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Holly jolly lard-free tamales

Warm corn flour, shredded chicken, chilies and cheese, or pork carnitas – yes, please.

Problem is, in many cases, tamales are made with an ingredient many people want to do without: lard.

Lard is pig fat.

Coconut oil isn’t traditional, but it offers a vegan alternative to lard-laden masa.

Ask tamale traditionalists about swapping out the lard, and they will insist it’s necessary. It’s what holds the little gifts together.

Coconut oil has about the same amount of calories and daily value for fat as lard. The fat acts not only as a binder but tenderizer. Without it, masa would be crumbly and mealy. Olive oil or vegetable oil or vegetable shortening could also be used to make vegan tamales

Seasoned Coconut Oil Masa for Tamales

For a basic, unflavored dough, use salt but skip the other seasonings.

About 3-4 dozen corn husks

4 cups masa harina

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon onion powder

3 1/2 to 4 cups warm vegetable broth, preferably homemade

3/4 to 1 cup coconut oil

Soak husks in a large bowl of hot water for about 30 minutes, then drain and pat dry.

In a large mixing bowl, combine masa, salt and other seasonings, and whisk. Slowly pour in warm broth, mixing with hands until well combined. Melt the coconut oil, then pour it into the masa mixture and continue kneading until well combined.

Tear a few husks into long strips to use as ties, then start assembling tamales. For each one, use the back of a spoon to press about a 1/4 cup of dough over one side of the husk, leaving about 2 inches of uncovered husk at the bottom. Add filling. Fold husk over once, then repeat. Bring the bottom up and under. Use a strip of husk to tie each with a knot.

Arrange tamales vertically, with open ends facing up, in the steamer basket of a large, wide, stock pot. Fill with about 2 inches of water, cover pot, and bring water to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium. Steam until dough is firm and pulls away from edges of husks, about 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours, taking care to add hot water to the pot as tamales cook. Let tamales rest about 10 minutes before serving.

Note: Try other seasonings in the dough, such as celery salt, dried oregano, a little lime juice and fresh chilies, chopped onion, minced garlic and jalapenos.




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