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Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tamales

4 Fork RecipeVegan Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tamales
Servings: 6 to 10 tamales depending on size

Recipes are rated from 1 to 5 forks, with 1 fork being the easiest and 5 forks the most challenging.


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Typically, the masa for tamales is made with lard or shortening. This vegan recipe uses avocado for the fat in the tamale, and the masa may have a slight green tint, but it is absolutely delicious and considerably more healthy than a traditional tamale. The tamales freeze well, so you can double or triple the batch. Freeze tamales without the filling for up to 6 months individually wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a freezer bag.

Instructional images follow the recipe.

Prep Time
25 minutes
Cook Time
60 minutes


Tamale Dough (Masa):

  • 6 to 10 dried corn husks soaked in water for 30 minutes
  • 1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ of a large Haas Avocado (about ½ cup)
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves Roasted Garlic (How to roast garlic)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced yellow onion
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup Masa Harina (substitute fine ground corn meal)
  • ¼ to ½ cup water


  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil (optional - substitute extra virgin olive oil or canola oil or water)
  • (You can also use ¼ cup of water to sauté the vegetables)
  • 1 small Chayote squash, peeled and diced into ¼ inch cubes (about ½ cup)
  • 1 small sweet potato, diced into ¼ inch cubes (about ½ to ¾ cup)
  • 1/2 cup cooked black beans (rinse and drain if using canned beans)
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed


  • 1 Tablespoon finely minced sweet yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon avocado oil (optional - substitute extra virgin olive oil or canola oil or water)
  • (You can also use 2 Tablespoons of water to sauté the onions)
  • ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds or 1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes or more
  • 3 cloves roasted garlic (How to roast garlic)
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)

Optional Garnishes:

  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Thinly sliced green onion
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • Thinly sliced avocado

Special Equipment:
Steaming Basket, Electric Steamer or Rice Cooker
Blender or Food Processor


Preparation Method:


Place corn, avocado, olive oil, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, and salt in a blender or food processor and pulse until the mixture is smooth and fully blended. In a large bowl, combine the corn and avocado mixture with the masa harina and ¼ cup of water and stir with a spatula or large spoon.  Add additional water by the tablespoon as need to form a dough that is slightly wet will hold together into a ball when squeezed.

Spread about ¼ cup of the dough onto the wider end of the corn husk (see images below) and fold the sides of the corn husk over the dough and then fold the narrow end of the corn husk over the top of the first two folds.  Flip the tamale over to hold the folds in place.

Place the tamales in a steamer basket fold side down, stacking tamales as needed while leaving some space between tamales.  Steam the tamales for 50 minutes and let rest in the steamer for an additional 10 minutes.


Heat the oil or water over medium heat in a cast iron on non-stick pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients (10 inch pan will work).  Add the chayote and sweet potato to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so they don’t stick.  Add the black beans, tomatoes, garlic, and spices.  Cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the tomatoes have released most of their moisture.



Heat the oil or water over medium heat in a cast iron or non-stick sauce pan and add minced onion.  Cook onions while stirring for 2 to 3 minutes until they become soft and start to brown.  If necessary, add a tablespoon of water to keep the onions from sticking to the pan.

Once the onions are soft and slightly brown, add the onions and remaining ingredients to a blender and blend on high until the sunflower seeds or cashews are completely blended and the sauce is smooth.  Return the sauce to the pan used for the onions and bring to a simmer for two minutes to slightly reduce and thicken the sauce.


To serve, unfold the corn husks from the tamales and gently spread open the center of the masa with a fork making a small hole for the filling.  Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the filling in the masa, depending upon the size of your tamale.  Spoon the sauce over the tamale and garnish with fresh cilantro, green onion, toasted pumpkin seeds, and an avocado slice, and a side of quinoa if desired.

Instructional Images:


Soaking corn husks

Ingredients (mise en place)

Blending liquid ingredients

Combining wet and dry ingredients

The final masa dough

Spread masa onto the wider side of the corn husk

Fold sides of husk over the masa

Fold narrow end of husk over the masa

Place tamales in a steamer basket

Ingredients (mise en place)

Saute sweet potato and chayote first

Add tomatoes

Add beans, corn, and spices and continue to saute

Add filling to cooked tamale, top with sauce and garnish


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