Mini Cheese Tamales with Salsa Verde and Pickled Red Onions

Mini Cheese Tamales with Salsa Verde and Pickled Red Onions

Gatherings start with great food—like these mini tamales. Served with bright salsa verde and tangy pickled onions, it’s the perfect appetizer that will have people saying, I can’t believe you made these!

Pro Tip: Save time by making your pickled onions the day before (just store it in the fridge) and buying premade salsa verde from the grocery store. If you have any pickled onions left over, serve it with black beans and rice; eggs; or salmon with cream cheese on a bagel.



  • 12 dried corn husks
  • 1/3 cup hot vegetable broth
  • 2/3 cup masa harina (corn flour)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening or lard
  • 2/3 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Pickled Onions:

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup hot water
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

To serve:

  • 1 cup salsa verde

Cookware Needed


  1. Place corn husks in a bowl and fill with enough hot water to cover; let stand for 30 minutes or until pliable.
  2. Combine masa harina, salt and baking powder in a bowl; add shortening and hot broth; beat well with an electric mixer (the dough will be crumbly in texture but moist). Stir in cheese and cilantro; gently gather dough into a ball. Cover and set aside.
  3. Drain corn husks and pat dry. Working with 1 husk at a time, spoon 1 slightly rounded tablespoon of filling onto the center of the corn husk and pat lengthwise into about a 3x1-inch rectangle. Fold one long side of the husk to cover the filling, then roll up, burrito style. Then fold the narrow, tapered end up over the filled center and tie with a strip of corn husk or kitchen string around the tamale to hold it closed. Trim extra husk at the ends with scissors if needed. Repeat the process with all the corn husks to make 12 tamales.
  4. Add 2 inches of water into the bottom of a 3-quart saucepan with a steamer insert, about 5 cups. The bottom of the steamer should not touch the water. Layer tamales in the steamer insert. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let steam for 40 minutes, or until tamales easily pull away from the husks and are cooked through. Remove from heat. Transfer the tamales to a serving platter when cool enough to handle.
  5. While tamales are steaming, prepare the onions. Place onions in a bowl. Combine the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt; stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour over onions, cover and let stand for at least 30 minutes. Serve tamales with salsa and onions.

Yield: 12 servings 

Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes (not counting standing time for husks and onions).

Standing Time: an additional 60 minutes.