How To Spread Masa For Tamales In 5 Simple And Fast Steps

Last Updated on April 4, 2022 by Guillermina

Tamales are a special and traditional meal often eaten during the holidays, so it is essential to know how to spread masa for tamales. I will show you how to do this in five simple and easy steps! Spreading masa on corn husks takes time, patience, and practice, but there are some tricks that can speed up the process.

Personally, when I make tamales my main goal is to be quick. The masa recipe I have has been in the family for years and I seldom make changes to it. Instead, I focus on shaping the masa so it does not rip when I fold the corn husks to cook the tamales.

What Are Tamales?

Before we can dive into how to spread the masa on corn husks, we should discuss what tamales are. Tamales are a delicacy that has been around for thousands of years in Latin America, predating Meso-America, specifically the northern and southern parts of Mexico.

These delicate and delicious pastries are filled with various meats, cheeses and vegetables. The outer layer is made with harina de maize, which is made specifically for making tamales and tortillas. The dough though has to be thick and sticky and engulfs the filling.

To wrap a tamale, you need to use a corn husk! This is a huge and important part about making these delicious tamales. For some more historical background, tamales are a staple food in Mexico. From what historians know, everyone used to eat tamales as they were easy to make and nutritious.

They were often used as a traveling food as you only needed one hand to eat them and could place them in ceramic pots and baskets.

 How thick do you spread masa for tamales?

How To Make The Masa Of A Tamale

Before we can learn how to spread masa for tamales, we need to make the masa of a tamal. To make the masa of a tamal, you will need a few simple ingredients. Personally, I like to also extra white or corn flour near me so that I can dust my masa rolling space with flour, minimizing the stickiness.

To make the masa of a tamal, mix these three ingredients well: masa harina, baking powder, and water. If you want to add any other seasonings you can!

How To Spread Masa For Tamales

There is more then one way how to spread masa for tamales! It is best to start with the most simplest way though and find one way how to spread masa for tamales that is easiest for you!

1. Spoon

Some people like using the spoon method. Directly on the corn husk, take a spoon full of dough and spread it evenly on the corn husks. Always use the smooth side of a corn husk so that there is a lack of texture when you unwrap the tamale.

Spread the dough with the flat side of the spoon in slow motions. Personally, I am not a huge fan of this method because the masa sometimes sticks to the spoon and makes a mess. When you lift the spoon, some masa from the spoon also comes up.

 How thick should masa be spread?

2. Spatula

When I don’t have any additional tools, I go for the spatula! When looking for ways on how to spread masa for tamales, a spatula will do the trick as long as you have some kind of non-stick spray.

I like to use a low-calorie non-stick spray without additional flavor, this way it does not change the consistency or flavor of the tamal. Flatten the masa directly on the corn husks, using the spatula to even it out. Don’t spray the masa directly, but the spatula that you will use to spread the masa.

3. Hands

Some people like using their hands, which was a common way for many years! It is part of the tradition of how to spread masa for tamales. In large tables, families would gather and take turns finding ways on how to spread masa for tamales as well as assembling them. This is how the tradition has been passed down.

With your hands, you will need to rub either the spray or some kind of flour. This way, the masa does not stick to your fingers and cause a mess. Flatten and spread the masa with the palm of your hands and finger tips so that it is even.

4. Tortilla Maker

Did you know that you can also use a tortilla maker for spreading masa on a tamale? When looking up how to spread masa for tamales, you are likely going to find this neat trick! I personally use this method a lot, as it saves me time and effort.

 how to spread masa for tamales

Instead of directly spreading the masa of the corn husks, you will use a tortilla maker or flattener. This is one way how to spread masa for tamales that won’t get your hands extremely dirty. Roll a small ball of dough or tamal masa and place it in the center of the tortilla maker.

Make sure to spray the tortilla maker though so the masa does not get stuck. Flatten it out and lower the top half of the tortilla maker. This will spread it evenly.

5. Tamale Masa Spreader

There is also a special tool that can help you with the process of how to spread masa for tamales! It is a tamale masa spreader that does the work for you. It can be expensive, but also increases your production and decreases the time it takes!


Overall, the best way to spread masa for tamales is your way! Out of these five options, I am sure you will find something that best works for you. I personally prefer using the spatula or the tortilla maker/flattener, but these are only two unique ways.

Have you learned anything new about how to spread masa for tamales? If yes, please let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear from you! Know someone else interested in learning how to spread masa for tamales? Share  this article with them!

 how to spread masa for tamales using tortilla press


How thick do you spread masa for tamales?

You spread masa for tamales as thin as possible without letting the corn husk underneath the masa seen.

How thick should masa be spread?

You should spread masa as thin as you can! When the masa is too thick, the filling can get engulfed in the masa. Make sure that you thinly and evenly spread it on the corn husks.

What is the easiest way to spread masa on corn husk?

The easiest way is to use a non-stick spray and a spatula. On the spatula, spray the non-stick solution and flatten and spread the masa on the corn husk. The masa should not stick.