Who says tamales have to be savory all the time? When I hosted a culinary tour of the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago a while back, I had the opportunity to try a sweet dessert tamale made with pineapple and pecans. Much to my surprise it was really good and worked so well with the masa. I started thinking that masa is really a great neutral base to build flavors upon so it made sense that sweet tamales work just as well as savory ones. Although we made quite a few tamales at our tamale party, I didn’t have a chance to share a sweet recipe. So when I got home, I made these Pumpkin Praline Dessert Tamales to highlight some flavors of fall…
Pumpkin is quite a popular ingredient this time of year so I decided to try my hand at incorporating it in a tamale. I sweetened my masa with a touch of sugar and cinnamon and created a simple filling made with canned pumpkin pie mix, chopped toasted pecan pieces and some brown sugar. After preparing a good handful of these tamales, I hoped for the best and steamed them in my Instant Pot until done. Sure enough, after taking a bite, they were perfect! The masa held it’s own with a subtle sweetness and that hint of cinnamon really carried through. The filling itself was just the taste of fall I was looking for. The pumpkin and brown sugar worked worked well with the crunchy bits of toasted pecan pieces. To finish them off, I garnished these tamales with some homemade whipped cream and a sinful drizzle of buttery caramel sauce. That put these dessert tamales over the top!
2 cups pumpkin pie filling
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces
2 cups masa (prepared as directed on package)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar
corn husks, soaked
caramel sauce for serving (optional)
whipped cream for serving (optional)
To prepare the pumpkin praline filling, combine the pie filling, brown sugar, and pecan pieces in a bowl.
Prepare the masa as directed on the package for 2 cups of masa and add the cinnamon and sugar. and soak the corn husks in hot water for at least 10 minutes. Drain the water from the corn husks and start to assemble.
To assemble, spread a heaping tablespoon of masa across the widest part of the corn husk. Spread it to a nice thin layer. Down the middle of the masa, place your filling in a line, being careful not to overfill! Take the sides of the tamale and fold it over towards the middle. Fold up the narrow bottom and tie it with a sliver of corn husk.
In your Instant Pot:
Plug in the IP with insert set in place.
Place collapsible steamer inside the IP and 2 cups of water.
Place the tamales upright/standing up in the steamer; Cover them with a layer of corn husk scraps or leftovers.
Press MANUAL and adjust the time to 20 minutes on HIGH pressure.
Once at pressure, the display will reflect 20 (the number of minutes you initially set) and will begin to countdown to 0 minutes.
Open up your IP when the pin has dropped (allow a few minutes for this to happen).
The IP will automatically default to the WARM setting. Turn OFF IP and unplug.
Allow the tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for a few minutes to firm up. For the best textured tamales, let them cool completely, then re-steam about 15 minutes to heat through.
To serve, open up the tamale and tuck in the corn husks, laying the tamale on top. Top with whipped cream and drizzle with caramel sauce.
Working Ahead: Both filling and batter can be made several days ahead, as can the finished tamales; refrigerate, well covered. Re-steam (or even microwave) tamales before serving. For even more flexibility, batter, filling or finished tamales can be frozen. Defrost finished tamales in the refrigerator overnight before re-steaming.
* Since a batch of tamales makes quite a bit, you can definitely freeze them to enjoy later. The tamales should be cooked completely before freezing. I recommended cooling the tamales completely before packing them into a freezer bag. To enjoy, remove from the freezer and run the tamales over some water to get the husks wet. Wrap the wet tamale in a paper towel and microwave for 1-2 minutes or until hot and softened.