Red Chile Cheese Tamales

Red Chile Cheese Tamales #tamales

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A mix of spicy red chiles, onion, garlic, and cheese give these vegetarian Red Chile Cheese Tamales a savory, chile sweet and spicy flavor that make truly killer tamales.  The flavor and texture of these tamales are so good that no sauce, salsa, or toppings are needed.

When I first started making these red chile cheese tamales, I used roasted fresh New Mexico red chile and Parrano cheese.  Recently I used Turkish antep aci dolma peppers (peppers in bowl) that I received from my friends at Fords Fiery Foods and Plants. These peppers paired with cheddar cheddar yield a more exotic tamale’, richer and a little sweeter than the New Mexico reds which have a fruity and more earthy flavor.

Eating an antep aci dolma pepper is like eating a spicy red bell pepper.  It’s sweet like a red bell, but spicier.  It’s a great pepper for those who like sweet and spicy, but not too heavy on the spicy.  I found the spiciness to be that of pasilla chile (1000 -2000 scovilles) which is less than jalapeno (<2500), although it did vary from one pepper to another. It’s not as meaty as a bell pepper, so roasting it wasn’t really an option. However, sweating these peppers with onion in melted butter brought out the sugars, yielding a sweet and spicy mixture.  When I combined this mixture with tamale’ masa and cubes of cheddar, the resulting tamales were exotic – rich and very Mediterranean.

To learn more about these peppers and another pepper from Fords, read about Fords Fiery Foods and Plants below.

Red Chile Cheese Tamales

Red Chile and Cheese Tamales #tamales #red #chile @mjskitchen

Red chile cheese tamales (1 hour prep) #tamales @mjskitchen
Print or Save Recipe
Recipe for Red Chile Cheese Tamales
1 hr
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 30 mins
These are my all time favorite tamales! Sweet and spicy with a creamy, light masa.  Very versatile.  Use your favorite red chile and cheese and create your own.

"*" See Kitchen Notes for more information or links to special ingredients.

Course: Main Course, Vegetarian
Cuisine: Mexican, Southwestern
Yields: 15 tamales (about)
Recipe Author: MJ of MJ's Kitchen
  • About 24 dried corn husks
  • Flat casserole dish for re-hydrating corn husks
  • Flat casserole dish that fits inside larger one
  • Steamer than can hold 15 - 18 tamales
  • Large bowl for masa and tamales ingredients
Tamale Ingredients
  • ¼ cup butter 4 Tbsp.
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves minced
  • 2/3 cup diced spicy red peppers*
  • ½ tsp. oregano Mexican oregano if you have it
  • ¼ tsp. red chile flakes*
  • ¼ tsp. chipotle chile flakes*
  • 2/3 cup cheese* ¼" cubes (mix of aged cheddar and mild cheddar)
  • 2 cups Masa Harina
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups vegetable broth chicken broth or water
Rehydrate the corn husks
  1. You'll need two casserole dishes, a large one and one that fits just inside it.
  2. Loosen the corn husks and lay them flat in the larger dish.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the husks. Place the smaller casserole dish on top to hold the husks in the water.
    A great method for rehydrating corn husks for tamales |
  4. Let the husks soak until ready to assemble the tamales.
Make the filling and tamales
  1. Start heating up the broth or water for the masa. Heat to about 120°F.
  2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, and chile peppers. Sweat until translucent.
  3. Add the oregano and chile flakes. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the masa harina, salt, and baking powder. Stir to combine.
  5. Add 1 ¾ cups warm broth to the masa harina. Using a rubber spatula (or your hands), mix to combine ingredients.
  6. To the masa, fold in the cook vegetables and cheese until evenly distributed throughout.
  7. The masa mixture should be the density of a thick quick bread batter. If not, add the rest of the broth and mix into the masa.

Assemble tamales
  1. Select one of the narrow corn husks to create tamales ties. Tear the husk into thin strips about ¼ inch wide.
  2. Pull a corn husk from the water shake off excess water. Using a spatula, place about ½ cup tamale mixture lengthwise down the center on the wide half of the husk. (You’ll be folding the husk in half once they have been rolled so don't go too far down the husk.)Using corn husks strips to tie tamales |
  3. Fold one side of the husk over the filling and press to shape. Continue roll the remaining husk around the masa. You should have a tapered cigar looking shape with the top half fat and happy with masa.
  4. Fold the lower, unfilled portion of the husk up and on top of the filled half. Wrap one of the ties around the tamale and tie into a knot.
    Using corn husks strips to tie tamales |
  5. Repeat until the tamale filling is gone.

Steam the tamales
  1. Place some of the extra corn husks around the sidewalls of the steamer.
  2. Place the tamales in the steamer, standing up on the closed ends. If the tamales do not fill the steamer enough to stand up relatively straight, use extra corn husks to separate the tamales and help them to stand up.
    A pot of steamed tamales
  3. Spread a couple of corn husks across the top of the tamales. This keeps water from the lid from dipping into the open ends of the tamales.
  4. Place the lid on tight and steam the tamales for an hour.
  5. Remove from the heat, uncover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove one of the tamales and let sit another 2-3 minutes.
  6. Test a tamale by opening it up. If the husk doesn’t pull away from the steamed dough, then steam the tamales for another 10 minutes and test again. NOTE: Some of the cheese will melt and stick to the husk. Don't worry about that. Just scrape a knife or fork between the husk and the tamales to unstick. However, if the masa is sticking to the husk, then they need to steam a little more.
Kitchen Notes

Spicy Red Peppers – You can use just about any red chile pepper in these tamales, but to keep the flavor that I’ve talked about here, you’ll need to look for a chile that is somewhat sweet and spicy.  The spiciness of the chile is up to you. How spicy do you want the tamales? How much spice can you handle?  As I mentioned earlier, I’ve used roasted New Mexico red chile many times with fabulous results.  If you just want the sweet and not the spice, use either fresh sweet bell peppers or roasted bells.


The chiles can be roasted or fresh (not roasted) – If roasted, sweat the garlic and onion first, then add the chopped roasted chile at the end with the chile flakes.  If not roasted, then follow the directions in the recipe.


Chile Flakes – Adding ¼ teaspoon of one or two different types of chile flakes or powder to the mix is meant to complement the red chiles, not overpower them.  Therefore, try to use chiles flakes that have a bit of a different flavor and spice level.  Chipotle flakes are good because they are smoky and hot.  The maras biber is a Turkish chile that works quite well with the aci dolmas.  You could also use paprika, cayenne, serrano, or aleppo.


Cheese – There are several types of cheese that work in these tamales.  The main thing to look for is a rather mild cheese, nothing too strong, and a semi-hard cheese.  Cheddar, Leyden, Parrano, and beer cheese work nicely.  For more cheese ideas, check out this Conversation with a Cheesemonger.


Aci Dolma Chile Peppers


About Fords Fiery Foods and Plants‘ Peppers

I actually received two types of peppers from Fords – the antep aci dolma and a new pepper hybrid of Ford’s, the Pimenta reaper (the smaller pepper in the photo above).  These are two completely different peppers both in taste and spiciness.

Antep Aci Dolma Peppers – “A stable hybrid created by an agriculture university in Ankara, Turkey.” They are a very sweet pepper but with quite a bite.  Their sugar content is high which really comes out when heated. Not only did I use them in these red chile tamales, but I chopped them up in scrambled eggs, added them a bowl of pinto beans., and used them as a topping for pizza.  All were delicious!  I can easily see adding them to yeast bread or grits.  If you want to give these peppers a try, you can purchase the seeds now through Fords’ website (click on the link above) and start your own plants this winter.  OR you could wait and purchase some starter plants from Fords in the spring.

Pimenta Reaper Peppers – These peppers are “a cross between the Carolina reaper and the Pimenta puma.” Well, let me say that I’ve never had either the reaper nor the puma, but the Pimenta Reaper surpassed my heat tolerance by a long shot.  When I took a tiny bite, the heat was instantaneous and smokin’ HOT. I really could feel heat coming out my ears! After drinking a glass of milk, the heat went away and the flavor that lingered in my mouth was really, really nice and it lasted a long time.  There was a hint of habanero flavor, but fruitier and somewhat buttery. I made a couple of pepper sauces using these peppers.  They are resting now so I’ll share those with you later, once they are ready.  If you like it smokin’ hot and want to give this new hybrid a try, seeds for these peppers will be available for purchase in the early spring. 

Disclaimer:  I did not receive any compensation for this post, just the chile peppers you see in the picture.  The red chile cheese tamales recipe and the opinion of the chiles are my own.  I do want to thank Fords Fiery Foods and Plants for continuing to educate me on the various chiles found around the world!

Tamales on MJ’s Kitchen.

Red Chile Cheese Tamales (vegetarian)

Black Bean Tamales with Spicy Mango Sauce (vegan)

Red Chile Chicken Tamales

Green Chile, Corn, and Mushroom Tamales (vegan)


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72 Responses to “Red Chile Cheese Tamales”

  1. Jan Cook April 18, 2016 at 9:06 pm #

    Oh my goodness, your tamales look so delicious! These are on my list to try!

    • mj April 22, 2016 at 7:52 pm #

      Thanks Jan! Hope you do give them a try. These have become our favorite. 🙂

  2. April J Harris December 10, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

    I like the sound of the antep aci dolma pepper, MJ. I like a little spice, but not too much, so it sounds perfect for me. Your Red Chile Cheese Tamales look delicious. Thank you so much for sharing this post with us at the Hearth and Soul Hop. Hope to ‘see’ you again this week. The hop is open now!

    • mj December 13, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

      Thanks so much April! Sorry I missed this week’s hop, but I’ll try to join next week.

  3. swathi December 7, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    Lovely tamales MJ, I am planning to make one for long time,I will try your recipe, thanks for sharing with hearth and soul blog hop, pinning, tweeting and featuring on this week’s blog hop.

    • mj December 8, 2015 at 8:37 pm #

      Thanks so much Swathi! I hope you do get a chance to make them. I’ll be making them again for Christmas. Thanks for all of the social sharing!

  4. Sissi December 6, 2015 at 11:24 am #

    Dear MJ, your tamales look like a piece of art! I cannot take my eyes off both photographs. I don’t think I’d dare tasting them, they look so beautiful and elegant… I love your bowl too! (Not to mention the recipe which is as enticing as all your dishes!).

    • mj December 8, 2015 at 8:34 pm #

      Well, that’s a very nice thing to say! 🙂 Bobby gave me the bowl for my birthday back in October and then I got those beautiful peppers and it just all come together into these great tamales and nice photos. Love it when it happens like that.

  5. Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen November 30, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    I love Tamales but it’s been ages since I’ve tried one! This looks so delicious to me right now.(4am)

    • mj November 30, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

      4 am!? Must be feeding you beautiful baby girl. 🙂 Thanks Peachy!

  6. Petra @ CrumblesAndKale November 30, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    Oh, tamales is a complete new thing for me, but it sound delicious!

    • mj November 30, 2015 at 5:11 pm #

      Thanks Petra! Tamales are delicious! Hopefully some day you’ll get a chance to try them.

  7. Marta November 29, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    This is so interesting. I need to read more about it. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • mj November 30, 2015 at 10:33 am #

      Thank you Marta!

  8. Liz November 28, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    Such picture perfect tamales!! I wish I had a clue about the different types and flavors of peppers, but I’ll just take your word for it—I’d happily try anything you’d make 🙂

    • mj November 28, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

      Thanks so much Liz! Believe me, it takes a while to learn about the many different chiles out there and I’ve just touched the service.

  9. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles November 28, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    Your tamales are master class MJ (and, I suspect they might taste a wee bit better than the ones I pick up from the freezer section at Whole Foods 😉 ). Happy Thanksgiving friend – I hope you’re enjoying a beautiful long weekend.

    • mj November 28, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

      Thanks Kelly! Tamales are hard to freeze and not dry them out. The trick is to warm them in a wet papertowel and defrost in the microwave. The towel helps hold the moisture which is the problem with reheating tamales in general. Yes, we’ve had a marvelous weekend! Hope you are having a great weekend as well.

  10. Viviane Bauquet Farre November 25, 2015 at 9:41 am #

    Wow, I’ve got to try some of those peppers. They sound amazing!

    • mj November 28, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

      These pepper are amazing! You should contact Fords.

  11. marcela November 25, 2015 at 9:39 am #

    Yum! I love the recipe! I’ve never had anything like this before! I gotta give your recipe a try!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    • mj November 28, 2015 at 2:09 pm #

      Thanks so much Marcela! Hope you are enjoying your Thanksgiving weekend!

  12. All That I'm Eating November 25, 2015 at 6:02 am #

    I’ve never made anything similar to these so I love the sound of them!

    • mj November 28, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

      Thank You! Hope you get to try them someday. They are really good!

  13. Ramona W November 25, 2015 at 4:17 am #

    I have only had tamales once before and now I think I may need to make some. Thanks for inspiring me MJ! 🙂 Wishing you a fantastic and delicious Thanksgiving!!

    • mj November 28, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

      Thank you Ramona! Hope you are enjoying your Thanksgiving weekend!

  14. Anna @ shenANNAgans November 24, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

    I didn’t know tamales were actually a thing until a few years back. 🙂 And I havent been lucky enough to try them either. Might struggle sourcing some of the ingredients, but going to make me some tamales. Wishing you and yours a happy thanksgiving. 🙂

    • mj November 28, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

      Thanks Anna! I find it hard to image that someone hasn’t heard of tamales, but then cuisine of the world is different. 🙂 They are a wonderful thing to eat and hope one day you get to try them.

  15. Debra November 24, 2015 at 7:12 am #

    So, the next time i’m in NM, can I hire you to teach me to make tamales? These look wonderful. Mom loves tamales and I would love to make them with her this week, but with ALL the other family coming, I think that I will stick with the simpler week’s menu I am planning now. Must get back to it! Have a great holiday, M.J.!

    • mj November 24, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

      Absolutely Debra! I would to have you join me for a tamales making process! This is not the week to add any more cooking that you need. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend!

  16. Abbe @ This is How I Cook November 23, 2015 at 10:32 pm #

    It has been so long since I’ve made tamales and my husband adores them. I must surprise him with these. They look so good! And easy!

    • mj November 24, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

      Well, I hope you do! I think you would both enjoy them. Thanks!

  17. Melanie @ Melanie Cooks November 23, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    So colorful! Your tamales look great, and I’m sure they taste just as good as they look 🙂

    • mj November 24, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

      Thanks so much Melanie!

  18. Soni November 23, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    Oh I love tamales and red chile cheese tamales sound so so good!Would love a bite right now 🙂 Your pics are stunning MJ!

    • mj November 24, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

      Thanks so very much Soni!

  19. Stephanie | The Foodie and The Fix November 23, 2015 at 7:32 am #

    I’ve never ever had a homemade tamale, but I love them in restaurants and have often considered making them. I think I’ve put it off for so long because I always hear how intimidating they are, but you make them seem completely doable! These sound and look amazing!

    • mj November 24, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

      Thank you so much Stephanie! I hope you do give them a try. They are worth it! Have a very wonderful Thanksgiving!

  20. Easyfoodsmith November 22, 2015 at 11:41 pm #

    Each time I see a tamale recipe on your blog I want to grab them right off the screen. I will never be able to find these ingredients here in India, else I would have been heading off to the kitchen right away to make these 😀

    • mj November 24, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

      Thanks so much Taruna! Well, you have so many other wonderful foods in India, that tamales is not something you’d miss. 🙂

  21. Nami | Just One Cookbook November 22, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

    I have heard so much that Tamale takes time to make at home BUT homemade tamale is the best of best. Unfortunately I have never tasted homemade version before. I’m so jealous you are making tamales… I need to remember this recipe and try to make these at home one day. 🙂

    • mj November 24, 2015 at 7:23 pm #

      Traditional tamales do take A LOT of time, but this process doesn’t. Because of that I make tamales year round. I hope you do try this recipe someday. I think you’d like them. Hope you and your family has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  22. wok with ray November 20, 2015 at 11:08 am #

    Oh yes. Tamales with meat or without, I’m there. I just love the distinct and fresh aroma of the masa and the husk after it’s cooked. Delicious. Have a great weekend, MJ! 🙂

    • mj November 21, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

      Thanks so much Ray! There’s nothing like a homemade tamales. Hope you’re having a great weekend.

  23. Evelyne@cheapethniceatz November 20, 2015 at 5:56 am #

    Great intro to a totally new pepper for me! WOuld love to try it. Tamales is something you do not get here unless you know someone who makes them at home. I do enjoy them but anm intimated to make some. I really should. I have never had a tamale with cheese in it either, these look awesome!

    • mj November 20, 2015 at 10:24 am #

      Traditional tamales can truly be very intimating. I’ve only made them a few times and just hate the amount of time and effort that goes into them. I usually will purchase traditional tamales. There are a few places locally that I can get them, so I’ll let them do the work. However, the process I know use is so quick and easy that I make tamales year round. It’s easier than make a cake. I hope you get to try them some day. Thanks!

  24. John ford November 19, 2015 at 9:15 pm #

    I really enjoy how well you described the flavor and heat profile of these peppers
    Really enjoy these and what an amazing recipe
    Sweet and mild tamales

    • mj November 20, 2015 at 10:21 am #

      Thanks so much John! I’m glad you liked the post and the recipe. I LOVE your chile peppers!

  25. Hotly Spiced November 19, 2015 at 6:10 pm #

    I hadn’t heard of tamales until a few years ago. When I first tried tamales I loved them, especially the presentation. There are a few ingredients listed here that may be tricky for me to source but I will give it a go! xx

    • mj November 20, 2015 at 10:21 am #

      So you didn’t eat canned tamales as a kid? 🙂 Growing up in the south, my dad use to put cans of tamales in boiling water to heat them up. Once I ate a really tamale, I realized how disgusting the canned ones were. Kind of like canned asparagus vs. fresh. If you can find some masa harina where you are, you really should give tamales a try. Your family would love them!

  26. Katerina November 19, 2015 at 12:19 am #

    What a delicious cheesy tamales! I love the xotic touch of the Turkish peppers! Pinned!

    • mj November 19, 2015 at 10:01 am #

      Thanks so much Katerina! I’ve become a lover of Turkish peppers!

  27. Vicky & Ruth- May I Have That Recipe November 18, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

    I have never made tamales yet but i think i am going to have to make them this weekend, they look so good! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • mj November 19, 2015 at 10:01 am #

      Thanks Vicky & Ruth! These tamales are quite easy to make and so good, so I do hope you give them a try.

  28. Amy (Savory Moments) November 18, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    I’d really like to eat these tamales, like right now! The look wonderful!

    • mj November 18, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

      Thanks Amy and thanks for pinning!

  29. Angie@Angie's Recipes November 18, 2015 at 9:49 am #

    wow MJ, your tamales look out of this world!!

    • mj November 18, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

      Thanks so much Angie! thanks for pinning!

  30. Deb|EastofEdenCooking November 18, 2015 at 8:49 am #

    What scrumptious tamales! The burst of color and flavor from the red peppers is so very festive! Happy Thanksgiving MJ!

    • mj November 18, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

      Thanks so much Deb! Yes, they are a festive looking tamale aren’t they. 🙂 And a Happy Thanksgiving to you as well!

  31. Nads November 18, 2015 at 8:36 am #

    Your photos are stunning! They really make one want to try the recipe. I love tamales but I’ve never had any this exotic. One of these days I’m going to get up the energy to try to make some. These will be second on my list after your red chile chicken or the green chile mushroom tamales. So many tamales, so little time. OH MY!

    • mj November 18, 2015 at 12:16 pm #

      Thanks Darlin!! It was one of those moments that the light was perfect! You know that prep time on these tamales is only an hour. And with Brynn liking to bake, she would probably enjoying working with the masa, so make her your sous chef. I know what you mean – so many tamales, so little time. And I’m not done! 🙂

  32. Chgojohn November 17, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

    These tamales look delicious, MJ, and your post makes me believe that even I can make them. On another note, I’m amazed at how much you know about chiles. I can honestly say that you teach me something every time I visit this site. Thank you.

    • mj November 18, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

      Thanks so much John! I’m glad to help educate you and others about chiles. Obviously I do love them and love to cook with them. The possibilities are endless. 🙂

  33. marcela November 17, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

    WOW! It looks amazing! I love you photos! I’d die to have it right now!

    • mj November 18, 2015 at 12:13 pm #

      Thanks so much Marcela!

  34. John/Kitchen Riffs November 17, 2015 at 8:19 pm #

    Why has it been years since I’ve made tamales? One of those dishes that’s so much better when you make it yourself (we have some good Mexican restaurants, but their tamales are only so-so). The antep aci dolma sounds really interesting. I like spicy, a lot, but not all my friends do, so it’s nice to have a pepper available that won’t blow their socks off. I haven’t seen that — probably need to get some seeds from Ford’s. 🙂 Anyway, really nice dish. And so nicely photographed! Thanks so much.

    • mj November 18, 2015 at 12:13 pm #

      Thanks so much John! Ever since I quit making tamales the traditional way, I have found myself making them more often. The prep is only an hour!! The antep aci dolmas are great for mix company dishes. Most people would be able to handle them.

  35. A_Boleyn November 17, 2015 at 7:08 pm #

    Those look delicious. I don’t know why I don’t make tamales again. They’re not THAT time consuming if you split them up over two days. 🙂

    • mj November 17, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

      Thanks so much! Actually, these tamales don’t take that long. The prep and assembly time is only 1 hour, but a steam time of 1.25 hours. I do guess it might be easier is you make them one day and steam them the next.


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