Apple-Braised Beef Tamales

Tender beef, slowly roasted with apples, apple juice, and chiles make the most delicious braised beef tamales. Learn how to make them for Day of the Dead! #tamales #beeftamales #dayofthedead #diadelosmuertos

Tender beef, slowly roasted with apples, apple juice, and chiles make the most delicious braised beef tamales. Learn how to make them for Day of the Dead!



For the Filling:

  • 34 pounds beef chuck roast
  • 1 1/2 cups Juicy Juice 100% Apple Juice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 apples, cored and chopped
  • 3 dried guajillo chiles, rinsed, stemmed, seeded, and chopped fine
  • 45 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stick canela or cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Tamales:

  • 40 dried corn husks (about 1/2 a package)
  • 6 cups masa harina
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups lard or vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
  • 3 cups reserved cooking liquid from the beef
  • 56 cups beef or chicken broth


For the Braised Beef:

  1. Heat oven to 300°F and arrange rack in the middle. Place beef in a large roasting pan.
  2. Combine remaining filling ingredients in a large bowl. Pour over beef and cover baking dish with foil.
  3. Roast in oven until tender and falling apart, about 3 hours. Remove, uncover and let sit until cool enough to handle.
  4. Remove beef to a large plate. Strain cooking liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl, reserving solids. Discard any thyme sprigs, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves.
  5. Shred beef into bite-sized pieces. Add vegetables from the braising liquid to the beef and mix to combine. Save the cooking liquid for the masa.

To make the Tamales:

  1. Place husks in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and let soak for at least 30 minutes. Use a heavy plate to submerge husks in water.
  2. Combine reserved braising liquid and broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
  3. Combine masa harina, cilantro, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add cubed lard or shortening rubbing it into the dry ingredients with your fingers until it is in very small pieces. Add 7 cups of warm broth and mix into a dough making sure all masa harina has been incorporated and there are no dry spots. It is best to mix together with your hands so you can feel any dry masa harina.
  4. Add more liquid if the masa is too dry, you want it to be easily spreadable but not runny, like fluffy mashed potatoes. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.
  5. Assemble:
  6. Fill a tamale steamer with water just until it reaches the rack where the tamales will sit. Use a few of the small or ripped soaked corn husks to line the rack. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, turn heat to medium and keep covered.
  7. Dry a soaked corn husk with a clean kitchen towel. Hold the corn husk with the wide end toward you. Using a large spoon or tamale spreader, evenly spread about ½ cup masa from the middle of the husk down leaving about ½-inch border on the sides.
  8. Place about 3-4 tablespoons of the beef mixture down the middle.
  9. Fold one side of masa over the filling until the two edges of the corn husk meet, and holding onto one side of corn husk, pull the other side toward the middle to press the two edges of masa together. Fold the pointy end of the corn husk up over the large end, and place on a clean baking sheet. Repeat with remaining corn husks, masa, and filling. You can use a piece of corn husk to tie the tamales and prevent them from opening, but it is not necessary.
  10. Place tamales vertically, open-side up in the tamale steamer, keeping them snug in the pot so they don’t unravel during cooking. Make sure water is at a steady simmer and producing lots of steam. Cover tightly and steam until masa is cooked through and not doughy in the middle, about 1 hour. Check occasionally and add more water if the pot looks dry.
  11. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, 5 to 10 minutes before removing from the pot. Tamales can also be left in the pot, covered with a clean towel (and then covered with the steamer lid) for up to an hour before serving. They will stay warm and soft if you want to make them in advance.