Hot Tamales and Chili


Papa Haggard was my maternal grandfather.  In the mid-1930’s he owned a restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Mother worked in the restaurant.  When she was sixteen years old, she had to quit school to help Papa.  One of her jobs was making hot tamales.  She didn’t make them for us very often, because she said she had to make so many of them when she worked at the restaurant that she didn’t want to make them any more.  It was a real treat for us when she did make them, and a taste bud party I will never forget.

With the last days of winter nearly gone, and during the dogwood and blackberry winters of colder days, maybe you would like to try Mother’s recipe for hot tamales.  I only recently found it.  Mother dated a lot of her recipes.  This one is particularly special for me, because it is dated November 9, 1950, the day before I was born!


Milly Payne’s Hot Tamales

Meat Center:

3/4 pound sausage

1 pound hamburger or lean ground chuck

6 teaspoons chili powder – more or less as desired

1 teaspoon salt

Mix together well and form in rolls, about 3 inches long and maybe 1  1/2 inch diameter.  Place on wax paper until ready to cover with cornmeal mixture.

Outside of tamale:

8 cups white cornmeal ( you can use self-rising or plain)

1 teaspoon salt (even if you use self-rising)

2 cups buttermilk, or enough to make the mix a consistency to pat around the meat mix.

2 teaspoons chili powder.

Mix well with hands.  Pat around meat mixture until well coated, about 1/4 – 1/2″ thick.  Set aside.

Soak corn shucks in hot water.  Place around tamales and tie each end with a strip of the corn shuck.  Tie a strip in the middle of the tamale.  Cip ends.  Be sure the tamale is well-covered with shucks.  Cook in boiling water for 30-35 minutes. 

Remove tamale from shucks and cover with chili.

My favorite chili recipe is by Betty Lynch from My Country Kitchen.  I encourage you to visit her site, not only for the amazing chili recipe, but for all the other fabulous recipes she has there. 

I hope you enjoy the tamales and chili.  You many find it will be one of your favorite winter foods, too.

Explore posts in the same categories: Food and Recipes, Memories, Story

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10 Comments on “Hot Tamales and Chili”

  1. Nothing like fresh homemade tamales. I cheat, we have a little place near us that makes their own tamales, tortillas, salsa and the best breakfast burritos. I’ll have to try those recipes some day. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Oh, Pam–

    I’m sure this recipe is very special to you. Not only was it dated the day before you made your appearance on the planet, but it must remind you of many happy feasts of yesteryear. Although your mom didn’t make her hot tamales often, that made the times she did even more memorable.
    As a vegetarian, I can try making them with soy burger “meat.” As Rachel Ray likes to say, “Yummo!” My mouth is already watering!!

  3. Food for the soul, Pam. Having that recipe dated by your Mom just before you were born must be so special. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Pam,

    I have never had a hot tamale so before I go trying to make one of my own, I’d better taste one to see if I’d like it. Sounds like a flavorful recipe.

    Really nice idea to give fellow Diva Betty a plug.

  5. Betty Lynch Says:

    Oh my do these tamales sound so good! I’m going to have to try this recipe. I’m so honored to partner my chili with your tamales. Yummy!!

  6. I’ve heard of hot tamales but don’t know that I’ve ever tried one. They do look delicious. Thanks for the recipie. This might be good for my family’s Friday movie night.

  7. Perfect! I love tamales and was actually just complaining only a day or two ago that there wasn’t anywhere near me to get a good tamale. There is now – my own kitchen. Can’t wait to try these along with Betty’s chili. MMM-MMMM- Good!

  8. MJK06 Says:

    Yeah i have never heard of tamales either…I’m English…but i am soooo gonna make these…they look great. Thx for posting!

  9. Nancy Says:

    I have been searching for this recipe for years!! My grandmother-in-law used to make tamales like these, and she shared the recipe with me back in the 60’s. I lost the recipe and had forgotten exactly how to make them. Thanks for posting it (I’m in Knoxville). I will be making them this week-end!!

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