Above: Yam tamales give vegans a place at the tamalada (from Oh By Golly, December 2021). Photograph by Douglas Merriam.

These vegan tamales will satisfy even the most dedicated meat lover. Make your accompanying red chile sauce with vegetable stock. I prefer olive oil for the roux; plant-based butter works, too.


4 cups masa harina

2 teaspoons salt

2½ cups warm water, approximately

2 cups yam puree

1 cup olive oil

3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped into ¼-inch pieces

30–40 dried corn husks

Makes approximately 2 dozen tamales


  1. Submerge corn husks in hot water to soften.

  2. In a large bowl, mix masa, salt, and water, adding just enough water to form a wet mixture that’s the texture of oatmeal.

  3. In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to whip yam puree and olive oil until light and fluffy.

  4. Gently fold masa into yam puree.


  1. Tear some tamale ties ⅛ inch wide from a few of the husks. Take one husk and open it with the narrow end away from you. Spread a 3-by-3-inch square of masa (about ½ cup), ¼ inch deep, leaving a one-inch border at the bottom.

  2. Take 3 or 4 pieces of the poblano chile and place it in a narrow strip in the middle of the masa, going from the bottom of the tamale toward the top.

  3. Using the husk, roll the masa over the chile. Open the husk, fold the bottom inch flap over the masa, and then roll the husk from right to left to close it, and twist the top. Tie the tamale at both the bottom and the top with husk ties.


  1. Place tamales vertically into a steamer. A large stockpot with a steamer insert raised above the water works well. I use a big old-fashioned canning pot. Add 3 inches of water to the pan. Place a penny in the bottom of the pan; this will rattle to warn you if you are running out of water during the steaming.

  2. Cover and steam the tamales over boiling water for 30 minutes, or until masa is set and tamale loses its shiny look. Serve hot with red chile sauce.