A Christmas Tamale Party Menu

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Let’s face it — hosting a holiday meal is a lot of work, usually relegated to one or two people spending hours in the kitchen. But if the point of the holidays is to spend more time with friends and family, why not make Christmas dinner an all-hands-on-deck affair instead? Making tamales is a Christmas tradition in many Mexican households, and a tamale party is the perfect way to have everyone pitch in to make a special meal together.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

I won’t lie to you — tamales aren’t quick and easy since dough and filling need to be made first. Our tamale recipes, one with chicken and one with mushrooms and goat cheese, also each come with a delicious homemade mole sauce. Luckily, the fillings and sauces can be made up to a few days ahead to break up the process into manageable chunks.

Once all the ingredients are ready, though, the fun (and my favorite) part begins! Tamales are the perfect group activity — they don’t require complicated folds, so both newbies and kids can join in on the fun. Some of my favorite memories are sitting around with my aunts and cousins, chatting and catching up while we load up the steamer with tamales.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Even with extra hands joining in, tamale folding and steaming will take a few hours. That’s why we think a tamale party needs to have delicious appetizers to keep stomachs from rumbling before the tamales are ready to eat. Hearty meatballs in a tomato-chipotle sauce can stay warm in a slow cooker for people to help themselves to, and an easy black bean dip is also a perfect snack to serve with baked tortilla chips.

Once the tamales are ready, serve them with a refreshing jicama and cabbage slaw that you can prep ahead of time and just toss together at the last minute. And should you feel the need to end this fun Christmas party with something sweet, bake up a batch of nutty, buttery Mexican wedding cookies to pass around after all the tamales have been devoured!

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

The Menu

The Recipes

Your Cooking Timeline

One to Two Days Ahead

  • Poach the chicken, and shred the meat.
  • Make the pumpkin mole.
  • Make the mole verde.
  • Make the meatballs in chipotle sauce.
  • Make the cookies (optional).

Two Hours Before the Party

  • Soak the corn husks.
  • Make the bean dip.
  • Prep the slaw ingredients.
  • Bake the tortillas into chips.

One Hour Before the Party

  • Sauté the onions and mushrooms.
  • Reheat the meatballs and keep warm in a slow cooker.
  • Make the masa.
  • Set up the steamers.
(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Your Shopping List

Note that this list does not include the ingredients for the cookies, which are optional in this menu.

To buy at the store:

  • Whole chicken (1)
  • Ground beef (8 ounces)
  • Ground pork (8 ounces)
  • Ham steak (4 ounces)
  • Jalapeño peppers (5)
  • Jicama (3 pounds)
  • Poblano peppers (2)
  • Red cabbage (12 ounces)
  • Crimini mushrooms (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Shiitake mushrooms (8 ounces)
  • Tomatillos (5)
  • Scallions (4)
  • Fresh oregano (1 bunch)
  • Fresh cilantro (1 bunch)
  • Lime (4)
  • Soft goat cheese (1 1/4 cups)
  • Dried mulato or ancho chiles (2)
  • Maseca instant corn flour (7 cups)
  • Pumpkin purée (15-ounce can)
  • Golden raisins (1/4 cup)
  • Pecan halves (1/4 cup)
  • Pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup)
  • Pine nuts (2 tablespoons)
  • Vegetable shortening or lard (2 3/4 cups)
  • Dried corn husks, at least 6 inches wide at the bottom (40)
  • Chicken or vegetable stock (7 1/2 cups)
  • Fire-roasted tomatoes (three 14.5-ounce cans)
  • Chipotles en adobo (4)
  • White bread (1 slice)
  • Dried chipotle meco chiles (2)
  • Cooked black beans (2 cups)
  • Corn tortillas (6 to 12)

From your pantry (check to make sure you have enough):

  • Large eggs (3)
  • Whole milk (1/4 cup)
  • Garlic (17 cloves)
  • Onions (5)
  • Bay leaf (1)
  • Star anise (1 pod)
  • Ground cumin (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Vegetable oil (2/3 cup)
  • Olive oil (2 tablespoons)
  • Baking powder (2 tablespoons)
  • Black peppercorns (1 teaspoon)
  • Black pepper
  • Kosher salt