Corundas are a tamale from Michoacán Mexico that are simple and easy to make. They are eaten with spicy salsa roja, cream, and crumbled cotija cheese.
Corundas originated from the purepecha tribe in Michoacán Mexico. It is also known as “tamal de ceniza” o ”tamales nejos”. It is a pre-hispanic tamal that comes in a triangular shape or even a star shape like my tias make it. It is typically wrapped in corn leaves instead of corn husks which makes them different from the typical Mexican tamale that you’re used to seeing. Traditional corundas do not contain fillings but sometimes diced veggies are mixed into the masa. They are not as popular nationwide as other tamales but they are very important to me as they remind me of my family and represent the part of Mexico that my family is from.
The traditional way of making corundas is not vegan as the masa contains lard. However, we have found ways to make it without any animal products while still achieving the same texture and flavor:
Lard: Also known as Manteca is used to make the tamales moist and more desirable. Vegetable shortening is a great substitute for lard. If you can’t find vegetable shortening, olive, avocado oil, or flavorless coconut oil will do just fine.
Queso Fresco/Cotija: The closest store-bought vegan cheese I’ve had is Follow Your Heart feta. However, I do have a recipe for queso fresco.
Green Corn Leaf: You know how typical tamales are wrapped in dried corn husks? Well, these are wrapped in green corn leaves. You can usually find them in Mexican Grocery stores but call ahead as every region is different. If Mexican stores don’t have them, ask the staff member if they know where to get them. If you live near corn fields, you are more likely to find them! Ask around like the good ole days because the internet will not be very helpful in this case. If you can’t find these in grocery stores, banana leaves will work just as well.
Corundas Michoacanas are naturally packaged and perfect for taking on the go. Follow these storage tips to keep them fresh for longer.
Fridge: Store corundas in airtight container for up to a week in the fridge.
Freezer: Once they’ve been cooled, freeze your corundas for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe bag with the leaves still on.
Reheat: Re-steam them for about 10 minutes if they are refrigerated or for 20 minutes if frozen.
1 tbsp Cal powder (Calcium hydroxide, ONLY IF using dried maize)
2/3cup vegetable shortening OR olive/avocado oil OR flavorless coconut oil
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Optional but recommended:
1 zucchini squash, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 chard leaves (acelgas), diced
In a large mixing bowl, add the masa harina, and salt and whisk together. Slowly pour in the warm water and mix it in using your hands to form masa until it is the consistency of play-dough. Cover and set aside.
Whip the softened vegetable shortening with a whisk or an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy. Next, add in the baking powder and mix until combined.
Add the masa and mix with your hands until well incorporated. Next, add the finely diced veggies into the mix. (Skip down to assemble directions)
Dried Maize option:
Boil a large pot of water to cook the dried maize. Add 2 tbsp of Cal powder and simmer on low for 1 hour or until the skin of the maize begins peeling off.
Take off the heat, drain, and let cool off.
Wash the maize until most of the skins fall off.
The maize is then added to a mill (molino) to grind it up into masa (dough). In Mexico we typically walk it over to a tortilla place that has a molino.
In a large mixing bowl, whip the softened vegetable shortening with a whisk or an electric mixer until it is light and fluffy. Next, add in the baking powder and mix until combined.
Add the masa into the large mixing bowl and add in the vegetable shortening or oil as well as the diced vegetables.
Cut the green corn leaves to be about 2-3 inches wide and 20 inches long strips. Hold one end, twist the strip into a cone shape, and keep it together in the palm of your hand.
Grab about 1/2 cup of dough into the cone and pack it into the pointed part. Fold the long portion of the leaf over top to cover the dough.
Continue folding the leaf over the dough to form a triangle shape or star shape. Tuck the last flap of the leaf under another part of the leaf, then transfer the corunda to a plate while you make the rest.
Add 4 cups of water to the bottom of a large stockpot. Place a steamer rack inside and cover it with a layer of banana leaves. Add the corundas around the steamer until the pot is full.
Cover the corundas with another layer of leaves on top and cover the pot. Steam on low-medium heat for about an hour and 15 minutes.
After an hour and 15 minutes, take a corunda out. Let it rest for a few seconds, and unwrap the leaf. If the center is spongy, they are ready. If the dough is still sticky and soft, re-wrap the corunda and continue steaming for an additional 15 minutes.
When the corundas are done steaming, remove them from the pot and let them rest for 10 minutes. Serve warm with salsa, crema, and queso fresco on top.