Sweet and Savory Thanksgiving Tamales

Photo by Jennifer Pallian

Photo by Jennifer Pallian


Looking for a novel way to spice up Thanksgiving this year? Try sweet and savory Thanksgiving Tamales: Creamy Cranberry and Lentil & Mushroom. These two recipes are a bit labor intensive but well worth it! Invite friends and family to help assemble a fun new holiday tradition.


Lentil & Mushroom Tamales

A twist on a classic vegetarian side, these lentil and mushroom tamales can easily serve as a main dish. A half cup serving of lentils provides more potassium than a banana, 45% of your recommended daily fiber intake, and 26 grams of protein.  Round out this nutrient-dense meal with a raw salad of shredded brussel sprouts and roasted carrots and parsnips.

Serves 5-7

Filling Ingredients

  • 16 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tsp thyme or leaves off 8 sprigs
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp butter (Earth Balance is a great vegan option)
  • 6 chopped roasted garlic cloves*
  • 1 ½ cups cooked lentils or 1 15-oz can brown lentils
  • ½ tbsp. stone-ground mustard
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 roasted garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 cups raw spinach



1.     Marinate mushrooms in olive oil, red wine vinegar, thyme and soy sauce for 30 minutes.

2.     Sauté marinated mushrooms in butter and garlic for 5-10 minutes.

3.     Stir in lentils and remaining ingredients except spinach for 5 minutes.

4.     Add in spinach and cover. Once spinach is wilted, stir to combine and set aside to cool.

5.     Follow tamale making directions below.

*Make your own roasted garlic: Slice the top off a head of garlic. Place garlic on a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap to cover and bake in a 350° oven for 50 minutes.


Creamy cranberry tamales

Cranberries are a classic Thanksgiving ingredient. Cranberries are also a great source of antioxidants that serve to protect your precious cells from damage. This very tart fruit does need sugar to help mellow out its intensity. We use maple syrup but other sweetener alternatives can work just as well. Leftover filling is delicious mixed into oatmeal or spread onto toast.

Serves 5-7

Filling Ingredients

  • 6 oz raw cranberries
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • Strip of organic orange rind
  • Juice from ½ an orange
  • 12-oz container cream cheese (soy or nut-based cheese works well in this recipe too)



1.     Combine cranberries, maple syrup, water and orange rind in a sauce pan. Boil until cranberries are soft, around 10 minutes. Cool.

2.     Combine cranberries with cream cheese. Let mixture sit in the fridge for 30 minutes before spooning into masa for tamales.

3.     Follow tamale making directions below.


Tamale batter

Enough for 14 tamales and 1 recipe 


  • 28 dried corn husks
  • 3 cups masa harina
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 ½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening



1.     Submerge corn husks in a bowl of water for a least 30 minutes. They should be soft and pliable before using.

2.     Combine masa harina and baking powder in a bowl.

3.     Incorporate vegetable shortening into masa with a pastry knife.

4.     Slowly add in vegetable broth while mixing with your hands. Once all ingredients are incorporated, knead for 3-5 minutes. Add water if the dough gets stiff.


To assemble

1.     Place a corn husk down on a cutting board with the narrow end closest to you. Layer another husk on top with the wide end closest to you.

2.     Spread ¼ cup of the masa mixture on top of the corn husks making a rectangle, about ¼ inch thick.

3.     Spread 1 tbsp of mixture in the center.

4.     Fold the right side of the corn husk toward the center, follow with the left side. Fold the top and bottom ends down.

5.     Fill and fold remaining corn husks.

6.     Heat water to a boil in a large pot with a steamer insert. Place tamales in the steamer, cover and cook for 1 hour.

7.     Dough should be firm once done and the husks easy to remove.