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Polenta-based pizza is nothing new. And quite delicious, though many would argue whether it’s a pizza at all. The question seems to me academic. What is not academic is that nixtamal or lime-treated corn is not polenta! Nixtamalized corn has more protein, more vitamins – especially vit B3 (niacin), essentially unavailable in untreated corn – and of course exrtra calcium from the lime. It also has a more intense flavour – the flavour of maize.

Like any pizza, this is an assembled dish requiring pre-prepping of the essential elements:

  1. the base
  2. the sauce, and
  3. the toppings

Choosing any topping of your choice, add cheese (or not) and other protein components or serve the protein in an accompanying dish.

Two previous posts have covered how to make the corn tamal base in two basic ways. For ease, they’re both included in this post so you have all the elements in one place. Feel free to change the sauce, the toppings, even the base – use polenta if you like. It won’t be Mexican. But it’ll be delicious. Have fun!

Pizza Tamalera – Overview

A baked, open Mexican tamal assembled into a gluten-free corn-based pizza


  • 1 lb by dry weight of tamal dough. See recipe(s) below

Tomato Caldillo

  • 1 quantity tomato caldillo (see recipe below)

Pizza Toppings

  • 1 small red onion
  • 6 jalapeño or any large medium-hot chilli (red and green)
  • 1 large courgette (sliced)
  • 2 sweet bell peppers in varying colours (sliced)
  • 12 open or closed-cap mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1 bunch basil leaves


  • 1 cup roughly torn cow’s mozarella
  • grated parmesan (or other hard pasta cheese)

Vegan alternatives

  • crushed hazelnuts, slivered almonds, toasted whole hulled pumpkin seeds (use any combination or omit altogether)

Prepare The Tamal Batter-Dough

  1. scroll down or click to open the post

Make The Caldillo Tomato Sauce

  1. scroll down or click to open the posts for Veggie Stock & Caldillo Sauce
  2. Once your tamal dough has passed the float test (see post) and has been duly refrigerated (see recipe below) spread it to your taste over two cake or flan tins. Round tins will give your wedges and square ones will give – well, squares.
  3. Brush with a little oil and oven-bake at 180C for 15 minutes

Assemble & Cook The Pizza

  1. Spread a fairly generous layer of the caldillo tomato sauce to within 1cm from the edges of the pre-cooked pizza bases
  2. Share your prepared vegetable toppings between the two pizzas, then season with salt and pepper, sprinkle on the basil leaves, then parmesan and finally the mozarella (hard cheeses such as Halloumi also work well here, grated or thinly sliced)
  3. Bake for a further 5-10 minutes at 180 degreesC and serve immediately with a fresh, crispy salad

While nothing compares to nixtamal, there is no doubt polenta is easier to source and quicker to prepare

Cook the polenta according the instructions on the packet. Spread it, still hot, on your cake tin, then cool, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour and preferrably overnight. Bake and finish off your pizza as per the recipes below

Tamal Base 1

masa para tamales
Tamal Dough - From Masa Harina (Instant Nixtamal)
Masa Harina For Tamales has been treated with lime and ground to the right consistency for the best texture. The basic tamal batter or dough requires the addition of liquid, usually stock, and shortening with plenty of beating either by hand or electric mixer to add air for a light, fluffy finish.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Cuisine Latin American, Mexican
Servings 12 tamales
  • 1 lb by dry weight of Masa Harina Para Tamales
  • 1/2 cup oil, vegetable shortening, butter or ghee or use half this quantity and add bicarb or baking powder
  • 1/2-1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda or baking powder (optional)
  • 1/2 litre vegetable stock or water
  • salt to taste
  • Put the masa into a mixer bowl. Add all of the shortening (oil, vegetable shortening, etc.) to the dry masa now. Starting at low speed add about 1/3 of the the liquid. When this is incorporated turn up the speed to medium-high and add the remaining liquid, a little at a time, whisking for a good 5 minutes in total
  • The mixture shouuld resemble thick cake batter but be easily spreadable
Float test
  • Let your mixture rest for 15 minutes in the fridge, then drop a little into a cup of water. Your batter should float. If it doesn't, add a little more liquid and fat,  whisk for a further 2-3 minutes and refrigerate for aother 5-10 minutes before repeating the float test
Reduced fat version
  • Reduce the quantity of fat by 1/4 to 1/3. Try the float test. If necessary add in your raising agent(s), whisking briefly. Keep any mixing and stirring brief and light from this moment on to avoid beating out the air. After 10-15 minutes in the refrigerator your mixture is ready to use

Tamal Base 2

Basic Dough For Tamales From Corn And Lime
This version starts with the raw ingredients: whole dried maize, limewash and water. Simple!
Cook Time 15 minutes
soaking time 8 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Cuisine Latin American, Mexican
Servings 12 tamales
Making nixtamal
  • 1 lb by dry weight of whole dried corn white, blue, yellow or other
  • 1 tbsp pure slaked-lime putty
  • water to cover
making tamal dough
  • prepared whole nixtamalized maize (as above)
  • 1/2 cup oil, vegetable shortening, butter or ghee or use less and add bicarb or baking powder
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda or baking powder (use in the reduced-fat version)
  • 1/2 litre vegetable stock or water
  • salt to taste
Nixtamalizing The Corn
  • Put the whole dried maize kernels in a pan and add enough water to cover
  • Dissolve a tablespoon of slaked lime (calcium hydroxide, cal, limewash) in a little water and add to the pan
  • Bring  the pan to the boil and simmer the corn for about 15 minutes. Transfer to a non-metallic container and leave to soak, covered, overnight
  • In the morning rinse the corn thoroughly until the water runs clear
Making the tamal dough
  • Put all of the nixtamalized corn in a food processor. Add a quater of the liquid and grind using the main blade starting at low speed and gradually speeding up to high
  • Gradually dd the fat and remaining stock, alternating in batches to obtain a atill slightly grainy texture similar to a stiff cake dough or peanut butter
The float test
  • Put a small blob of dough into a cup of water. If it floats the tamal dough is ready. Otherwise add a little more fat and liquid (water if you've run out of stock).
  • If you're making the reduced-fat version add the raising agent (bicarb or baking powder) now and briefly pulse the dough in the food processor just enough to mix it in, or turn the dough out into a bowl and gently stir it in by hand
  • Chill the tamal dough for 20-30 minutes before going on to make your tamales. Chilling the tamal dough significanltly increases the chances of your dough passing the float test.

Latin American, Mexican

The Sauce

mexican tomato caldillo sauce
Mexican Caldillo Tomato Sauce
A versatile tomato sauce with chipotle chile, corainder and a whole pot of vegetable broth. The soul of this sauce is the stock, so give your all for the best stock ever created (click here for our guidelines)
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Cuisine Mexican
  • a generous glug of good olive oil or any oil with a high smoking point
  • 1 white onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 kg tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped or puréed in a food processor or a large jar of passata or even a couple of tins of tomatoes
  • 1-2 chipotles: preferably in adobo, otherwise use dry chipotles softened in a little warm water OR Spanish hot smoked paprika
  • a bunch of corander - leaves, stems and roots
  • 1 litre of your best vegetable stock (keep it simmering in its own pan)
  • seasoning to taste
  • Start by making a good vegetable stock (click here for guidelines)
  • Heat enough oil to cover a medium, deep fying pan
  • Add the onions and garlic and soften at medium low heat for around 10 minutes
  • Add the chopped or puréed tomatoes and chipotle chillies
  • Sweet or hot smoked Spanish paprika is a reasonable substitute if you want to keep the heat down or if you can;t source chipotles
  • When the tomatoes start to reduce down start adding a couple of ladlefuls of hot stock. Reduce this down, uncovered, and keep adding similar quantities of stock. When you've used up half of your stock-pot add the coriander, season and continue adding stock until it's all used up
  • Use in your favourite dishes

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