Tamales de Camaron con Pesto de Jalapeño y Queso

Shrimp Tamales with Jalapeño and Cheese Pesto

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes about 24 small or 12 large tamales; Serves

    4 to 6

Appears in

Mark Miller of the Coyote Café in Santa Fe, New Mexico, calls his friend and fellow chef Douglas Rodriguez “the Mambo King of Nuevo Latino cooking.” In this recipe he skillfully blends a Cuban-style fresh corn and shrimp tamale with a Mexican-inspired jalapeño and queso blanco pesto.


For the Pesto

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • tablespoons diced onion
  • teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and sliced
  • teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 4 ounces queso blanco or Muenster cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks

For the Sofrito

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • ½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • ½ cup finely diced green bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • tablespoons tomato paste

For the Tamales

  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels (from 7 or 8 ears), husks reserved; or 1 (16-ounce) package frozen corn kernels and 1 (8-ounce) package dried corn husks
  • ¼ cup harina fina (finely ground yellow cornmeal)
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • ½ pound cooked fresh shrimp, chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, preferably flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ pound whole mixed olives (such as kalamata, niçoise, and alphonso)


Make the pesto: Heat the oil in a small skillet, add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño, and sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the turmeric, stir well, and sauté for another 2 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor with steel knife blade. Add the queso blanco, and pulse until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the sofrito: Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic and sauté over medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomato paste and remove the sofrito mixture from the heat.

Make the tamales: Rinse the fresh or dried corn husks and place them in a large pot of boiling water to cover for about 20 minutes, until soft and pliable. Place the corn kernels in a large mixing bowl and stir in the sofrito. Add the harina fina and cornstarch and mix well. Place small batches of the corn mixture in a food processor and pulse until pureed. Return the puree to the mixing bowl and add the sugar and salt. With a wooden spoon, fold in the shrimp.

Place a well-drained corn husk on a work surface, smoother side up. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the shrimp mixture in the middle of the husk. Fold in both long sides to enclose it. Fold up both ends to form a rectangular package about inches wide and 3 to 4 inches long. Tie the tamale securely, like a package, using kitchen string. Continue to make tamales until all of the shrimp mixture has been used.

Gently place the tamales in a large pan of boiling salted water. Reduce the heat and cook at a gentle boil until the tamales are slightly firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Drain the tamales and let them cool slightly.

Arrange the warm tamales, still in the husks, on a serving platter. Place the chilled pesto on the side, garnish with the parsley and olives, and serve. The tamales may be frozen. Just wrap them tightly and freeze. To cook, place the frozen tamales in a pot of gently boiling water and boil for about 45 minutes.