Thanksgiving Tamales – how to use leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner

We always have a lot of leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner. This year it was just the two of us, so we had even more than normal. We did get a smaller turkey (it was only 13lbs) but we made full sized dishes of everything else. One reason we made so much was for the leftovers. Our favorite thing to make with the leftovers are Thanksgiving Tamales.

For this recipe, you’ll need leftover cornbread stuffing, turkey, and fresh made turkey stock. Our cornbread stuffing has chorizo and peppers so it adds a nice flavor. Also, if you didn’t make any stock from your turkey, go ahead and use chicken stock. If you have leftover cranberry sauce, grab that too.

This recipe should make about 20 tamales, depending on the size of your corn husks and the thickness that you put the masa on the cornhusks. We used the Maseca tamale masa that you should be able to find in major super markets or from Amazon.

Making tamales is not complicated, but it helps to “see” it first so check out some youtube videos to help out. Here is how Pati Jinich makes hers as a point of reference


Tamale Dough


  • 1 cup masa
  • 1 cup stock (turkey or chicken) or water
  • 1/3 cup lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups leftover cornbread stuffing
  • 1/2 cup stock (turkey or chicken) or water


Start by mixing the masa, 1 cup of stock, lard, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Mix this together until it’s a grainy paste. Once this is mixed well, mix in your stuffing. The extra half cup is for blending in the stuffing. You want the mixture to have a grainy paste texture again, so it will probably be too dry after you add your stuffing. Slowly add the extra 1/2 cup until you get back to that texture.

Tamale Recipe


  • tamale dough (from above)
  • 1.5 lbs turkey pulled into small pieces
  • 20 corn husks


Soak the corn husks in water for a few minutes, until they are soft and flexible. Then remove from water and drain them off. They don’t have to be completely dry.

Spread a thin layer of tamale dough on the corn husk over the top half of the husk.

Place a few pieces of turkey in the center of the husk. If you have leftover cranberry sauce, a thin line of this sauce is a nice treat to add to the tamale.

Fold one side of the husk over to the other side, where the tamale dough from each side come together. Push them together to make it firm, then fold the bottom part up over the seam. Then place the tamale into the steamer pot. We lay our pot on it’s side and place them in with the folded side down.

Once you’ve filled the husks with the dough and turkey, steam them over water for 2 hours. Check the water level regularly and replenish as needed. One tip is to put a penny in the bottom of the pan (in the water). If you hear the penny start to rattle, it’s time to add water.