Canning Tamales - Yeah!

Canning Tamales!

First, the education part. Because if you don't GET this part, you can have a disaster.

Tamales EXPAND during the canning process.

It is VERY important that you not over-fill jars, and that you pay attention to the headspace required. If you have too little headspace, the tamales will push out of the jar, either causing a lid to bulge, or causing the corn flour to escape during processing. If the corn flour pushes out of the jar, you end up with a mess in your canner, and failed seals. The seals may LOOK good, and then pop a week or two later, when you aren't paying attention, causing loss and spoilage.

Tamales need liquid, and absorb liquid during processing or cooking. So the sauce ratios need to be followed also. You start with watery stuff, you end with sauce.

If you do it right, you get nice plump tamales in a jar, with a nice chili sauce around them. If you do it wrong, you get blown lids, messy jars and canner, and no liquid on the tamales.

This is like canning dry beans. Smart people can manage it.

Canned Tamales

(I don't know EXACTLY how much it makes, I just filled the jars until I ran out of ingredients. I got four jars and a few extra tamales to cook on the stovetop to sample.)

RECOMMEND Wide Mouth Tapered 1 1/2 Pint Jars! If you use Pint jars, you have to make REALLY short tamales.

You also need EITHER Parchment paper, OR Corn Husks. Parchment paper is a little more compact, but the softer inner corn husks will also work well.

SOAK corn husks for about half an hour in warm water when you are ready to assemble the tamales.



  • 1 lb beef (can be a solid piece, or chunks, whatever)
  • Mild peppers (such as Anaheim or green chiles) - you need about 1, cooked and mashed
  • Sprinkle of salt


  • 3 cups Masa Flour (find this in the Mexican Food section, it may be called Tamale Flour, you want the Corn flour not meal)
  • Salt
  • Chili Powder (I used about 2 tsp)
  • Cayenne (optional)
  • Black pepper
  • Onion or garlic powders (optional)


  • 1 cup V-8 or Tomato Juice (do NOT substitute sauce it is too thick)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 shakes cumin if desired
  • pinch garlic granules
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cook the beef until it is tender and pulls apart. Shred it and add the mild pepper. Toss to mix.

Put the Masa Flour in a bowl, and add about 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper, and the chili powder. Add a sprinkle of cayenne if you like.

Add cold WATER to make a sticky dough. It should hold together, and you should be able to spread it out flat.

NOTE: You want the Masa Dough to be STICKY, and SPREADABLE. If you can handle it or knead it like bread dough, it is TOO DRY. You should need to spread the dough with a spatula or knife, or the back of a spoon. It handles sort of like brownie batter. If it is too dry, it can cause the jar lids to pop because of the expansion of the increased flour amount.

MIX the sauce ingredients together - I used a jar so I could pour it into the canning jars.

If using Parchment Paper, CUT pieces about 6" X 6" (or a smidge larger).


Lay out a piece of parchment paper or a corn husk. Press out some of the dough in a rectangle about 3" X 4", in one corner of the husk (on the wide end) or paper (go 3"X3" if you are using pint jars). The dough should be about 1/4" thick, or a little less.

Put a bit of beef down the center, the long way on the paper or husk.

Roll the tamale up (so you get a 4" long tamale for larger jars, or 3" for pint jars), and fold the bottom end of the paper or husk up.

Place the tamale into the jar.


Make your tamales narrow!

They need to be about 1" in diameter when finished! Do NOT go bigger! You can play around with the thickness of the dough (thinner dough) to get more meat in it if you like, but don't make a bigger tamale.

Place FOUR tamales into the jar. NO MORE! They will expand to fill the jar! There should be lots of wiggle room around them.

Make SURE that you have the FULL AMOUNT of space above the top of the tamales! This is vital!

1 1/2 Pint Jars - 2" headspace above the top of the tamales.

1 Pint Jars - 1 1/2" headspace above the top of the tamales.

They GROW! They will expand during canning, and then shrink back down just a little, you will need every bit of headspace.

FILL the jar with sauce, up to the little seam line just below the bottom lip on the jar - you need a full 1" headspace for the sauce. The tamales should be covered in sauce. (Yes, the headspace for the tamales is DIFFERENT than the headspace for the sauce.)

Process jars in a Pressure Canner, for 90 minutes for pint and a half jars, or 75 minutes for pints. Standard pressure adjusted for altitude.

If you are feeling Festive, you may press 1 olive into the meat in the middle of each tamale.



DO NOT USE home milled corn flour for this! Use ONLY commercial corn masa flour. Home milled will have the germ in it, and this means YOU WILL GET PERFRINGENS food poisoning in the jars. You can SMELL it, and it does change the appearance of the food if it gets really bad, so killing yourself with it is pretty difficult to do, but you don't want to waste food this good by using an ingredient that is guaranteed to spoil.

This risk is VERY LOW for commercially milled corn flour, and EVEN WITH HOME MILLED, perfringens of this type takes about 3 months to grow sufficient to be detectable in the food, and it is NOT DANGEROUS unless it really has time to go to town on the food. This is the SAME kind of perfringens bacteria that causes Salt Rising Bread to rise, and has a cheesy odor when it is fresh, but goes to gray and nasty when it overgrows.

A Coddiwomple Farm Original Recipe!


You can use commercial frozen tamales and can them instead of homemade! Who knew?

Now, this kind of Tamale is already PARTIALLY cooked, but not fully. They are always kind of crumbly instead of firm like they should be.

They only need 1 1/2" headspace above them. They WILL grow up and out of the corn husks. They should JUST fill the jar when they are fully canned.


  • 6 or 8 THAWED frozen tamales (the large ones)
  • 1 large can Tomato juice, seasoned as instructed above.

Put TWO tamales in each jar.

Distribute seasoned juice between them. It won't entirely fill the jars.

Add water to the bottom of the lip on the jar.

Pressure can for meat time.


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I do what I do because I understand the science behind it, and I've researched worldwide sources to verify the safety of my practices to my own satisfaction. Please do your own research, and proceed AT YOUR OWN RISK.



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