Veracruz-Style Tamales (Zacahuil)


These delicious Mexican tamales are the perfect comfort food. Banana leaves stuffed with turkey, tomatoes, and ground chili peppers make for a savory authentic Mexican meal, straight from Veracruz. Serve with salsa if desired, and enjoy!

Prep Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
Cook Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 15 mins


  • 1 dried ancho chile pepper

  • 1 dried chipotle chile pepper

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  • ¼ cup chicken broth

  • ¼ cup canned fire-roasted crushed tomatoes

  • ½ teaspoon ground hoja santa leaf or 2 tablespoons chopped fennel leaves

  • 2 cup finely chopped cooked turkey

  • ½ cup lard

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 2 cup masa harina

  • ¼ cup ground blanched almonds

  • ¾ teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup chicken broth

  • 24 8x6-inch rectangles banana leaves

  • Salsa (optional)


  1. For filling, in an ungreased medium skillet toast ancho and chipotle chile peppers over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes or until peppers are fragrant, turning frequently. Let cool. Remove stems, seeds, and membranes from peppers.* Tear peppers into pieces. Place pepper pieces in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder. Cover and process until finely ground. Set aside.

  2. In the same skillet heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Sprinkle oil with flour; cook and stir until mixture is light brown. Carefully add broth and tomatoes; cook and stir over medium heat until smooth. Stir in hoja santa or fennel leaves. Stir in turkey and ground chile peppers. Set aside.

  3. For tamale dough, in a large bowl beat lard and baking powder with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes or until smooth. In a medium bowl combine masa harina, almonds, and salt. Alternately add masa mixture and broth to lard mixture, beating until mixture resembles a thick creamy paste.

  4. To assemble each tamale, spread about 2 tablespoons of the tamale dough into a 4x3-inch rectangle in the center of a banana leaf rectangle, so long sides of dough run lengthwise on the banana leaf. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the filling down center of the dough rectangle. Bring a long edge of the banana leaf over to the opposite side of the filling and roll up layers. (If banana leaves break, press pieces together to seal.) Twist or fold under ends of leaves. Tie twisted ends with banana leaf strips or 100-percent cotton kitchen string.

  5. To steam, stand tamales upright in a steamer basket in a large Dutch oven. Don't pack tamales too tightly, but fill the space. Pour at least 1-1/2 inches of water in the bottom of the pan. Bring to boiling; cover. Reduce heat to medium-low. Steam for 45 to 60 minutes or until dough pulls away from banana leaves and is spongy and cooked through.

  6. To serve, transfer tamales to a serving platter. Carefully unwrap tamales before eating. If desired, serve with salsa.


Because chile peppers contain volatile oils that can burn your skin and eyes, avoid direct contact with them as much as possible. When working with chile peppers, wear plastic or rubber gloves. If your bare hands do touch the peppers, wash your hands and nails well with soap and warm water.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

113 Calories
7g Fat
9g Carbs
5g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 24
Calories 113
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g 9%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 13mg 4%
Sodium 146mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 5.3mg 27%
Calcium 40.4mg 3%
Iron 0.5mg 3%
Potassium 90mg 2%
Folate, total 8.1mcg
Vitamin B-12 0.1mcg
Vitamin B-6 0.1mg

*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

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