Tamales de Chocolate por Día de la Candelaria

Chocolate Tamal, photographed outside under fading evening light

Tamales are always a major undertaking, especially for someone who reads tamal recipes, rather than actually makes them. I won’t name names, but let’s just say it had been about twenty years since I last made any by myself. Things had to change, and tomorrow being Día de la Candelaria was as good a reason as any to put my hands to the metate. I mean, KitchenAid mixer. I really don’t even own a metate, but greatly admire Lesley, blogger of The Mija Chronicles, for her metate work, when she probably has a food processor and KitchenAid sitting on her kitchen counter. I have been vicariously working on the metate with Lesley for months. And vicariously making tamales with other bloggers. That partly changed today, when I made Tamales de Chocolate. Sadly, I have yet to buy a metate.

Making  tamales took longer than I thought it would, but that is often the case when making a new recipe. First, the corn husks had to soak for two hours. The masa and chocolate mixture was chilled in the fridge for one hour for added tenderness. Then the filling and tying, then two hours to steam the tamales. By the time they were done, there was barely enough light outside for a few photos, but what a great way to start our evening with a steaming pot of chocolate tamales.

This recipe is adapted from one by Rick Bayless at Frontera Kitchens. Rick uses pulverized Mexican chocolate. I used cocoa powder, and coconut oil instead of butter. Russ just about flipped when he tasted one, saying it was better than the chocolate tamal I recently brought home from the market. He also thought a bit of Mexican crema spooned over a tamal would be nice and offered to buy a carton tomorrow. He’s such a sweetheart.

Tamales de Chocolate makes 12-15 tamales

  • 12-15 corn husks, plus extra for cutting into strips for tying
  • 2/3 cup (5 oz.) soft organic coconut oil or butter
  • 1 cup organic sugar (5.4 oz./150 grams)
  • 1/2 cup (1.8 oz./50 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 lb. (1/2 kilo) masa dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml.) organic milk or water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) sesame seeds
  • 4 tablespoon (60 ml.) pumpkin seeds
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml.) dried cranberries or raisins
  1. Cut off cupped end of corn husks, and cut other end to square it. Then cut into rectangles 6″ wide by 7″ long.
  2. Soak corn husks in hot water for 2 hours.
  3. In a standing mixer, blend coconut oil and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and mix about 3 minutes.
  5. While mixer is running, add masa dough in small pieces and beat until completely incorporated, about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add milk and beat until smooth. Batter should be the consistency of a thick cake batter, but still keep its shape when spooned.
  7. Refrigerate batter for 1 hour to increase tenderness (optional).
  8. If refrigerated, beat again until soft, adding additional milk if needed to form a soft batter.
  9. Stir in sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries.
  10. Place a collapsible vegetable steamer or other rack in the bottom of a tall pot. Pour in water up to the bottom of the steamer and heat pot.
  11. Drain corn husks.
  12. One at a time, place a husk in front of you, tapered end closest to you. Spoon about 1/4 cup of chocolate masa mixture onto the center of each husk, leaving 2″ border on the lower edge.
  13. Spread masa mixture into a rectangle, forming a 2″ across and 4″ top to bottom, leaving a 2″ border on the lower edge closest to you.
  14. Bring the sides together and roll around the tamal in the same direction. Fold up the bottom edge and tie with a strip of corn husk. The top of the tamal stays open.
  15. Stack tamales in the pot, standing on end, open end up. Cover and steam over medium-low heat for 2 hours,  replacing water if necessary.
  16. Serve warm.


Diana Kennedy says to place a penny in the bottom of the tamal pot. When it stops rattling, the pot needs more water. As she has made her share of tamales in her time, I followed her directions, wondering if pesos would work just as well. Not wanting to take a chance that pesos might be too heavy to bounce around, I used two pennies and they rattled nicely.

Día de la Candelaria is a religious and family celebration throughout Mexico, when tamales and atole are served to friends by the person who bit into the little doll in their piece of rosca on January’s Three King’s Day.

Tamal is the singular word in Spanish; tamales designate plural. There is no such word as tamale in Spanish.

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22 thoughts on “Tamales de Chocolate por Día de la Candelaria

  1. Pingback: Weekend Links | Go Mexico Guide

  2. gabriellemarielopez

    I’m saving Lesley’s delicious strawberry tamal recipe for the summer when I can get perfect strawberries, these I may make much sooner!

    1. They do look good, don’t they. I will have to try them, also, when I see strawberries in the stores, usually in March where we live. We can make chocolate tamales all year, which I think I will be doing. :)

  3. great job, they look amazing..they do take time…but they are worth it!! I love the first pic, even with the fading light they look tempting!!
    have a great week

  4. Mmmmm….yes this does look amazing! I have a jar of Mexican crema just waiting to be poured ove the top of one of them! I think I have everything to make them except the time!

    1. Yes, time is the first ingredient. Russ’s latest suggestion is to use cherries next time, instead of dried cranberries or raisins. Cherries, fresh or dried, are not common here. I do see fresh cherries in the summer for about $8 a pint. Too pricey for us.

  5. Darlene

    You have been very ambitious! How wonderful your chocolate tamal looks. I can only look on from afar wishing that I had some right now. Did you use cranberries or raisins? My guess is dried cranberries. ( I remember your raisin cereal posting) Did Russ like it with crema more?

    1. Thank you, Darlene. I used cranberries, but chuckled to read that you remember the raisin bran story. Russ seemed to forget about the crema today. I think I hear him in the kitchen right now, warming some up. They aren’t going to last long.

  6. Lorin Johnson

    These sound great. Maybe I can give them a try over the weekend. What were the ones like from the market? She had a fantastic sweet one for Christmas. I do keep dreaming of her spinach, pine nut and fresh cheese ones.

    1. The chocolate tamales from the market were wonderful, but too sweet for our taste. Because I use less sugar, our taste buds have adjusted. Also, we ate them fresh from the pot. That in itself has to make a difference. Adriana’s spinach, pine nut and cheese tamales are very, very good, my favorite breakfast on market day.

  7. Sounds amazing!! I know you know I have a love of all things Rick Bayless, and now that I have found this wonderful website I have two great resources!! I will say that I have not tackled Tamales.

    1. Don’t wait as long as I did, Paul. Do a small batch by yourself, or find a tamal buddy to help with a big batch. Let me know when you make them.
      I’m a great fan of Rick Bayless, but Diana Kennedy is my high priestess of comida mexicana.

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