sweet corn tamale recipe by ana castro

Ana Castro’s Sweet Tamales

Sweet tamales are a traditional Mexican dessert, but Ana Castro’s version is a sophisticated twist on the classic recipe. They’re filled with prunes and pecans and have a surprising touch of miso for added depth of flavor. Then they’re topped with a creamy, nutty glaze and finished with a sprinkle of salt. These dessert tamales are a showstopping addition to your holiday dessert line up!

What are sweet tamales made of?

woman holding sweet corn tamale with prunes and pecans

“The idea of a dessert tamale is very enticing to me, but the sweet tamales in Mexico are hot pink, and have grenadine and raisins. I don’t really like them at all. So I’ve set out to make a dessert tamal that I enjoy,” explains Ana. Her version has softened butter, prunes and pecans, and her prune sauce which has prunes, miso, cane syrup and pecans, as well as some finishing salt. “It’s like a gluten free fruit cake, delicious for the holidays. It’s warm and comforting.”

How to make dessert tamales

woman rolling masa filling into corn husk

Making tamales is always a labor of love, but Ana has some tips to help you streamline the process. At the top of her list is making sure your butter is soft. “It has to be soft butter. Just put a reminder on your phone if you’re going to make tamales the next day. Put butter out, put plenty, put extra. You can always put it back in the fridge.”

Here are a few more of her sweet tamale assembly tips:

woman putting a sweeet tamale in a stack of tamales on a plate
  • You want to pick the nicest of the husks, look for no holes or tears, and nice and pliable pieces. The husk resembles a triangular shape, place them with the base of the “triangle” facing you and the tip facing away from you.
  • Since these sweet tamales are more of a dessert, we are going to scoop the batter as if they were cookies. The amount of masa should resemble a golf ball. Place the ball/scoop in the center of the husk. And push in a couple pieces of cut prunes and a pinch of pecans.
  • Use the husk to encase the ball of batter in a rolling motion, the batter is supposed to flatten and take on a more rectangular shape.
  • Make strips of husk and use them to tie a double knot on the bottom of each tamale and fold the tip to tuck the tamale in.

Try another of Ana’s flavorful Mexican recipes featuring California Prunes

Pork Chops with Mole Sauce

Ana Castro based her pork chop recipe on one her grandmother has been making for New Years Eve since the 80s. She chooses pork chops over a larger roast to make the recipe a little less complicated. But it’s still big on flavor thanks to the complex mole sauce served with it.

Ana Castro's pork chop on a plate garnished with slaw and prune mole
Ana Castro's Sweet Corn Tamales with Prunes and Pecans on a plate

Ana Castro’s Sweet Tamales with Prunes + Pecans

Ana Castro
Sweet tamales are a traditional Mexican dessert, and Ana Castro's version is a sophisticated twist on the classic recipe. They're filled with prunes and pecans and have a surprising touch of miso for added depth of flavor. Then, they are topped with a creamy, nutty glaze and finished with a sprinkle of salt and are a showstopping addition to your holiday dessert lineup!
5 from 6 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 24 tamales
Calories 244 kcal

Equipment

  • Stand Mixer
  • Blender
  • Large pot with steamer insert

Ingredients
 
 

For the tamales:

  • 2 cups Masienda brand masa harina
  • 1 cup Soft Butter
  • 1/2 cup Cane syrup or honey
  • 1 teaspoon White miso
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking powder
  • 2 cups Diced prunes
  • 8 ounce Package corn husks
  • 1 cup Chopped pecans
  • 2-3 cups Water

For the Prune glaze:

  • 1/2 cup Pecans
  • 1 cup Prunes
  • 1 cup Cane syrup or honey
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Miso
  • 2 cups Hot water more for blending if needed to reach desired consistency

Instructions
 

For the tamales

  • The night before, leave a pound of butter out of the fridge to come to room temp nice and slowly.
  • Start by soaking a cup of pitted prunes in 1 cup of hot water. Let it sit for about 30 min so prunes can soften. Puree the soaked prunes and water, cane syrup, miso and vanilla extract in a blender. Blend until smooth, if it’s too thick, you can add a bit more water. Transfer contents of the blender into a bowl and using a spatula mix in 1/2 cup of chopped and toasted pecans. If you’d like you can add a bit of bourbon, or dark rum. Wink Wink. Great job! Your sauce is ready!

For the tamales

  • In a standing mixer, with the help of the whisk attachment, whip your butter on high for about 2 minutes, until a bit of air is incorporated, and the butter has increased its volume and become a pale almost white. Next up, with a spatula, scrape all the butter of the whisk into the mixing bowl, for this next step you will switch to a paddle attachment. Add your white miso, cane syrup, salt and baking powder. Mix for about 30 seconds at low speed, scrape the bowl and sides again and incorporate your masa harina, in about 3 increments. Start trickling in water. Mix on the paddle attachment at medium speed until the batter looks homogenized, it should resemble a very light cookie dough.

For the assembly

  • Soak the corn husks in hot water for 30 minutes, changing the water out every 10 minutes.
  • Once you’ve finished this process, on a flat clean table, lay out your husks, let’s start with 20. You want to pick the nicest of the husks, look for no holes or tears, nice and pliable pieces. The husk resembles a triangular shape. Place them with the base of the “triangle” facing you and the tip facing away from you.
  • There are a lot of ways of building tamales, some people like to do a thin spread of batter and then filling, but since today’s tamales are more of a dessert, we are going to scoop the batter as if they were cookies. The amount of masa should resemble a golf ball. Place the ball/scoop in the center of the husk. And push in a couple pieces of cut prunes and a pinch of pecans.
  • Use the husk to encase the ball of batter in a rolling motion, the batter is supposed to flatten and take on a more rectangular shape.
  • Make strips of husk and use them to tie a double knot on the bottom of each tamale and fold the tip to tuck the tamale in.
  • For cooking, you’ll need a steamer, fill the bottom of your pot with water 3/4 of the way up. Let it come to a boil, once it boils throw in a penny for good luck (and it’s my grandma’s way of knowing if the water gets too low because the penny will start tapping).
  • While the water comes up, arrange the tamales, knot facing up, in a concentric circle on the steamer pot.
  • Once the water is on a boil, reduce it to a simmer and place the steamer basket with the tamales on, place a lid and set a timer for 45 minutes. When your timer goes off, turn of the burner, carefully open the pot away from you, there will lots of steam. Using thongs take a tamal out of the pot and place the lid back on. To check the tamale open it very carefully. You are looking for a tamale that its hot and steamy, so it will be little soft, but it needs to set. If you’re not sure, take a little taste with the tip of a spoon, you’ll be able to tell if the masa is underdone. If it is, place the tamal back in and steam for another 15/30 minutes. Repeat this process to make sure they are cooked all the way. Once they are cooked, turn the pot off and let the tamales sit for 15 minutes before serving.
  • For serving, open your tamal, peel back the layers of the husk to expose the tamale itself, and add a big spoonful of your prune sauce. Enjoy! I like presenting them in the husk because they look so gorgeous. You can eat them like that or if you’re feeling extra, make it a la mode with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Nutrition

Serving: 1tamalCalories: 244kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 2gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 196mgPotassium: 219mgFiber: 3gSugar: 21gVitamin A: 431IUVitamin C: 0.2mgCalcium: 40mgIron: 1mg
Keyword ana castro, california prunes, cane syrup, dessert tamales, pecans, sweet tamales, tamales
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headshot of Ana Castro wearing a green apron and standing in a kitchen

CHEF ANA CASTRO

Raised in Mexico City by her grandmother, Ana Castro learned early the importance of sourcing and preparing food. After traveling the world to learn more about different cuisines and cultures she settled in New Orleans. There she worked her way to sous chef at Coquette and was named a finalist for a 2018 James Beard Foundation Rising Star Award. In 2021, Castro opened Lengua Madre, serving a five-course tasting menu inspired by her Mexican heritage. In 2022, Lengua was named one of Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants in 2022, and Castro was hailed as one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs.