Tamalitos verdes, a non-guilty pleasure

Fresh corn, and cilantro leaves are the base of the comforting and delicious tamalitos verdes. Eaten as a light appetizer or side dish, tamalitos are extremely popular in Peru, and especially in the Northern coast of the country. That is why I knew Jesus was the right person to teach me how to make them.

Jesus is Amelia’s husband (Amelia is our lifetime cook), and he is from a very small village in Piura (north of Peru) and grew up as a farmer. His mother and sisters are experts at making this tamalitos recipe -and many other variations-, and they eat them fresh, accompanying  stews instead of bread, or fried when they have a couple days old. They are incredibly tasty, -in a subtle way-, and much easier to make than one would expect. Jesus came to teach me all his tamalitos‘ secrets yesterday, and in less than 1 1/2 hours, we were enjoying them for breakfast.

*Buy fresh corn, but not too young.

*To enhance the green color of the tamalitos, Jesus adds spinach to the cilantro, but you can skip this ingredient if you want. Another variation: skip the cilantro and spinach altogether, and add some aji amarillo pasteand a slice of white cheese. These are called humitas.

*The amount of vegetable oil is perfectly calibrated in this recipe, so if you prefer to make it lighter and use less oil, the resulting tamalitos will be tougher.

*Our tamalitos verdes are wrapped in green corn husks, cleaned beforehand. Do not boil them to clean them, as they will lose flavor. The dough is made with raw corn, and its very good like this (guaranteed!), although other recipes indicate to cook the corn and then make the tamales.

*Always steam the tamalitos  in very little water. When done, they are ready to eat, or you can put them in the fridge or freeze them, if you want to store and eat later. This recipe makes 20 tamalitos, but assume that every person will have 2.

The recipe is easy enough to make on your own, but if you want help, why don´t you organize a tamalitos party, and have fun in the kitchen while making this traditional savory treats?

Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
  • 2 lb. white corn
  • 2 cups cilantro leaves and some sprigs
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Green corn husks
  • Salsa criolla
  1. Process corn, cilantro, and spinach in a food processor or a grain grinder until it looks like cooked oatmeal. You can use the blender but the texture could be too liquid, affecting the resulting tamalitos.
  2. Put processed corn in a bowl, add oil, stirring gently with a wooden spoon or a spatula, until smooth. Add salt and pepper.
  3. Clean husks with a damp kitchen towel, and proceed to make the tamales, using 1½ - 2 tablespoons of corn dough for every one.
  4. Wrap with the husks, tie with kitchen twine, and reserve. When all the dough has been used, put the remaining husks into the bottom of a wide saucepan. Put the tamalitos and 2 - 3 cups boiling water, cover with more husks and bring to a boil, covered. Cook for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool.
  5. You can eat the tamalitos at once, but they will hold their shape after a few minutes.
  6. Serve 2 tamalitos per person, with salsa criolla.


  1. Que ricos se ven! Voy a ver donde consigo el choclo aca porque verdaderamente se ve facil…mas de lo que yo pensaba. Y riquisimos! Tambien me encanto el tip para hacer humitas. Yum! Gracias por la receta.

    • Helena, hay muchas tiendas latinas, donde puedes conseguir el choclo congelado. Si no lo consigues tal vez puedes intentarlo con el maiz de aqui, y decirnos que tal te salio! Es facil, y deliciosa. Y sanisima!

  2. So happy to see that they’re vegan! We’re vegetarian and all the tamales we’ve come across have lard in them. This is going in my recipe pile. Gracias!

  3. These look incredible! I have never made anything in corn husks before and I’m hosting a Peruvian party on Saturday. Can I make these a day ahead?

    • Hi! You can make them a few days in advance and keep refrigerated. Just reheat before serving time. In case you don´t have fresh corn husks, use the dried husks sold in grocery stores. Have fun!

  4. Hi tried making 1/2 a batch. Consistency is not right too loose. Any suggestions

  5. Hi! This recipe looks great. I’m wondering, when it says 2 lbs of corn, is that the weight of the corn kernels themselves after they have been sliced off the cob, or the weight of the corn cobs before the kernels are cut off? Thanks!


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