Whether you’re hosting a tamalada or just wanting to make homemade tamales to store in the freezer for later, it’s helpful to know how many tamales per person you should make. The last thing you want is to run out of tamales during the holidays! Use these tips as your guide.
When embarking on a cooking project as time consuming and labor intensive as making the corn husk wrapped dumplings we all love, you want to make sure you have all the ingredients, equipment, and supplies you need to make lots and lots of tamales.
For many families in the United States and Mexico, this traditional Mexican dish is expected at almost every holiday get-together and for many special occasions. For our family, the Christmas season hasn’t started until we get that first taste of a homemade tamal.
The best way to make massive amounts of tamales at once is to host a tamalada, or tamal-making party at the beginning of the holiday season. This is the perfect opportunity to invite over a bunch of friends and family and make a giant batch of tamales without having to do all the work yourself.
Trust me, if you pour everyone a frosty margarita when they walk in the door they won’t mind the long cooking time and getting their hands dirty. Best part: At the end of the party, everyone has some of the best tamales to take home and your own freezer is stocked and ready.
The question then becomes, how many tamales per person should we make?
This is when you need to put on your planning cap and think about how many times you plan on serving tamales during the holiday season and to how many guests. I always plan for 4 tamales per person of each tamale recipe that I am making. You really want to make them all at once, so it’s best to make more than you think you’ll need.
Therefore, if I’m making pork tamales and vegetarian tamales, I’ll make 4 of each kind per person.
All the tamales recipes on my site make between 20-30 tamales. So if I’m serving 12 people on Christmas Eve, for example, I’ll need 48 tamales and I should either double one of the recipes or make two different recipes.
If you have leftovers of the filling, use it to make enchiladas or tacos. You can also freeze it and save it for another time.
A Break Down Of The Ingredients You’ll Need
Tamales have become so popular that most grocery stores now carry everything you need to make tamales. The only thing they may not have at your local store is corn husks or banana leaves. Look for those items at a Latin grocery store. The corn husks you can also get online.
To Make 20 Tamales
Here’s what you’ll need to make 20 tamales. Double or triple or even quadruple these amounts to make more.
*Ingredient Note: Fresh masa also sometimes called masa quebrada or masa para tamales can be found at some Mexican bakeries or markets especially if they make their own tortillas. It is a corn dough made from freshly ground nitamalized corn similar to what is used to make tortillas but much coarser ground. It still needs fat, broth, baking powder, and seasoning added to it just like if you were using masa harina or corn flour.
- 8 cups masa harina or 2 pounds fresh masa
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 cup lard or vegetable oil
- 1 pound corn husks or 4 pounds banana leaves
- 4 cups sauce (red sauce or green sauce)
- 5 pounds meat like chicken or pork shoulder
- For vegetarian tamales you will need 3 pounds vegetables like rajas (charred poblano chiles), mushrooms, or corn
- For bean and cheese tamales you will need 1 pound of each of those.
- Extra salt and pepper for seasoning
- For the vegetarian tamales you will need 3 quarts of broth. You will use the liquid the meat cooks in for the meat-filled tamales
- Large Pot or Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot) for making the fillings
- 1 large pot for soaking the corn husks
- Large colander
- Heatproof container (12 quarts) for holding broth
- Comal or cast iron skillet for making the sauce
- Electric mixer or stand mixer with a paddle attachment for making the masa mixture
- Tamalera (Tamale Pot) or a large pot with a steamer basket
- Large bowl for holding the filling
- Blender for making the sauce
How To Make Tamales For Freezing
To freeze tamales you will make them exactly the same as if you were serving them right away. Instead of serving them however, let them cool completely once they are cooked. Store them in small amounts that you can take one batch out at a time to reheat.
- Soak the corn husks in warm water or prepare the banana leaves
- Make the meat and broth
- Puree the salsa in the blender
- Stir together the meat and the salsa
- Spread the masa dough on each corn husk or banana leaf
- Add the filling
- Fold the tamales
- Steam over high heat
- Remove from steamer and let cool completely
- Place in freezer bags or freezer-safe containers
- Freeze for up to 6 months
How To Reheat Frozen Tamales
To reheat a large batch of frozen tamales, steam them in a tamalera instead of using this frying pan method. The frying pan is quicker and easier for a smaller batch of tamales.
- Place 4-6 frozen tamales in a large frying pan. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by about an inch.
- Bring water to a boil over medium heat.
- Lower heat to a simmer, cover and steam until warm throughout, about 15 minutes. Add more water if it has evaporated.
- Shake off any excess water and serve!
What To Serve With Tamales
If you are serving tamales as the main course, here are some of our favorite authentic Mexican food side dishes to serve with them.
- Pickled Red Onions
- Charred Poblano Guacamole
- Slow Cooker Frijoles Borrachos or my vegan refried beans
- Cilantro Lime Slaw
- Sofrito Black Beans
5 Most Popular Tamales Recipes
- Pork Tamales with Mole Coloradito
- Black Bean and Cheese Vegetarian Tamales
- Chile Verde Chicken Tamales
- Pork Tamales with Salsa Verde
- Apple-Braised Beef Tamales
Ready To Make Traditional Tamale Recipes This Holiday?
Let me know when you make them by snapping a pic and tagging me on Instagram @holajalapeno and #holajalapeno so I can see or leave me a comment below (don’t forget to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ five star review)! Also, make sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter, lots of good stuff there too!