Thursday, August 4, 2011


For the ancient inhabitants of Mexico and, in fact, all of the Americas, corn was king.   Maize was deified, and the variety of meals based on corn were nearly infinite. The modern-day Mexican eats corn in some shape or form every day, probably mostly in the form of tortillas. But each region of Mexico has a different way of consuming corn, in the form of gorditas, garnachas, tamales, atoles, guaraches, etc.

North of the border, little is known or understood about the regional foods of Mexico. This past June, when I took my students to Mexico for a summer Spanish immersion course, I introduced them to corundas, a kind of tamal originating in Michoacan (shown here:)

The tamal is wrapped in the green outer leaf of the corn, shaped, more or less into a triangle. You can add filling to the masa or simply pour cream and green (tomatillo) or red salsa on top. Whenever it can be found, tequesquite, a mineral salt, is used as a leavening agent when cooking the masa, a practice that dates back to the Aztecs. A good substitute for tequesquite is baking soda.


Recipe Type: Appetizer

Author: Gilda Valdez Carbonaro

Prep time: 30 mins

Cook time: 1 hour

Total time: 1 hour 30 mins

Serves: 4 to 6


  • 2 ½ lbs corn masa prepared according to the instructions on the bag

  • 3 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 cup shortening

  • cup milk

  • Husks of 10 tomatillos

  • Green corn husks

  • Salt to taste


  1. Boil the tomatillo husks in about 1 ½ cups water with the baking powder.

  2. Strain the water, disposing of the husks, and mix the broth with the milk.

  3. Beat the shortening until it is fluffy.

  4. Very graduallly, add to this shortening the milk-tomato-water mixture and continue to beat it.

  5. When it is well mixed, very gradually add the corn dough (masa) mixture, beating more.

  6. Add salt to taste.

  7. Make a cone shape with the corn husks and scoop dough into the cones.

  8. Wrap the husks into a triangle shape and tie with a thin piece of corn husk or cooking twine.

  9. Place the corundas in a steamer and steam for approximately one hour.

  10. Serve with crema mexicana and a green or red salsa.


Corn masa can be found in most grocery stores in the U.S. One well-known brand is Maseca.


  1. What's your opinion on the use of vegetable shortening versus lard in tamales and corundas? Any recommendations on mixing and handling the masa + shortening mixture?

  2. Gilda Valdez CarbonaroAugust 4, 2011 at 7:34 AM

    Thank you for writing, Chris. So good to hear from you. Hmmm lard vs. shortening...well, actually lard is more authentic, that is the way it's usually done in Mexico, as you can imagine. I, personally, prefer lard in my tamales/corundas (yes, I'm admitting it here), but I don't exactly eat tamales or corundas every day! It's just that I know that my audience is one that might have concerns about pork fat.

    Mixing the masa and shortening or lard is not an easy thing. I always remember my mother calling for my father's help at this phase of the preparation (for his strength). You have to be sure to have beaten the lard or shortening well before the mixing.

  3. Every recipe is an education -thanks! Miss you!

  4. Gilda Valdez CarbonaroAugust 4, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Thank you so much! What a compliment. We miss you too, Gildita.

  5. hello, just waned to know.. if you substitute tequesquite with baking soda, should the quantities and methods be the same?

  6. Gilda Valdez CarbonaroJanuary 30, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    I've never been able to find tequesquite so I'm not certain, but I would try the same amount.

  7. Thanks for this recipe. I have to ask why do you have to boil the tomatillo husks in the water? Does that provide flavor ?

  8. Gilda Valdez CarbonaroSeptember 18, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    What I've been told is that it's a substitute for the tequisquite, which you won't find anywhere except Mexico. It serves as a kind of leavening agent.

  9. I just wanted to say how much I loved this post. I am originally from Michoacan and I use my grandmother's recipe when I make corundas and yes I use lard. The lard makes it more fluffy, kind of like cornbread, so I definitely prefer it. It is not the healthier option of the two but the taste is much better and more original. I grew up having corundas with a pork stew on the side and sour cream on top of the corundas (as well as the tomatillo sauce).

  10. Gilda Valdez CarbonaroOctober 9, 2013 at 9:06 AM


    I have to admit I grew up eating northern Mexican food and had never had corundas until I began travelling extensively in Mexico. Lard really makes everything taste divine, doesn't it? And, yes, it does give a certain fluffiness to the dough. Thanks so much for writing.


  11. My abuelita was from Michoacan. she made these but called them tamales de cenisa and stuffed them with Jack cheese and a green salsa. She made another kind of tamal that I have been looking for the recipe for years and have not been able to find. Sadly I was too young to remember it. She called them tamales agrios. She spread the masa on a table cloth and topped them with chesee and someting else then folded them and cut them into maybe 8 inches and wraped them like regular tamales. Does anyone have this recipe or know what I'm talking about and you know how to make them. I would really like to know how to make these.

  12. Gilda Valdez CarbonaroDecember 12, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    Unfortunately, these are recipes that are gradually disappearing. There are people making great efforts to do a 'rescate' of this food. In other words, to rescue it from oblivion, but with the invasion of corporations like McDonalds and the like in Mexico, it's not easy. Looks like you'll need to make a trip to Michoacan.


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