Tamales: A Holiday Tradition at the Disneyland Resort

For many families, tamales are a delicious Christmas Eve tradition, with the process of making them with family and friends – scooping and smearing the dough, wrapping in corn husks and snugly tying – an endearing custom.

In this video, Disneyland Resort Chef Martha Sigala shows how she makes a vegetable tamale, basically a dumpling made with masa (hominy flour) dough filled with potatoes and carrots, then steamed in a natural wrapper (typically a corn husk or banana leaf). It takes lots of organization, and rolling takes a little practice, but the result is flavorful comfort food worthy of sharing.

Chef Martha shows you her technique in the video below, and the following recipe is from Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante in Disneyland park.

Vegetable Tamales
Makes 18 tamales

Red Chile Sauce
1 (3-ounce) bag dried California chiles (about 12 to 14 chiles)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch ground bay leaves (see Cook’s Notes below)

Vegetable Filling
4 large fresh pasilla peppers (may substitute poblano peppers)
2 medium russet potatoes
4 medium carrots
1/2 (1-pound) bag frozen sweet peas
1 pound queso fresco

Tamale Dough
3 1/2 cups masa harina (see Cook’s Notes below)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Tamale Wrappers
24 dried corn husks, soaked in boiling hot water for 2 hours or overnight.

For red chili sauce:

  1. Place chiles in a medium bowl. Pour 3 cups of boiling water over, submerging chiles completely in water. Soak for 2 hours.
  2. Place soaked chiles into blender with the remaining ingredients. Add just enough water to cover chiles (no more than 2 cups). Purée until smooth.
  3. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove skin and seeds, pressing on solids to push sauce through sieve. Set aside until ready to use.

For vegetable filling:

  1. Place peppers on a baking sheet lined with foil. Place under a pre-heated broiler, about 2 inches below the heat. Broil until skin blisters and is charred, turning to evenly char each pepper.
  2. Place peppers in a bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Steam in the bowl for about 5 minutes. Gently peel away skin. Cut off tops of peppers and discard stems and seeds. Cut peppers into strips about 3 inches long and 1/2-inch wide.
  3. Peel potatoes, and place into a bowl of cold water. Cut each potato into strips 3 inches long and 1/2-inch square. Return potato strips to water until ready to use.
  4. Peel carrots and cut into strips 3 inches long by 1/2-inch square.
  5. Place frozen peas in a sieve and run under hot water until they turn bright green.
  6. Crumble queso fresco and place in a small bowl. Set aside.

For tamale dough:

  1. Place masa harina and shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Blend until shortening is evenly distributed through the masa.
  2. Add chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until mixture resembles the consistency of mashed potatoes. You may not use all of the broth.

For tamales:

  1. Lay 1 cornhusk, concave side up, on a work surface. Place about 2 tablespoons tamale dough in an even layer across the wide end of the husk. The dough should be about 1/2 inch from the sides, 1 inch from the top and about 3 inches from the bottom.
  2. Place 2 strips pepper, 1 piece potato, 1 piece carrot, 1 teaspoon peas and 1 teaspoon cheese in the center of the dough. Bring sides up to meet, pinching dough to seal, and then roll tamale into a cylinder. Fold the bottom of the husk up and under. Set tamale seam side down on a baking sheet or large platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
  3. Add a few inches of water to a large stockpot, and place a steamer basket inside. Place tamales in steamer, stacking no more than 2 high. Place pot over high to bring water to a boil, then lower heat to medium-low. Steam tamales for about 90 minutes, or until the tamales start to separate from the cornhusks.
  4. Serve with Red Chili Sauce.

Cook’s Notes:

  • Masa harina (literally “dough flour”) is flour made from dried masa, which is made with sun- or fire-dried corn kernels. Masa harina may be found in the ethnic-foods aisle of grocery stores, or in Latin food markets.
  • Ground bay leaves may be found in the ethnic foods aisle of grocery stores, or in Latin food markets.

Keep an eye on the Disney Parks Blog for more updates on the holiday season at Disney Parks, and join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #DisneyHolidays.


  • thank you for this post. Every other year, my sisters, mom & I get together to make traditional Mexican tamales and the time spent together is just priceless. the recipe here sounds wonderful! I’ve never actually tried Rancho’s food, but I sure will be putting it on my list of restaurants to visit before the end of December!

  • Does the masa harina mean that this recipe is gluten free??

  • thanks for the recipe and the video, I’ve loved tamales and wanted to try cooking them myself. Love the videos of the castmembers, thanks again Disney !!!

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