You'll typically find this Sweet Corn Tomalito recipe served as a side dish in Mexican food chains like Chevy's restaurant, Chi-Chi's and the popular Dallas-based Blue Mesa Grill.
It's a baked, sweet corn casserole with the flavor and texture similar to a tamale and it's a perfect side dish to any Mexican or Tex-Mex cuisine
Even though it's most often served in Mexican restaurants, it is a great side dish to ham, BBQ or a big bowl of chili!
It consists of fresh sweet corn, corn meal, corn flour (Masa Harina) and a few other simple ingredients and is usually accompanies some sort of beans as a side dish to your favorite Mexican combo plate! I usually serve this with sour cream chicken enchiladas and black beans or with beef fajitas.
Some folks refer to it as a Mexican sweet corn cake, but then again, it's really not a cake, either! It's like a mixture of sweet cornbread and tamale dough- a sweet corn and tamale casserole.
Tamalito or Tomalito?
In the United States, you'll find two spellings of this dish: "tamalito" - with an "a"- which is technically a Peruvian dish that is basically a small tamale and "tomalito," with an "o" which often refers to a baked corn/tamale casserole. Technically, these are different, but let's not die on that hill!
The first time I ever had this delicious treat was at The Blue Mesa Grill in Addison, Texas. Blue Mesa is a local owned restaurant that features Mexican, Tex-Mex and Southwestern cuisine and is home to the ever-popular "blue" Margarita!
We went for brunch and they served tomalito, aka tamalito, as a side dish to the main meal! It was indescribably delicious and a nice accompaniment to the usual "rice and beans."
Why this recipe works
- You can use fresh corn, canned corn (drained) or frozen corn. The secret to making this as delicious as what you find at Mexican restaurants is the method of cooking. You combine the ingredients and then bake it covered with aluminum foil in a water bath. The moisture from the hot water softens the cornmeal and results in a nice moist texture.
- Some recipes make this on top of the stove, where the sweet corn mixture cooks in a double boiler. You can do either, since both methods basically steam the corn mixture.
- This pureed corn dish is gluten-free and a perfect little side dish with enchiladas, tacos or fajitas! You'll want to keep this recipe for Taco Tuesday or Cinco de Mayo!
Corn flour isn't really "flour"
Masa Harina, or "Harina de Maiz" is corn flour. Don't be thrown off by the the term "flour." That just means it has been finely ground to a flour-like consistency. Corn flour is simply stone ground corn and lime.
And corn is inherently "gluten-free" so don't pay more for brands that label the product as "gluten-free" and charge more. There's a couple of brands available: Quaker, Bob's Red Mill and Maseca are just a few brands of this mexican corn-flour that you'll find at your grocery store.
Ingredients for Sweet Corn Tomalito
In order to process the ingredients just right for perfect sweet corn tomalito, you'll need a food processor.
An electric mixer is optional) - for combining the softened butter and sugar. I just use a spatula to cream together the butter and sugar, but you can use a hand mixer on low speed if you prefer.
The ingredients are: corn, butter, sugar, milk, corn flour (Masa Harina), yellow cornmeal (plain, not self-rising cornmeal), baking powder and salt.
I recommend using whole kernel corn versus cream-style corn. Even though you'll puree some of the corn kernels in the food processor, the kernels aren't as liquid as cream style corn.
Here's how to make it
Sweet corn tomalito is not nearly as hard to make as tamales-so don't even worry about that! It's super easy:
In a food processor, add cornmeal, milk and ¾ of the corn; (set remaining corn kernels aside) pulse and puree corn a minute or so; set aside
In a large bowl combine softened butter, sugar and corn flour (I do this by hand with a spatula, but you can use an electric mixer on low speed)
Combine the cornmeal mixture and the softened butter and corn flour mixture, then add in the remaining whole corn kernels, baking powder and salt; combine well and pour batter in an unprepared baking dish and smooth the top with the back of a spoon or spatula
Cover the ungreased baking dish with foil. Place that baking dish in a larger one. Add enough water to the large pan until the water level is about half way on the smaller dish
Bake @350°F 50-60 minutes, or until the center comes out clean on a wooden pick.
A few of the mexican restaurants serve Sweet Corn Tomalito in individual servings. If you want to do this, bake this delicious recipe 4" inch ramekins.
If you're serving this buffet style, use a little ice cream scoop for your guests to serve themselves a little bit of this delicious side dish or provide a separate small bowl
If you want a "mexican sweet corn cake," simply press the tomalito dough into small rounds and place them in a 9 x 13 baking pan; you'll then place that pan in a larger pan (like a roasting pan)
Variations and substitutions
There are a few ways to personalize this popular recipe! If you want a Southwestern flair, add some diced green chiles, jalapenos or chopped and drained sundried tomatoes. Garnish with chopped cilantro for a pretty presentation.
You can substitute butter with margarine and heavy cream for the milk. I do not recommend substituting self-rising cornmeal or cornmeal mix for either the cornmeal or corn flour.
Brown sugar can be a substitute for granulated sugar, but the flavor of the tomalito might change a bit due to the molasses in brown sugar.
Storage and reheating
Sweet corn Tomalito can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap. For best results, reheat leftovers in the microwave covered with a paper towel.
More Mexican food recipes
- Restaurant-quality Refried Beans
- Authentic Mexican Rice
- Mexican Michelada Cocktail
- Tex-Mex Sour Cream Sauce
- Red Enchilada Sauce
- Sweet Chipotle Corn Casserole
If you make this Sweet Corn Tomalito recipe, please scroll down and leave a comment and rating! I love to hear from you! Thank you!
Sweet Corn Tomalito
- Food Processor
- Hand mixer (optional)
- Large pan for water bath
- 2 cups corn kernels, divided (See Recipe Notes)
- 5 tablespoons butter, softened, unsalted
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons milk, 2% or whole
- ¼ cup masa harina (corn flour)
- ½ cup yellow cornmeal (not self-rising)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- water (for water bath) 2-3 cups
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- In a food processor, pulse 1½ cups of corn kernels, milk and cornmeal2 cups corn kernels, divided, 3 tablespoons milk, 2% or whole, ½ cup yellow cornmeal (not self-rising)
- In a large mixing bowl, combine softened butter, masa flour and sugar (I do this by hand with a spatula, but you can use an electric mixer on low speed)5 tablespoons butter, softened, unsalted, ¼ cup masa harina (corn flour), ½ cup granulated sugar
- Pour the food processor mixture into the mixing bowl with the butter, flour and sugar; combine well
- Add remaining ½ cup of whole corn kernels, baking powder and salt; combine well with a wooden spoon or spatula2 cups corn kernels, divided, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt
- Pour this mixture into an 8 x 8 ungreased pan; smooth the top of the mixture with the back of a spoon
- Cover with foil and place pan in a larger (9 x 13) pan; pour water into the larger pan until it reaches about half way on the smaller pan.water (for water bath) 2-3 cups
- Bake at 350°F for 50-60 minutes
- Test for doneness by inserting a clean toothpick into the center; when it comes out clean, it's done