A Sweet and Savory Thanksgiving Side Dish: Smoky Sweet Potato and Pecan Tamales Recipe

Smoky Sweet Potato Tamale Recipe

Smoky Sweet Potato Tamale Recipe

Who says sweet potatoes must be smashed into a 9 by 13 and covered with browned mini-marshmallows? This fun twist on traditional tamales will treat your taste buds to a whole new sweet-potato world!

Tamales are quite a bit of work. But, the nice thing about them is you can gather friends and family around the table to help share the work and make lots of great culinary memories in the process. Even small kids can spread masa on a corn husk! You never know – tamales could become one of your new holiday traditions.

I decided to add a little sweet and a little spice – smoked paprika goes well with sweet potatoes. And pecans – or hazelnuts – in the center? Yes indeed!

Spreading masa on Corn Husks

Spreading masa on Corn Husks

Sprinkling nuts in center of masa

Sprinkling nuts in center of masa


Prep Time: One hour – Cook time: One hour

Makes 1 dozen tamales

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
A little canola oil spray
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups dried instant masa flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons tapioca powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
2 ounces diced pecans (or hazelnuts), toasted
Corn husks for wrapping, soaked in water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut sweet potatoes in half and place cut side up on a baking sheet. Spray with a little oil and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove skins and mash finely with a potato masher or food processor. You should have 2 cups mashed sweet potato flesh. Place in a mixing bowl.

Bring to a boil the butter, sugar, broth and salt.  With mixer on medium, mix in the broth mixture with the sweet potatoes  and smoked paprika until smooth. With mixer running, add in masa, baking powder and tapioca flour a little at a time. Mix until fluffy, about 5 minutes on high speed. Let sit 10 minutes on counter to make sure masa is fully hydrated.

Spread 1/3 cup of masa mixture in center of a corn husk, spreading in a square until a little thicker than 1/4 inch. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of nuts in center.

Steam tamales until firm, about one hour.

Serve immediately.

— posted by Donna


  1. says

    Also, I have a question. Can tamales be steamed with basic kitchen equipment, or do I need some sort of rack? I have a pressure cooker with a rack-ish thing that goes on the bottom. Would that work, or do I need more space?

    • says

      How fun that you are about to steam some tamales!

      You will need some sort of steam basket – one of those unfolding veggie steamers works great in the bottom of a pan. I use a pasta boiling pan with a steamer, and just lift the whole thing out at the end.

      I wrap the tamales and fold the ends up. Then, I stack them vertically – open side up – around the inside of a steamer. Just keep checking every 10 minutes of so to make sure the water doesn’t run out.

      Let us know how your tamale adventures turn out!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *