You can make one of your favorite Mexican restaurant specialties in your own kitchen. Pumpkin takes the place of fat in the masa dough for these tamales, making the dough light and easy to work with. 

Note: Canned jackfruit can be full of sodium. Check labels and select the brand with the lowest amount of sodium, such as Trader Joe’s brand. Rinsing and draining can also help reduce sodium.

By Shelli McConnell,


  • 18 dried cornhusks
  • 10 dried New Mexico red chiles (1½ oz.)
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 4 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 14-oz. can green jackfruit, rinsed, drained, and chopped (see headnote)
  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 teaspoon regular or sodium-free baking powder
  • 1½ cups canned pumpkin
  • 1¼ cups low-sodium vegetable broth


  • In a very large bowl cover cornhusks with boiling water. Let stand 30 to 45 minutes or until husks are soft. Drain well; pat dry with paper towels.
  • Meanwhile, for chile sauce, in a dry extra-large skillet cook chiles over medium-high about 3 minutes or until toasted, turning occasionally. Let cool. Remove stems and seeds. Coarsely tear chiles.
  • In a medium saucepan combine chiles, onion, and 1¼ cups water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chiles and onion to a blender or food processor; reserve cooking liquid. Add the next six ingredients (through salt). Cover and blend until smooth, adding reserved cooking liquid a little at a time as needed to reach a sauce like consistency.
  • For filling, in a bowl combine jackfruit and ⅓ cup of the chile sauce.
  • For masa dough, in a large bowl stir together masa harina and baking powder. Add pumpkin and broth. Beat with a mixer on medium until dough is thick but not sticky to incorporate some air into the dough.
  • To assemble tamales, starting at the wide end of a corn husk, spoon 2 rounded tablespoons masa dough onto husk and pat into a 4×3-inch rectangle. Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon filling lengthwise down the center of dough, leaving a slight border of dough at ends. Fold a long edge of husk over filling so it brings long edges of masa together. Roll up husk. Fold bottom up; tie with a cornhusk strip or 100% cotton kitchen string. Place on a rimmed baking sheet until all tamales are assembled.
  • To steam tamales, add a steamer basket to an 8-qt. pot. Add water to just below the basket. Stand tamales upright in steamer basket. Bring water to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover; steam 45 minutes to 1 hour or until dough easily pulls away from corn husks and is cooked through. Uncover; let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve tamales with remaining warmed chile sauce.

Comments (9)

(5 from 4 votes)

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Can you use butternut squash instead of pumpkin?

Megan Edwards

Hi Liz, Yes, you can use any type of squash puree in this recipe! Let us know how it goes.


Can you taste the pumpkin in the masa?


has any one scaled the recipe down?


What can be used instead of New Mexico red chiles and Mexico oregano? Not sure where I could find these ingredients.

Steven, FOK Support

You can use another chile pepper, Irma! (You may wish to peruse the many options and their heat scale: Any oregano will work here! If not oregano: basil, thyme, Italian seasoning, or marjoram.

Deanna Lewis

I was so pleased with how these turned out! They tasted awesome; well worth the effort. Thank you!

Vicki Romanin

FANTASTIC! Husband is New Mexican and a carnivore, but he loved them too. Very pretty, delicious, freezes and re-steams well, so worth the work. Put them out on a New Mexican Cooking FB page. Got hundreds and hundreds of hits, questions, and a ton of interest. Crowd was Very Veg Curious and complimentary. Thank you for this fab recipe!!


We loved it and will make again. Hoping it stands up to reheating. We topped ours off with fresh avocado salad.

About the Author

Headshot of Shelli McConnell

About the Author

Shelli McConnell

Shelli McConnell graduated with a bachelor of science in consumer food science and a minor in journalism from Iowa State University. She began her career as a home economist in the Better Homes & Gardens test kitchen before moving into an editorial position within DotDash Meredith. She has since freelanced for 25 years and has served as an editorial project manager for many books and magazines, including three editions of the Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book. She has also developed thousands of recipes for publications including Forks Over Knives magazine; Eat This, Not That!; Diabetic Living; Better Homes & Gardens; The Magnolia Journal; and more. McConnell loves to entertain and inspire, so when she’s not in her office, she’s usually in her kitchen. Find her on LinkedIn.
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