Moist, tender Instant Pot HEALTHY Salsa Verde Pork and Bean Tamales. With the magic of the Instant Pot, you can now have the best tamales you've ever had minus the pound of lard and in half the time. Believe it! These are incredible!
I really never had much love for tamales until a few years ago when I made them myself. However, they were a bit dry, took forever, and weren't really something I saw myself making more than once a year.
Fast forward to this recipe!
I so badly wanted a tamale recipe in my Instant Pot cookbook, Master the Electric Pressure Cooker, and it took several duds before I found “THE ONE”.
In the book I made a meat lovers version called Barbacoa Beef Tamales with pickled jalapeños and pepper jack. I also included a veggie version with a medley of black beans, sweet corn, diced red bell peppers, and goat cheese. Yum, yum, yummy!
I wanted to make an equally amazing version for the blog so when I found myself with plenty of shredded pork after experimenting with the Hawaiian BBQ Tacos, I knew just what to do!
Now, these tamales aren't just any ol' tamale. If you're looking for lard laden, heavy tamales, these are not it.
But if you're looking for a moist and flavorful tamale, with a fraction of the fat, that gets moisture from healthy coconut oil and corn puree, then yes my friend, these are for you.
No, you will not miss the lard, and yes you can eat twice as many. Let's Party!
WHY YOU WILL LOVE INSTANT POT TAMALES
- This masa dough recipe is so simple to mix together, it is soft and malleable to the touch. It freezes so you can double it and save a batch for another day
- Unlike most authentic tamales, this recipe is full of good for you ingredients. Top it with salsa (like the tomatillo version below), chopped avocados, and Mexican Crema (or sour cream) and you've got yourself an incredibly satisfying and wholesome meal
- Fill it up! My biggest complaint about storebought tamales is they have so little filling. When you make your own you can fill them to the max!
- These tamales can be cooked from frozen in the pressure cooker! That's right! Didn't plan for dinner? No worries, you've got tamales from frozen ready to eat in under a half hour.
HOW TO MAKE MASA DOUGH FOR TAMALES
You might recognize this from the Tamale Pie recipe, it's the same easy dough
- Add partially pureed corn to a bowl
- Add remaining ingredients
- Mix by hand until it's no longer sticky
HOW TO MAKE INSTANT POT TAMALES
- Lay a soaked corn husk on a flat surface, spread masa dough across the top half, leaving a one-inch strip clean on the right side
- Add the fillings and fold the left side over the filling to seal it inside
- Fold the bottom up; tie it shut
- Put tamales in a steamer basket and place inside the pressure cooker
- Cook for 20 minutes. You'll know they are done when the cooked dough easily pulls away from the husk
- Plate and serve warm
HOW TO EAT TAMALES
For the longest time, I sincerely thought that part of the tamale eating experience involved the husk. This could be the reason I was 20 something and wiser before I ever tasted one.
To eat a tamale, remove the tie, open the husk, and roll the inside tamale onto a plate. Discard the husk, don't eat it – thought I better point that out.
Top it with your favorite Mexican toppings and eat it with a fork. The dough is so tender it will easily break with just a fork, no knife required.
HOW TO MAKE A HEALTHIER TAMALE
If you've been around my little food blog long, you know that turning indulgent recipes into even better, good for you recipes is my mojo. My husband told me a healthy tamale couldn't exist. I said, “watch me” and may have done a cross body triple finger snap that undoubtedly looked awkward and hilarious.
To make a healthier tamale I had to get rid of the lard without ending up with a dry, nasty tamale.
The lard went bye-bye and got replaced with coconut oil (or olive oil) and corn puree. Trust me on this one, you won't miss the lard for a second.
HOW TO COOK A TAMALE FROM FROZEN
Rolling up a million tamales can be a semi time-consuming task. But good news! They freeze beautifully and cook up like fresh in the pressure cooker.
So turn on some good music, bribe your kids into the kitchen, and get wrapping, knowing that you will be rewarded with easy tamale meals in the future.
- Once the tamales are wrapped, lay them on a parchment lined sheet pan, stacking them as little as possible, freeze for at least an hour. This method will keep them from sticking to each other
- Once frozen, place them in a freezer-safe ziplock or FoodSaver and store them in the freezer
- When ready to eat, place frozen tamales in a steamer basket as instructed in the recipe below and cook them for 30 minutes instead of 20
Like same day fresh tamales, at your service.
TAMALE FILLING IDEAS
The options are endless, here are some of my favorites:
- Omit the barbecue sauce from this Shredded Pork Taco recipe, toss it in salsa verde, and add some cheese (this is the recipe I included below)
- Go for the shredded beef in these Green Chile Beef Burritos – perfect way to use leftovers!
- Instant Pot Chipotle Shredded Chicken – I haven't tried this one yet, but it's on the list!
- For a meat-free option, fill the tamale with your choice of Instant Pot Black Beans, Pinto Beans, or Refried Beans, and a sprinkle of cheese. This is my kid's favorite version. Or try the black beans, sweet corn, diced red bell peppers, and goat cheese version from my cookbook on page 52.
- I still have not tried this, but I think this Peach Compote or this Triple Berry Chia Jam would be an amazing filling. Top with ice cream or whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. Yum! If you try it, report back!
- Note: I suggest blending the corn completely if you're making a dessert version of these tamales. Bites of corn with your ice cream might be a little weird . . . or actually, it might be awesome.
- If you don't feel like rolling a bunch of tamales, then this Instant Pot Tamale Pie is your answer! You can fill it with any of the options I just mentioned.
TIPS FOR MAKING THE BEST INSTANT POT TAMALES EVER!
Now, tamales are known for being a bit time intensive and I'm not gonna lie and say that the pressure cooker gets rid of all the work. Here are my tips for how to make tamales as simple as possible:
USE LEFTOVER MEAT IN TAMALES
You know you've had leftover meat plenty of times, probably have some sitting in your freezer. This is the perfect way to use it up! It's best to use cooled meat when you're wrapping them anyways, so think ahead and reserve those leftovers for tamale night
USE FRESH OR STOREBOUGHT SALSA
In the recipe below I'm tossing the pork in an Easy Homemade Tomatillo Salsa Verde for an extra layer of flavor and topping it with the most amazing Tomatillo Avocado Salsa you'll ever taste. But here's the thing, storebought works too, so if you want quick, easy, and convenient, grab the bottled salsa (or sneak into your mom's basement for a homemade bottle – not that I would ever be that tacky).
However, do yourself a big favor and at least once in your life, make the Tomatillo Avocado Salsa!
HOMEMADE OR STOREBOUGHT REFRIED BEANS
CORN HUSK WRAPPER OR TINFOIL
If you don't want to mess with using corn husks (which let's be real, is mostly about the authenticity of it), use squares of nonstick tinfoil. Not only does this get rid of the corn husk soaking step, it also skips the tying process, which gets a bit tedious.
USE YOUR FREEZER
There are so many opportunities for freezing here. You could
- Double the amount of masa dough and freeze half for another day
- Make up your tamales and freeze them before or after pressure cooking them
- Freeze leftover meat, salsa verde, beans, etc to fill your future tamales
So basically the work you put in at first will translate to many easy, yummy tamale dinners later.
USE YOUR LEFTOVERS
Finally, tamale fillings are extremely adaptable. Use this amazing masa dough recipe and then look in your fridge for leftovers. Shredded chicken, leftover veggies, cheese, etc etc.
Whew! I think that about covers it! I'm afraid I'm making it seem way too complicated, so if you're feeling overwhelmed, check out the step by step video above to remind yourself how easy this can be.
Be sure and let me know if you create any new flavor varieties!
TOOLS AND INGREDIENTS USED TO MAKE INSTANT POT TAMALES
- Instant Pot
- High Speed Blender or
- Food Processor
- Fine Mesh Steamer Basket or
- Steamer Basket
- Masa Harina Flour
- Coconut Oil – look for Refined Coconut Oil. It has a more neutral scent and flavor where Virgin (unrefined) Coconut Oil has a natural coconut flavor
Instant Pot Tamales
Instant Pot Tamales cook faster and stay nice and moist. This version here is healthier than any tamale you've likely ever had!
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 75 minutes
- Yield: 18 tamales 1x
- Category: Entree
- Method: Pressure Cooker
- Cuisine: Mexican
For the Tamales
- About 16–18 dried corn husks
- 2 1/2 cups drained, canned corn (can substitute fresh corn)
- 2 cups masa harina
- ½ cup warm chicken or vegetable broth (or reserved broth from shredded pork)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- about 1 cup shredded Instant Pot Pork (from this taco recipe)
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup salsa verde, bottled or homemade (easy homemade Tomatillo Salsa Verde included in the recipe – make it ahead of time if using)
- about 3/4 cup refried beans (canned or homemade)
- pepper jack or quesadilla cheese, cut into matchsticks (16 – 18 sticks)
- Toppings: Mexican Crema, sour cream, or greek yogurt, Tomatillo Avocado Salsa (see recipe below) or favorite store-bought salsa, crumbled cotija cheese
Tomatillo Avocado Salsa (optional, could substitute with your favorite salsa)
- ½ pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and chopped
- 1 avocado, chopped
- 2 tablespoons diced onion
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 jalapeno, membrane and seeds removed, minced
- juice of 1 lime
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
- Fill a large bowl with warm water, place corn husks in the water. Allow to soak and soften for 10-15 minutes.
- To make masa dough: In a blender, pulse corn until partially pureed. Pour the corn into a large bowl and add masa harina, broth, baking powder, salt, and coconut oil. Use hands to combine all of the ingredients into a soft dough. Set aside.
- Toss shredded pork with salsa verde using more or less depending on how dominant you want the salsa verde flavor. I tend to use more salsa verde for a stronger flavor.
- Optional: Place refried beans in a freezer safe ziplock, press all of the air out and seal. Cut one of the bottom corners of the bag for a quick and easy way to add beans to your tamale (see video for demo of this process). Place cheese close by to begin tamale assembly.
- To assemble tamales: Drain corn husks and pat dry. Tear the small husks into ¼ inch strips for tying the tamales after they are filled. Lay several medium-large husks out on a clean surface.
- Scoop about 2-3 tablespoons of masa dough, flatten by hand, and place in the top left-hand corner of a corn husk. Use your fingers to spread out the dough on the top left corner of the husk, pressing to about a quarter inch thick.
- Arrange 1-2 tablespoons of shredded pork down the center of the dough. Squeeze about 2 teaspoons of refried beans over the meat (or spoon over the meat if you didn’t use the ziplock trick). Place a matchstick of cheese on top of the beans.
- Starting on the left side, fold the corn husk over so the dough encapsulates the filling. Press to seal the filling inside the masa dough, then roll to the end of the husk.
- Fold the triangle shaped bottom up and tie with one of the strips of corn husk.
- Add 1 1/2 cups water to the pressure cooker pot, place a steamer basket inside.
- Arrange tamales upright in the basket.
- Secure the lid and turn pressure release knob to a sealed position. Cook at high pressure for 20 minutes.
- When cooking is complete, use a natural release for 10 minutes and then release any remaining pressure.
- To serve, unroll tamales from the husk and arrange 2-3 on a plate. Top with Tomatillo Avocado Salsa, crema (or sour cream or yogurt), and a sprinkle of cotija cheese.
To prepare Tomatillo Avocado Salsa
- Combine the salsa ingredients in a small bowl and toss. Can be made up to 3 days in advance by omitting the avocado and then adding it in right before serving.
Easy Tomatillo Salsa Verde
- 1 pound tomatillos, husk removed and rinsed to remove the sticky residue, and halved
- 2 jalapeños
- 1 poblano
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon salt
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 small bunch of cilantro
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil. If using regular foil, spray with nonstick cooking spray. Put all of the ingredients (except for the garlic) on the pan and roast in oven until they soften and become slightly charred, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic after the other vegetables have cooked for 10 minutes so it doesn't burn.
- Pour all of the cooked vegetables and juices into a blender or food processor and blend to desired consistency – smooth or a bit chunky.
Freezer Instructions: There are a few options when it comes to freezing tamales
- Freeze masa dough – Make a double batch of masa dough and freeze half of it for another day. Let it thaw and soften, then start at step 3 to prepare tamales.
- Prepare tamales through step 9, then freeze. When ready to cook, cook for 30 minutes with a 10 minute natural release.
- Prepare tamales through step 13, let cool, then freeze. When ready to cook, cook for 15 minutes with a 10 minute natural release.
- Any leftover shredded meat will work for filling the tamale
- If making the Homemade Tomatillo Salsa Verde included in this recipe, put it together a day or two in advance for a quicker prep
- Squares of tinfoil can be used in place of the corn husk
- To freeze wrapped, uncooked tamales, place them on a parchment lined sheet pan (try not to stack them too much to avoid sticking to each other), place in the freezer. Once frozen, place them in a freezer-safe ziplock. See recipe for notes on how to cook from frozen.