.)
  19. 100 tamale papers.
  1. 1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
  2. 1 10 oz can of enchilada sauce (We wanted to double the tomato sauce but I did not have another can so we used the enchilada sauce.)
  3. 3 teaspoon of cumin
  4. 1/4 cup chili powder
  5. 1 teaspoon of paprika (our addition)
  6. 1/4 teaspoon of marjoram (our addition)
  7. salt to taste
  8. freshly cracked pepper to taste
Tamale Paper Preperation
  1. Place the tamale papers one at a time and on top of one another into a large bowl of water. This will prevent the papers from sticking to one another and ensure that each paper be saturated with water. Set aside for rolling later.
Cornmeal Preperation
  1. Spread out cornmeal on a baking sheet. 1 cup of cornmeal at a time. (We added a pinch or two of one of the envelopes of the Old El Paso Original Taco Seasoning to our cornmeal and mixed it well. Set aside until you are ready to roll the tamales.
Sauce Preperation
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium heavy bottom saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil and set aside.
For the Tamales
  1. Put onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic in food processor until they are finely chopped.
  2. We then sautéed them in a little bit of olive oil to soften the vegetables. I do not think this is necessary but our family likes our vegetable seasoning soft, but since they are so finely chopped, they should be okay if you were to skip this sautéing step.
  3. In a bowl, mix the dry seasoning ingredients well together. This is the cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, marjoram and 1 envelope of taco seasoning.
  4. Add tomato sauce, puree tomatoes (if you use them) to the onion mixture.
  5. Add the dry seasoning mixture to the onion and tomato sauce mixture and blend together well.
  6. Place the ground meats in a very large mixing bowl. Mix the meats together well using your hands. I use food safe gloves because the meat is VERY cold.
  7. Add the mixture of the seasoned tomato sauce to the meat. Mix well together with your hands.
  8. Working with a spoonful of meat at time, roll the meat into the shape of a breakfast sausage link. PLEASE NOTE: If the mixture of meat seems to be too wet to form a firm oblong – sausage link shape, add 1/2 cup of corn meal at a time to it to firm it up. Ours was fairly wet due to the 16oz of puree tomotoes so we added 1 1/2 cups of cornmeal to firm it up enough that it could keep its shape.
  9. Roll the meat in the cornmeal LIGHTLY.
  10. Wrap each tamale in a tamale paper. Place tamale in the center of the paper. Fold over one side at a time. Then fold the bottom up. (This will leave the top of the paper open. You may or may not want to fold it over. We did not.) Repeat this until all of the meat mixture is gone.
  11. In a large dutch oven or roasting pan, lay the tamales flat. Alternate the direction of the tamales as you build layers of tamales.
  12. Cover the tamales with 2 quarts chicken broth or water will also work fine.
  13. Add the sauce mixture you made earlier to the pot of tamales.
  14. Bring to a low boil, cover and reduce for 2 hours. Check tamales frequently and add water if needed.
Next step is optional
  1. Turn off and let sit. We turned it off the stove and let the tamales sit for an hour. The sauce thickened to our surprise.
Adapted from The Catholic Foodie

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