Tamales de Dulce

Sweet Tamales


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes


Appears in

Oaxaca: Home Cooking from the Heart of Mexico


By Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral

Published 2019

  • About

These tamales are considered a dessert, and, like many other desserts, they are best enjoyed with a cup of atole for breakfast. Consider it the Oaxacan version of a croissant and coffee. The deep-pink color of the masa traditionally comes from cochineal bugs, which is a natural, traditional source of red food coloring that many American and European products now use. What makes these tamales particularly special is the rougher grind of the masa, which means you’ll get mouthfuls of sweet, chewy corn bits mixed in with the masa.


  • ½ pound (225 g) lard
  • 2 ¼ pounds (1 kg) fresh masa quebrajada
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 (3-inch/7.5 cm) cinnamon stick, freshly ground in a molcajete (2 teaspoons when ground)
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds, freshly ground in a molcajete or a spice grinder
  • ¼ cup (20 g) shredded coconut
  • ½ cup (60 g) raisins
  • ½ cup (125 g) canned pineapple chunks in syrup, plus ¼ cup (60 ml) syrup
  • cups (360 ml) water
  • A dozen corn husks, soaked in water for at least 2 hours

For Corn Husk Color Solution

  • 2 teaspoons carmine powder, dissolved in ¼ cup (60 ml) water


In a large mixing bowl, add the lard and use your hands or a rubber spatula to beat until the lard is whipped. This should take around 5 minutes.

Slowly add the masa to the lard and continue whipping.

Add the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, anise, coconut, raisins, pineapple chunks in syrup, and cups (360 ml) water, and continue mixing. The masa for this sweet tamal should be runnier than for the savory ones you’re used to.

When ready to assemble the tamales, lay a soaked corn husk flat on your hand and, using a kitchen brush, apply a thin layer of the carmine dissolved in water on the corn husk in an upward motion. Once the husk has been colored a vibrant pink color, apply a layer of the masa. Fold it from left to right, so that the left side of the slathered husk covers three-quarters of the leaf. Do the same with the other edge of the husk to close it up. Fold the pointy top toward the center of the tamal and set aside, folded side facing down. Repeat this process until all tamales are done.

Arrange the folded tamales in a circular pattern, lengthwise, with the open edge facing up in your tamal steamer filled with the indicated amount of water at the bottom of the pot. Once all the tamales are neatly arranged, cover everything with plastic wrap and a kitchen cloth. Steam for 1 hour. The tamales are ready when the masa easily peels off the corn husks.

Step One

Beat using your hands or a rubber spatula until the masa and lard are well-mixed and fluffy.

Step Two

Add the sugar, baking powder, ground cinnamon, anise, shredded coconut, and raisins.

Step Three

Add the pineapple chunks in syrup, and water.

Step Four

Continue mixing until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated and the masa is smooth.