Food & Drink

Lenore Anne’s Delta Hot Tamale Balls

A kicked-up spin on the classic sausage ball, courtesy of Martha Hall Foose

“Lenore Anne carried at least three bags of empty Tupperware containers with her every time she visited Joe’s White Front Cafe in Rosedale. Miss Barbara had her spoiled. She’d make Lenore Anne’s special order, if she called at least two weeks ahead. But today, Lenore Anne was caught without any Delta hot tamales in her freezer, so she had to make do for another of Ginny’s baby showers. Lenore Anne never threw a party without tamales on her table. ” —Martha Hall Foose


  • Makes about ten dozen meatballs

    • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

    • 1 tsp. dried oregano

    • 1 tsp. ground cumin

    • 1 tsp. ground coriander

    • 2 tsp. kosher salt

    • 1 tbsp. chili powder

    • 1 tbsp. olive oil

    • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped, divided

    • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced, divided

    • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

    • One 6 oz. can tomato paste

    • ½ tsp. granulated unrefined cane sugar

    • 5¾ cups (46 oz.) tomato juice, divided

    • One 10½ oz. can beef consommé, or 1⅓ cups beef stock

    • 2 bay leaves

    • 1 lb. ground sirloin

    • 1 lb. hot pork breakfast sausage

    • 1½ cups masa harina or cornmeal

    • ¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour


  1. In a small bowl, make a spice blend with your red pepper flakes, oregano, cumin, coriander, salt, and chili powder. 

  2. Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot with a lid over medium heat. Add the oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add half of your onion and half of your poblano. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and sugar. Add half of your spice blend. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Add 5 cups of your tomato juice, the consommé, and bay leaves. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and let the sauce cook as you make the tamale balls. 

  3. In a big bowl, using your hands, combine the sirloin, sausage, remaining ¾ cup tomato juice, and remaining onion and poblano. Work in the masa harina, flour, and your remaining spice blend. Form heaping tablespoon-size meatballs. Drop the meat- balls into the simmering sauce and put the lid on your pot, slightly ajar. Cook over low heat for 2 hours.

  4. NOTES:

    You can use your favorite taco seasoning mix in place of or in addition to the spice blend in this meatball recipe.

  5. If this recipe just gives you a craving for tamales, we recommend ordering some online from the Texas Tamale Company or Scott’s Hot Tamales in Greenville, Mississippi. If and when you have a wild hair, take a drive through the Mississippi Delta where you will find a particular style of tamale that took root in this part of the South more than a century ago. Make sure to visit Joe’s White Front Cafe on Main Street in Rosedale. Don’t forget, it’s BYOT (Bring Your Own Tupperware).

Reprinted from A Good Meal is Hard to Find by Amy C. Evans & Martha Hall Foose with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020