I love tamales. They are so delicious, but so darn bad for you. Most often the masa is cut with a significant amount of lard, or in some recipes shortening to create the dough for steaming. Our family made tamales this way over the holidays using fresh crab from Tomales Bay and man were they decadent! I've been looking for a way to health them up for an everyday meal without losing any of that tenderness and sweet corn brought out with the extra fat. After a little brainstorming, coconut oil sounded like a good plan, but still, not so great for you, then it occured to me to try applesauce, and what do you know, it worked. I roasted butternut squash and mashed it with some chipotle peppers/sauce to create a sweet and smokey filling. Vegan and dairy free if prepared using the vegetable stock. Here's the recipe and tutorial:
Homemade Tamales Using Apple Sauce
2 1/2 cups instant masa (found at most grocery stores)
2 cups warm chicken or vegetable stock, plus 1/4 cup for squash
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp cumin
2 tsp ground sea salt
2 cups 1" cubed butternut squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1 chipotle pepper with 1 tbsp sauce (from can)
Banana leaves, rinsed, cut into 6 inch sections
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine masa with stock, cover for 20 minutes to allow the masa to absorb the moisture.
Toss the butternut squash with the olive oil and roast for 15-20 minutes. In a food processor, mash with chipotle pepper/sauce and 1/4 cup stock, until smooth.
Using the paddle attachment on a standing mixer, whip the masa dough with the apple sauce for about 5 minutes, until fluffy, about the consistency of peanut butter. Add cumin and salt, whip until combined.
Heat the banana leaves in the microwave for 10 seconds per to make them pliable. Spoon about 1/3 cup of the masa dough onto the middle of the leaf, spread about the size of an index card. Spoon a couple of tbsp of the squash puree onto the dough, fold the end up to cover the dough, fold the sides over each other, and the top down.
Using a steamer basket, or a lobster pot, layer the tamales on the base of the basket and steam for 40 minutes, and serve. Microwave for 1 minute in the leaf to reheat (2-3 minutes if frozen).