New Orleans-Style Hot Tamales

Hot tamales have been sold for decades on street corners all over New Orleans– usually late at night, from pushcarts, the backs of vans, or from small windows in nondescript buildings. The big names in the biz are Manuel’s and Fiesta. They have in common a style that is almost nothing like the tamales from Latin America. And they tend to be on the greasy side, but nobody seems to care.

Warning: These things take forever to make. But the process is calming, and fun to do with friends or kids.

  • Filling:
  • 1 lb. ground round
  • 3 Tbs. corn meal
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 large onion, chopped very fine
  • Coating:
  • 3 cups Maseca (or corn meal)

1. Break up the ground round into a bowl. Add all the other filling ingredients and mix together well with a fork or a heavy whisk.

2. With a tablespoon, scoop out the mixture and roll it out into a cigar shape. Then roll it through the corn meal to stick a thick layer of meal onto the meat mixture.

3. Soak paper tamale wrappers in warm water. Lay a paper out and sprinkle corn meal over it. Place a coated filling “cigar” onto the paper and roll it up, folding in the ends of the papers to completely enclose the tamale.

4. Put the tamales on their sides in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, alternating direction of layers. Pour water enough to cover all the tamales, plus about an inch. Place on medium fire until the water boils. Lower heat to maintain a simmer and cook, with cover on, for an hour and a half to two hours.

Makes about three dozen tamales.

8 Readers Commented

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  1. Jackson Townsend on February 19, 2014

    Dear Tom,
    I was listening to your show today (2/19/14) when you mentioned your Extinct Restaurants list asking for additional suggestions. I notice that Bella Luna is not on the list. My wife and I used to go there often and it was her favorite “romantic” restaurant. We often went early just to be sure to get the far back corner table by the window. Perhaps you might consider adding it to your list. It really was excellent, and its replacement, although good, does not attract us as Bella Luna used to.

    FYI, this is my first time emailing you and I found it a bit confusing to get to this form (“Contact Us” button?). We enjoy your show very much and use your website often. You provide an excellent service, at once entertaining and informative to the city and its visitors (not to mention the restaurants themselves, which we must all support). Thank you.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on February 19, 2014

      Bella Luna is included in the article about its predecessor, Moran’s Riverside. But maybe it should have its own listing. I will also take your advice about creating a contact link. It’s one of hundreds of things I need to do for the newsletter.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  2. Dale Ordoyne on February 20, 2014

    Loved Manuel’s sadly “ain’t there no more”, but I must say I’ve never herd of Fiesta. Is it still around? If so where?

    • Tom Fitzmorris on February 20, 2014

      Fiesta Hot Tamales were here and there around New Orleans for a long time. I remember in the 1960s there was one on Carrollton at Claiborne.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  3. These will turn out more like Manuel’s Hot Tamales if you mix the meat and seasonings and cook BEFORE rolling into tamales. The key is to refrain from draining off any grease. Chill it in the fridge and mix again to distribute the fat throughout the meat. Now you roll into cylinders, then roll in cornmeal and wrap. This is the way to duplicate the Manuel’s texture and it was the method they used.

    • Of course, I failed to make it clear that after wrapping, you then arrange in a pot, cover with sauce and cook again for about an hour.

    • By the way, where is the chili powder in the above recipe? Can’t make tamales without chili powder.

  4. Cindy on September 6, 2014

    I used chili powder in this recipe this was very good!!!!

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