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Traditional pork Tamales

  • Author: Emily
  • Total Time: 6 hours
  • Yield: 20-30 Tamales 1x


 Learn the ancient Latin tradition of Tamale making with this classic pork tamales recipe stuffed with pork carnitas and red chile sauce.


  • 34 lbs. pork roast (Boston butt is good)
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, each sliced in half
  • salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 3 Tablespoons dried oregano or 4 sprigs of fresh
  • 8 dried ancho red chiles
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 6 cups Maseca corn masa flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 cups room temperature lard 
  • 1 to 2 packages of dried corn husks



  1. Set your oven to 300 Degrees F. Pat roast with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Slice roast into 2-3 inch chunks. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 4 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot over medium high heat. Place pork in pot in batches and cook until lightly golden brown on all sides. Remove meat chunks and set aside on a platter for later.
  3. Add the two remaining tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pot. Place onion and garlic in the pot and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until onion is translucent and beginning to brown, about 3-5 minutes.
  4.  Add in the bay leaves, cinnamon stick oregano, the browned pork and any accumulated juices to the pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cover and place in the oven for three hours. 
  5. When the pork is done, remove the meat and set aside. Save the broth but discard the bay leaves, cinnamon stick and oregano sprigs if you used them. Shred the meat.
  6. Take the dried chiles and tear off the stems and dump out the seeds. Place them into a bowl an pour in just enough reserved pork broth (with some onion and spices in it) to cover the chiles. Place a lid over the bowl or press plastic wrap down onto the chiles and broth to seal the moisture in and let sit for about 15 minutes to soften.
  7. Place the softened chiles and the broth they were in into a blender. Add a few pieces of reserved cooked onion if needed (you should have about 1/4 a cup of onion in with the chiles) and about 6-8 pieces of cooked reserved garlic. Add in the cumin, coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Blend until uniform, adding more broth in if necessary to adjust the chile sauce to the consistency of thick gravy. Stir in enough red chile sauce to coat the shredded pork. This is up to personal taste. Set aside.
  8. Place corn husks in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Place something heavy over them to press them down into the water to soak while proceeding through step 9.
  9. To make the masa, whisk Maseca, baking powder and salt together. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk lard until smooth and soft, (it should drizzle off the whisk), about 2 minutes. Stir the corn flour mixture and 5 cups pork broth into the lard. Knead together by hand. The masa should be wet and sticky-smooth and allow your hand to easily press all the way down to the bottom of the bowl with little effort. Add more broth if needed to obtain a consistency similar to the consistency of moist mashed potatoes. (Able to stir with a spoon yet hold its shape.) You are now ready to assemble!



  1. Take a large clean corn husk, broad end facing toward you, and spread masa inside in a somewhat rectangular shape and a little thick, leaving clean space around all sides. Place about 2 tablespoons of meat filling down the center (try not to overfill), leaving space on either end. Fold the corn husk in half to surround the filling on all sides with masa, pressing gently to close.

  2. Lifting one side of corn husk slightly away from the masa, insert the other side of the corn husk over the tamale, followed by wrapping the other side of the husk around the tamale. Fold the pointy end of the corn husk, where the masa ends, up towards the open end. Some will tie the tip to the tamale with a strip of corn husk, and some won’t. Its really personal preference. In the top of the Tamale, tamp the masa down with your finger to complete encase the meat.

  3. Place the wrapped tamale into a steamer basket, open side up and repeat until the steamer basket is filled with tamales. Fill the bottom of the steamer pot with water , ensuring it does not touch the tamales, then place the steamer basket full of tamales inside and cover. Steam on medium low for about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how large your tamales are. It’s best to try to make them in a uniform size, so they all cook at the same rate.

  4. Tamales are done when the masa easily pulls away from the corn husk and doesn’t taste, well, dough-y. You just have to pull a tamale out and test it to really know for sure if your batch of tamales is done.

  5. Serve warm smothered in reserved red chile sauce and sprinkled with cheese and a dollop of Mexican crema or sour cream.


To make shredding meat super easy, I place it in my stand mixer bowl with the paddle attachment and run it on medium low.

Cool Tamales can be frozen up to 6 months wrapped tightly in foil and placed in freezer bags. To reheat: Let them sit overnight in a fridge to thaw. You can steam them again in your steamer pot for about 10 minutes, or until heated through, or wrap them in a wet paper towel (still in the corn husk) and microwave them individually for about 30 seconds.

  • Prep Time: 5 hours
  • Cook Time: 1 hour

Keywords: Pork Red Chile Tamales