Squash Tamales with a Turkey Cranberry Filling

Squash Tamales with a Cranberry Turkey Filling

Tender and sweet squash tamales stuffed with a tart turkey cranberry filling are a fantastic fall twist on the classic Mexican dish. There is nothing like peeling away the corn husk of a tamale and digging into that delicious and piping hot masa mixture. I love adding a super flavorful filling to tamales, because you only get a small amount in the center, so it needs to have a lot of flavor!

The inspiration for this recipe

A few days ago I was drooling over the photos of this Thanksgiving burrito I made a couple years back, and started thinking what other Mexican food I could thanksgiving-ize. Since corn and cornbread are fairly common on the Thanksgiving table, I decided tamales would be a good fit. For the tamale filling I made a ground turkey mixture with lots of cranberries to give the turkey a nice tart sauce. A little sage and parsley drives home the Thanksgiving flavor, and some chipotle powder gives it a little kick. These Thanksgiving tamales are a great meal for this pre-Thanksgiving week when you are already craving the flavors but don’t want to eat the real meal yet!

Making the turkey filling

Cook the turkey to brown and remove it from the pan. Next cook the onions down for about 15 minutes in the same pan. Finally add the turkey back in. Then get all the cranberries in there! Let this cook for another 15 minutes or so until the cranberries have mostly broken down into a sauce.

turkey and cranberry in the pan

Making the squash tamale mixture

Cook the squash and then blend it up with some water.

mixing up the squash

Mix the squash with masa harina and cornmeal to form the tamale dough.

making the masa dough

Forming the squash tamales with turkey cranberry filling

Make your tamales by putting some of the dough into a soaked corn husk. Top with cotija cheese and the turkey cranberry mixture. Then just roll it up.

filling up the turkey cranberry squash tamales

A bunch of tamales ready for the steamer! You need to steam these for about 2 hours to fully cook the tamale.

tamales ready for the steamer

These tamales are so good. They taste like Thanksgiving but really unique.

turkey cranberry squash tamales

The filling on it’s own is really tart, but when it is mixed with the hearty and buttery tamale mixture it blends perfectly.

turkey cranberry squash tamales

It’s best with a squeeze of lime and a slice of avocado.

eating the turkey cranberry squash tamale

If you love adding cranberries to recipes, check out my recipe for kale and cranberry grilled cheese, or these cider braised pork tacos with cranberry hot sauce.

If you want more instructions for making authentic tamales, check out this guide from Yvette at Muy Bueno!

Squash Tamales with a Turkey Cranberry Filling

Tamales inspired by Thanksgiving are flavored with squash and stuffed with a tart turkey cranberry filling.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Total Time3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 12 tamales (approx)
Calories: 267kcal



  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 cup masa harina
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1.5 cups water
  • salt and pepper
  • dried corn husks


  • 1 Pound ground turkey
  • 12 ounces cranberries
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 pinch sage
  • 1 pinch thyme
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • cotija cheese


  • Peel and chop the squash. Toss it in some salt and olive oil and put it on a pan. Roast at 350 for about 20 minutes to a half hour until tender. Put it into a food processor with the butter and water and blend until smooth.
  • Mix the squash mixture with the masa and cornmeal until well combined. Salt well.
  • Cook the turkey in some oil to brown it well. Remove from the pan. Cook the onions about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add the turkey back to the pan and mix in the cranberries, parsley, chipotle sage, thyme, and honey. Stir well.
  • Cook on low for about 15-20 minutes until the cranberries break up and form a nice sauce. Taste and salt as needed. Remove from heat.
  • Soak the corn husks for about 15 minutes until pliable. Spread some of the tamale mixture onto a corn husk and add some cheese and turkey filling to it. Roll it up tight with the sides secured and tie it off.
  • Continue until you run out of tamale dough. You will still have a bunch of turkey filling leftover.
  • Steam the tamales for 2 hours. Remove from heat and serve.


Calories: 267kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 230mg | Potassium: 353mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 4484IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 105mg | Iron: 2mg

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