• Beef Cheeks and Wine Tamales


Nose-To-Tail Tamales

By Alice Guadalupe Tapp

For me, beef cheeks are simple and sublime, and this recipe makes them so. It is almost like making a stew or an easy version of boeuf bourguignon. Make this even simpler by using a slow cooker or pressure cooker.

Recipe from Alice Guadalupe Tapp’s new cookbook Tamales. Order your copy here.

Beef Cheeks and Wine Tamales


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds beef cheeks, cut into 2-inch pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 4 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons flour (use rice flour if gluten free)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 5 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Kitchen Bouquet or Maggi sauce
  • 8 cups Basic Fresh Masa

Basic Masa

  • 1 pound butter or margarine, softened
  • 5 pounds stone ground fresh masa (unprepared)
  • 2 to 3 cups stock (chicken, pork, beef, or vegetable)
  • 2 tablespoons salt (or less to taste)



In a large frying pan or heavy pot, heat the olive oil over high heat and brown the beef in batches (each batch should take 5 to 7 minutes); set aside. Turn down the heat to medium, add the onions, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until soft and golden, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan as they loosen. Add the flour, stirring and cooking for a few more minutes. Add the wine, finish scraping all the bits and cooked meat juices off the bottom of the pan, and bring to a gentle boil.

Add the browned beef, carrots, garlic, herbs, Kitchen Bouquet or Maggi sauce, and enough water to cover. Return to a boil over medium-high heat, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours, or until fork-tender. Or cover the pot and place in a 325°F oven for 2 hours, until fork-tender. Check and stir often, and add water a little at a time, if needed. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Allow to cool completely.

Assemble the tamales, using 1/4 cup masa and 1/4 cup filling for each tamale. Transfer to a steamer and steam for 55 minutes.

Basic Fresh Masa

To make this type of masa dough, my grandmother used lard, and my mother used vegetable shortening or a combination of both. I switched to butter. Traditional cooks use even more fat than what is called for here, but I think this 1:5 ratio of butter to masa is perfect. Feel free to use your preference of lard, shortening, butter, or margarine.



Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and whip until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add one-third of the fresh masa alternating with one-third of the stock, then add the salt. Beat until well mixed, adding more stock if needed, turn the mixer to high, and beat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the dough resembles spackling paste.

Take a small piece (about 1/2 teaspoon) of the dough and drop it into a cup of cold water. If it floats, it is ready; if it sinks, whip for another minute and test it again. Repeat this process until the masa floats.

Note: The fresher the masa, the faster it will become light and fluffy enough for use.

Reprinted with permission from Tamales, by Alice Guadalupe Tapp, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2014 by Sara Remington.

Like this recipe? You may also enjoy:

Recipe Finder

Related Recipes


Main Ingredients



Back to Recipes Page