Chocolate Tamales with Port Infused Cherries

Chocolate tamales with port infused cherries and toasted pecans |

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When you think of dessert, does “tamale” come to mind?  Well, if not, maybe I can change that with these chocolate tamales with port infused cherries.  Inside of these little corn husk packages are individually sized chocolate cakes, packed with dried cherries that have been re-hydrated in sweet Ruby Port.  The “cakes” or tamales are made with masa (corn flour), cocoa, and a few other choice ingredients.  Served these tamales warm with a small scoop of vanilla bean gelato and you’ll feel like a kid at a birthday party eating chocolate cake and ice cream.

Like all of my tamale recipes, these chocolate tamales are relatively easy to make even though the recipe below may look complicated or intimidating. There are just a few easy steps, like re-hydrating the corn husks, soaking the cherries, toasting the pecans, and then throwing the masa ingredients together.  Once the masa batter is made (which is easy!), everything gets folded together. To form the tamale, just scoop a little of the masa mixture into a corn husk, roll, and tie.

Since these are a dessert tamale, they are smaller, about half the size of a normal tamale.   And for those who are gluten-intolerant, these chocolate tamales are gluten-free.  They could also be vegan if you had a decent substitute for butter, but IMO – there is no substitute for butter.

Chocolate tamales with port infused cherries and toasted pecans #tamales #chocolate @mjskitchen

Chocolate Tamales with Port Infused Cherries (Recipe)
1 hr
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 30 mins
Surprise your family or guests with these sweet, chocolate tamales.  Masa never tasted so good!

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

Course: Dessert, Tamales
Cuisine: Mexican
Yields: 20 tamales (about)
Recipe Author: MJ of MJ's Kitchen
  • ¾ cup dried cherries*
  • ~ 1 cup Ruby Port
  • 30 Corn husks
  • 1 ½ cups Masa Harina (corn flour)
  • ½ cup raw sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 ¼ cup warm milk
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup pecans, lightly toasted, very coarsely chopped*
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels or ¼ cup chopped sweetened Mexican chocolate*
  • 1 Tbsp. semi-sweet chocolate morsels (for the serving sauce)
  • Vanilla ice cream or vanilla bean gelato
  • Whipping cream
Rehydrate dried cherries
  1. Place dried cherries in a large cup or small bowl and pour enough port over the cherries to completely cover and then some.

  2. Set aside and let re-hydrate for about 2 hours or in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. Before assembling the tamales, drain the cherries, reserving the port.
Prepare the corn husks
  1. Heat up a full teakettle of water until hot.

  2. Place corn husks in a large rectangular casserole dish.
  3. Pour the hot water over the husks and top with a smaller dish to weigh down the husks.
    A great method for rehydrating corn husks for tamales |
  4. Allow husks to re-hydrate while you prepare the rest of the tamale mix.
Toast the pecans
  1. Heat a small heavy skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the pecans to the skillet and lightly toast, tossing in the pan often until evenly toasted.
  3. Transfer to a cutting board and lightly chop. Set aside.
Making the Masa
  1. In a large bowl, place the dry ingredients (masa, sugar, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder) and whisk to combine.
  2. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the masa mixture.
  3. Heat the milk to “warm” (about 45 seconds in the microwave). Add the vanilla extract.
  4. Slowly add milk to the dry ingredients, using a spatula to incorporate. Continue to add all of the milk plus 1 Tbsp. of the reserved port. Continue until the dry and wet ingredients are well combined. The batter will be somewhat grainy, but moist.
  5. Fold in the drained, re-hydrated cherries, chocolate morsels, and toasted pecans. Continue to fold and mix until the cherries, chocolate, and pecans are evenly distributed. Masa batter will be thick, but moist. If the masa looks too dry, add little more (~1 Tbsp.) of the reserved port.

Assemble the tamales
  1. Pour the water off of the corn husks.
  2. Select 2 – 4 of the smaller husks and tear into strips for ties. If too short for a tie, then tie two together to make one tie.
  3. Place about 2 tablespoons of masa mixture in the middle of a husk.
  4. Roll the husk around the tamale. Fold both ends toward the center, overlapping the ends. Place a tie around the middle (as shown in the picture).
    Wrapped chocolate tamales with port infused cherries #chocolate #tamales @mjskitchen
  5. Assemble the rest of the tamales. You should get 20 – 25 tamales.
Steaming the tamales
  1. Vertically place the tamales in the steamer. If they all don’t fit vertically, just lay the extras on top.
  2. Cover with a couple of the extra corn husks, then a lid. Steam for 1 hour.
  3. After an hour, remove from heat, let rest for 15 minutes.
  4. While the tamales are resting, heat the reserved cherry infused port in a small skillet or saucepan. Reduce until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1 Tbsp. chocolate morsels. Continue to whisk until the morsels have melted.
  5. Place a tamale or two on a serving plate with a small scoop of gelato or whipping cream. Drizzle with a touch of the port reduction.
  6. Serve and enjoy.
To Rewarm
  1. Resteam for a few minutes. For a small batch (like 2 to 4), I use a small vegetable steamer.

Kitchen Notes

Cherries – A dried sweet cherry works best for these tamales because they are sweet.  If you want a little more tartness, you can use dried tart cherries.  Once re-hydrated the cherries may seem too big for these small tamales.  They aren’t.  Don’t be tempted to chop them up.  You’ll love biting into a whole boozy cherry.  If you chop them up, they’ll disappear.


Pecans – Just like the cherries, if you chop the pecans too small, they will disappear.  So, a coarse chop is best. If for some reason you can't eat pecans or don't like them, a reader substituted pinon (pine nuts) and said they were great!


Mexican chocolate vs. chocolate morsels – This really comes down to what you like and what you have available.  The first couple of times I made these I used Mexican chocolate.  They were a little sweeter even those I only used 1/4 cup.  The next time I made these chocolate tamales, I substituted with twice as many semi-sweet chocolate morsels.  This yielded a less sweet tamale but with more of a chocolate flavor, so that's what I have stuck with.


Serving size – Even though I love dessert, one tamale with a little gelato and a touch of sauce was rich enough for me.  Bobby enjoyed having two tamales.




Chocolate tamales with port infused cherries and toasted pecans |


If you love tamales as much as we do, you might want to check out these savory tamales that use pretty much the same method as used for these chocolate tamales.

Red Chile Chicken Tamales

Black Bean Tamales with Spicy Mango Sauce

Red Chile Cheese Tamales (my favorite!)

Corn, Mushroom and Green Chile Tamales (Bobby’s favorite)


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43 Responses to “Chocolate Tamales with Port Infused Cherries”

  1. Carol at Wild Goose Mama February 11, 2017 at 3:38 pm #

    Gross to say—-but this post made me salivate. I never knew such a dessert existed! Isn’t it wonderful to discover new things—-especially a new dessert. I love port and cherries—-and hellooooooo we all know cherries and chocolate go together and long connected buddies!

    Serve a dessert like this to guests and not only is it delicious but it would certainly be
    the center of conversation for several minutes!

    • mj February 12, 2017 at 4:54 pm #

      From experience, I know that it is the topic of conversation for a few minutes once it’s served. 🙂 It’s a very tasty and salivating dessert. 🙂 Thanks!

  2. Abbe@This is How I Cook February 7, 2017 at 9:18 pm #

    I didn’t want to miss these! I have never seen chocolate tamales and these look like a winner. Now I must have a party just so I can make these for dessert.

    • mj February 8, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

      And I’m glad you didn’t miss them! 🙂 They are perfect for a party because it makes a big batch for everyone to enjoy.

  3. Hotly Spiced February 6, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

    These are gorgeous! I’ve never seen a dessert served in corn husks before. I do love the combination of chocolate and cherries xx

    • mj February 7, 2017 at 8:44 pm #

      Thanks Charlie! Dessert tamales are actually pretty common, but chocolate ones are the best. 🙂

  4. Velva-Tomatoes on the Vine February 6, 2017 at 9:10 am #

    This is beautiful. What a clever and creative idea. Thanks for sharing.


    • mj February 7, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

      Thank you Velva! thanks for stopping by!

  5. Vicki Bensinger February 5, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

    Wow doesn’t this sound fantastic! I’ve never made homemade tamales but it’s been on my list to make. I never thought of making chocolate ones though. I bet they taste incredible. Great recipe!!!

    • mj February 7, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

      Thanks Vicki! This style of money is really easy, so I hope you give it a try.

  6. Yi February 2, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

    I’ll admit that I’ve never had sweet tamales but I think it’s an excellent idea. Love the chocolate and cherry combination. Great recipe!

    • mj February 4, 2017 at 10:21 am #

      Thanks Yi! If you’ve never had sweet tamales, then it’s time to try them. 🙂

  7. Sissi February 2, 2017 at 7:49 am #

    Your packages look like an artistic creation by a Michelin-starred chef! I have never had savoury tamales either, but I suspect these chocolate ones are extremely creative even for those who eat them often.
    I love the boozy cherries! Boozy cherries must taste amazing with chocolate. I’m a huge fan of tart cherries and recently bought a kilo of organic, unsweetened ones… I’ve already eaten 1/3 at least just as a snack, but I already see their bright future: soaked in port! Thank you for this highly inspiring recipe!

    • mj February 4, 2017 at 10:18 am #

      WOW! Thanks Sissi! We make a lot of tamales, so we’ve got it down or I should say Bobby does. He does most of the tying during assembly. Those boozy cherries do make a great snack and the leftover infused port is like sipping on a liquor. Hope you’re having a great weekend!

  8. Helene D'Souza February 2, 2017 at 7:42 am #

    awww your tamales look smashing good and I don’t like sweet usually but that is just the perfect treat after a long day. I wish I could have it right now!!
    and here I am left with a unsatisfied craving, staring at your amazing treats once again.

    • mj February 4, 2017 at 10:15 am #

      Thanks Darlin! They are sweet, but not as sweet as most dessert and we just love the masa cake like texture.

  9. Adina February 1, 2017 at 8:20 am #

    I have never had anything like this, I cannot even imagine how it tastes, but of course I would love to try it.

    • mj February 1, 2017 at 7:25 pm #

      Taste like chocolate cake with boozy cherries. Great textures and flavors and even better with ice cream. Thanks!

  10. Raymund February 1, 2017 at 3:36 am #

    Interesting recipe, never heard of a sweet tamales. Definitely a must try for me

    • mj February 1, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

      Hope you do try them Raymund! They are really good!

  11. Evelyne CulturEatz January 31, 2017 at 2:18 pm #

    Wow, a dessert chocolate tamales? I have never seen such a thing and I am really curious now to try one. Only you woudl introduce me to something like this 🙂

    • mj January 31, 2017 at 8:08 pm #

      Thanks Evelyne! They are really fun to make and quite good. 🙂

  12. Amy (Savory Moments) January 31, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

    These are such a fun and clever idea, MJ! I would love to try them. They look delicious, too.

    • mj January 31, 2017 at 8:06 pm #

      Thanks Amy!

  13. Nads January 31, 2017 at 8:45 am #

    Desert tamales! Who would have thought it? I love tart cherries and port with dark chocolate melted in butter over ice cream. so why not a chocolate tamale with all these goodies? It sounds amazing. Besides being rich, is it a dense, heavy dessert? These sound like special occasion goodies to me. Of course everyday could be a special occasion it you plan it right. lol

    • mj January 31, 2017 at 8:06 pm #

      Thanks so much Nads! Actually, they aren’t heavy. I cut back on the amount of masa so that they are more cake like. Hey, when you’re retired, every night is a special occasion isn’t it? 🙂

  14. Judy Purcell January 30, 2017 at 6:36 am #

    I read email first thing in the morning with a hot cup of coffee. When I saw the announcement of your new post I had to look at it twice to make sure I was reading that right — chocolate tamales — yep, that’s what it said. It’s rare in the food world to see something so unique that isn’t weird. Well done, MJ! Looks delish!

    • mj January 31, 2017 at 8:04 pm #

      What a very nice comment! Thanks so much Judy! They are so easy to make. I hope you give them a try.

  15. Deb|EastofEdenCooking January 28, 2017 at 5:52 pm #

    Oh my goodness! I’ve had tamales with pineapple filling but not chocolate! My resident chocolate lover would be very happy with these scrumptious tamales.

    • mj January 31, 2017 at 8:03 pm #

      Thanks so much Deb! Oh…a pineapple tamales sounds awesome! Need to do some research. 🙂

  16. A_Boleyn January 28, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

    I enjoy savoury tamales but I’ve never thought of making a sweet version. Chocolate and cherries seem like very tasty additions to the masa as well as butter instead of lard.

    • mj January 31, 2017 at 8:01 pm #

      Thanks so much A_B! I make a couple different types of dessert tamales. They are really good if I do say so myself.

  17. Kelly Mulcair January 28, 2017 at 11:40 am #

    Well what a stroke of genius! Such a creative twist on the traditional tamale and as we near February, perfectly timed too 🙂 those port infused cherries in tandem with the chocolate sound crazy delicious MJ! A little bit goes a long way with dessert for me too, so I love how you’ve sized these. I’ve yet to make tamales but you’re mounting a great case my friend ;p

    • mj January 31, 2017 at 8:00 pm #

      Thank you so much Kelly! I do plan to try these in the spring with fresh cherries, but they sure were good with the re-hydrated dried cherries.

  18. John/Kitchen Riffs January 28, 2017 at 8:46 am #

    Totally agree — NO substitute for butter! I could actually be a vegetarian — so many great dishes. Although I won’t, because I really like meat. But it’d be really hard to be a vegan. Anyway, wonderful dish. Very clever — and cherries work so well with chocolate. Port does, too. Really good — thanks.

    • mj January 28, 2017 at 11:26 am #

      I grew up eating my grandmother’s hand churned butter and just haven’t been able to accept much less. Vegan? I could never give up butter, honey or eggs. What’s the point of eating without those. 🙂 Thanks John!

  19. Tamara January 28, 2017 at 7:45 am #

    I want some MJ! I love making tamales, but my helpers are all in Las Cruces! Maybe we can give these a try when 2 of them come down next month… Chocolate and port are one of our favorite combinations, and with cherries, they must be divine!

    • mj January 28, 2017 at 11:24 am #

      Thanks so much Tamara! Believe me when I say that you really don’t need helpers to make these tamales. I put together a batch of the other day, just me, in one hour. Normally, Bobby does the ties which cuts about 10 – 15 minutes off the prep time, but he wasn’t around.

  20. Debra Eliotseats January 28, 2017 at 6:39 am #

    I have never made tamales because I think they’re too challenging. I might be talked into these, though. We had a favorite restaurant that served (wait for it) chocolate chip cookie dough tamales. It’s no long in business but I remember those little dessert packets! These sound divine, MJ.

    • mj January 28, 2017 at 11:22 am #

      Debra…these are SO EASY to make! You really need to give them a try. OMG – cookie dough tamales? I’m all over that one! 🙂 Thanks Debra!

  21. Angie@Angie's Recipes January 27, 2017 at 9:52 pm #

    These sound and look amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing! Did you use natural cocoa powder or dutch processed?

    • mj January 28, 2017 at 11:21 am #

      They are amazing! 🙂 Thanks!! I use a natural cocoa powder. It’s the chocolate morsels that give the tamales the dark chocolate color.


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