Overstuffed Barbacoa Tamales

Tamales are an interesting food item to me, in the sense that I’ve never had a tamale and thought “Wow, I need MORE of these!” I just feel like the ratio of stuffing to exterior is always off for my tastes. And that masa can get pretty dry, and most of the time it’s not that flavorful. Basically, a lot of tamales fall flat for me. That’s why I decided to see if I could break the cycle and make some delicious tamales that I would make me say “Yeah, that’s the stuff.” There are three keys to these tamales:

  1. Slow cooked spicy beef barbacoa that’s bursting with flavor
  2. Highly seasoned masa
  3. Overstuffing

So are you ready? Good, let’s get down to business.


  • 4 lb chuck roast
  • 1/4 c chili powder
  • 1/4 c ground cumin
  • 2 T granulated garlic
  • 2 T salt
  • 2 t black pepper
  • 6 sprigs fresh oregano


  • 1/4 c minced fresh oregano
  • 1/2 c chopped pickled jalapenos
  • 3 c masa harina
  • 3/8 c shortening
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 2 t salt
  • 3 c broth or stock

Other Things


  • Preheat oven to 300 F
  • Season your beef
  • Cook beef for 6 hours or until tender enough to pull apart easily, basting every hour or so.
  • Soak your husks for an hour in room temperature water
  • Use a mixer to combine all your masa ingredients into a uniform consistency.
Masa me?! Masa you, man!
  • Once beef is done and cool enough to touch, shred it apart with your hands (or a fork, but clean hands are one of your best tools)
DSC_0005 (2)
Bowl o’ barbacoa. You want some nice ropey strands.
  • Take your husks and shake off as much excess water as much as you can
  • Lay down a husk, and spread 2 tablespoons of the masa mix into the husk
This husk has been masa'd. Also, your masa mix should look like this.
This husk has been masa’d. Also, your masa mix should look like this.
  • Now load in the barbacoa, also about 2 tablespoons, then drop another tablespoon of masa on top.
DSC_0001 (2)
Yes, there IS a lot of beef in there.
  • Wrap the long sides over the center, and then fold the thin end up.
Pile o’ tamales.
  • Get a pot going with a small amount of boiling water and a steamer basket. Use foil to make a little dome in the center that you can lean your tamales on so they don’t spill out.
  • Cover and steam for 45 minutes, adding a bit more water if needed.
  • Your overstuffed tamales will come out looking like this; not the prettiest thing ever, but nothing a little sauce over the top won’t fix.
Learn from my mistakes; get rid of the entire husk, it just gets in the way.
Learn from my mistakes; get rid of the entire husk, it just gets in the way.
  • Serve with any goodies you like.
This right here is an epic meal.
This right here is an epic meal.


Paul Harrison is a NYC-based recipe developer and professional whiskey drinker. He writes for Food Republic, and keeps some of his other recipes and ideas relating to food here.


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