Pork Tamales. Authentic Recipe + Video

Those pork tamales are the ultimate Mexican holiday food! Fluffy, soft, and incredibly moist and flavorful. Filled with pork simmered in a delicious and aromatic red sauce, those tamales are perfect to share and enjoy with your friends and family.

Pork tamales piled.

Follow our easy step-by-step recipe and VIDEO! and you’ll be making those tamales in no time like a pro!

What are pork tamales?

Pork tamales are a Mexican traditional recipe very popular throughout the country. The dish is one of the multiple variants for tamales, and takes its name from the filling: A scrumptious pork stew made with chilies and spices.

In Mexico you’ll find this dish with various names, such as tamales de puerco, tamales rojos, tamales de puerco en salsa roja, or tamales de chile rojo to name a few. And even though you’ll find those types of tamales all year round, this recipe is a favorite during certain holidays, such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Candlemas.

Red pork tamales piled and seen from front.

Ingredients & Substitutes

  • MEAT: For red pork tamales the obvious choice is pork meat. We suggest using a cut not too lean as you need some fat to get the flavor from. You can also combine lean and fat cuts like shoulder+loin.
  • MASA HARINA: It can be found at any Latino American store or also online. There are various brands, the most famous are Masa Real, Minsa, Naturello, Maseca.
  • PORK LARD: The pork tamales succulent taste comes from pork lard, that’s the truth. But if you can’t or want to use it, just replace it with oil (any kind of oil you prefer), shortening, or even butter. Just be aware that the taste will be according to which type of fat you used.
  • CHILIES: If you can’t find Guajillo and Ancho chilies where you live, you can replace those with ½ cup of paprika and one medium red bell pepper. Blend everything together with the spices to make the sauce.
  • SPICES: You can play around with spices and adjust them to your taste. You can also replace the ones you don’t like with some others, like marjoram, thyme, etc.
  • CORN HUSKS: Dried corn husks give a nice flavor and aroma to pork tamales, you can find those in Amazon or Latino American supermarkets.

The Step By Step Recipe

Start soaking the corn husks by placing them into a large bowl and covering them with warm water. Leave them to soak while you continue with the recipe.

Soaking corn husks on a bowl with hot water.

NOTE: If you’re using parchment paper, cut some 8×6 inch (20x15cm) rectangles and set them aside.

Cook the meat

Place the meat into a pot and cover with plenty of water. Add garlic, bay leaves, and salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the meat is very tender and you’ll end with about 4 cups of the cooking water.

Place the meat into a bowl and shred it using two forks when the meat is still hot or let it cool and use your hands. Set aside.

Cooking meat. Shredding meat.

Prepare the Red Sauce for Tamales

Clean the chilies, if you don’t want the sauce to be too spicy cut them and discard the seeds and veins. Place them into a bowl and cover with hot water for at least 20 minutes.

Place the chilies in a blender, add tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, and salt. Add 2 cups of the meat cooking water and blend for 4 minutes on high until you’ll end with a smooth sauce.

Reserve one and a half cups of the sauce and set aside.

Soaking chillies. Bleded chilli sauce.

Prepare the filling

In a medium pan heat the pork lard over medium heat. Add the sauce and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the meat, mix well and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce has ticked. Adjust with salt and let it cool.

Cooking chilli with meat.

Preparare the tamales dough

Place the Masa Harina in a large bowl. Add the sauce you reserved before and start mixing adding some cooking water until you achieve a smooth dough that won’t stick to your hands (watch the video). Taste the dough and adjust with salt if necessary.

Making masa tamales dough.

Melt the pork lard and let it cool slightly. Add it to the dough and knead until fully incorporated.

Finishing tamales dough.

Make the red pork tamales

Drain the corn husks and pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Make some strips by tearing 2-3 husks (see video), those are needed to tie the tamales.

Pat drying cork husks and making stripes.

Place 2 spoonfuls of tamales dough in the middle of a husk and spread it a little bit (not too much! we’re not making flat tamales here).

Using the same spoon, make a small hole in the middle and spoon in the chili pork mixture.

Assembling tamales.

Carefully fold the husk to cover completely the filling and end with some sort of burrito.

Closing tamales.

With the corn husk strips you made before, tie both sides of the tamal and then tie loosely in the middle.

Tie tamales with cork husks stripes.

If you’re not using cornhusks

If you’re using parchment paper you won’t need to tie the tamales, instead, you’ll have to fold them. So, spread the dough in an 8×6 inch (20x15cm) rectangle, add filling and then fold both sides toward the center.

How To Cook Tamales

Prepare a large stockpot with a steamer basket. I personally use one of those folding petal baskets. Fill the pot with water just before it touches the basket and place the red pork tamales in layers.

Cooking tamales.

Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot and cook tamales for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, checking occasionally and adding more water when is needed.

You’ll notice that after an hour and about 10 minutes, pork tamales have a very soft consistency, you might think they’re still raw but you can check up if they’re ready by taking a little bit of the tamal with a fork and letting it cool a bit, then taste it.

Tamale texture, juicy and fluffy.

Recipe Notes

  • No Flat Tamales: This recipe is for “fat” cylindric tamales, not the flat version you might have seen everywhere. If you want to make flat tamales just make sure to cook them about 15-20 minutes less than our recipe calls.
  • Store: Pork tamales leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for about 3 days or you can also freeze them for up to 3 months and then defrost them before consuming.
  • Reheat: To reheat them you can unwrap them and pop them into the microwave for a couple of minutes or fry them with a little bit of oil on a frying pan. Another option is simply reheating them in a steamer with the husks on.
  • Masa Harina or Corn Masa: I use masa harina because I can’t find fresh corn masa here, but the recipe can be adapted and use fresh corn masa instead. Just make sure to add less liquid to the dough.

How To Eat

The traditional way for eating pork tamales is just with a hot drink on the side. The most popular is Atole or Champurrado, but also café de olla (Mexican coffee) is a common option. Those below are our favorite atole recipes, check them up and choose your favorite to pair with those tamales rojos:

Watch How To Make Tamales

If you enjoyed this pork tamales recipe, take a look to:

Pork Tamales

Those red pork tamales are filled with a delicious red chili mixture made with pork, Mexican chilies and spices. Serve with your favorite drink and enjoy for breakfast or dinner.
PREP 1 hour
COOK 1 hour 15 minutes
TOTAL 2 hours 15 minutes
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 16
Author: Maricruz

Ingredients 

For Tamales

  • 4 ⅓ cups Masa Harina
  • 1 ⅔ cups pork lard (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 ½ cups meat cooking water (or chicken stock)
  • salt
  • dried corn husks (or parchment paper)

For the sauce

  • 6 guajillo chilies (see notes)
  • 1 pasilla chili pepper (see notes)
  • 2 small tomatoes (cut into quarters)
  • ½ medium onion (cut into chunks)
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled)
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 cup meat cooking water (or chicken stock)

For the filling

  • 1.1 lb pork shoulder (cut into chunks)
  • 1 garlic clove (skin on)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp lard (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 Tbsp salt

Instructions

  • Place corn huks in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Allow to soak for at least 30 minutes (read note 1).

Cook the meat

  • Place the meat into a pot and cover with plenty of water. Add garlic, bay leaves and salt.
  • Bring to a boil and cook until the meat is very tender and you’ll end with about 3-4 cups of cooking water.
  • Place the meat into a bowl and shred it using two forks when the meat is still hot or let it cool and use your hands. Set aside.

Make the sauce

  • Clean the chilies, if you don’t want the sauce to be hot cut them and discard the seeds and veins.
  • Place chilies into a bowl and cover with hot water leaving them to soak for at least 20 minutes.
  • Place chilies in a blender, add tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin and salt.
  • Add 2 cups of the meat cooking water and blend for 4 minutes on high until you will have a smooth sauce.
  • Reserve 1 ½ cups of the sauce and set aside.

Make the filling

  • In a medium pan heat 1 tablespoon of pork lard over medium heat. Add the sauce and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add the meat, mix well and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Adjust salt to taste and allow to the mixture to cool down.

Make the tamales dough

  • Place Masa Harina in a large bowl and add salt. Pour the sauce you reserved before and start mixing adding some cooking water until you achieve a smooth dough.
  • Melt the pork lard and let it cool slightly. Add lard to the dough and knead until combined. Taste the dough and adjust salt if needed.

Make tamales

  • Drain the corn husks and pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Make some strips by tearing 2-3 husks.
  • Place 2 spoonfuls of tamales dough in the middle of a husk and spread it a little bit (read note 2).
  • Using the same spoon, make a small hole in the middle and spoon in the pork mixture.
  • Carefully fold the husk to cover completely the filling and end with some sort of burrito.
  • With the corn husk strips you made before, tie both sides of the tamal and then tie in the middle (read note 3).

Steam

  • Prepare a large stockpot with a steamer basket. Fill the pot with water just before it touches the basket and place pork tamales in layers.
  • Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot and cook the tamales for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, checking occasionally and adding more water when is needed.

NOTES

  1. Wrappers: You can also use parchment paper for wrapping tamales. Cut 16 rectangles about 8×6 inch (20x15cm) and set aside.
  2. No Flat Tamales: This recipe is for “fat” cylindric tamales, not the flat version you might have seen everywhere. So make sure you don’t spread the masa all over the husks but only a bit in the middle.
  3. Parchment paper: If you’re using parchment paper you won’t need to tie the tamales, instead, you’ll have to fold them. So, spread the dough, add filling and then fold both sides toward the center.
  4. Store: Red pork tamales leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for about 3 days or you can also freeze them for up to 3 months and then defrost them before consuming.
  5. Reheat: To reheat them you can unwrap them and pop them into the microwave for a couple of minutes or fry them with a little bit of oil on a frying pan. Another option is simply reheating them in a steamer with the husks on.
  6. Masa Harina or Corn Masa: I use masa harina because I can’t find fresh corn masa here, but the recipe can be adapted and use fresh corn masa instead. Just make sure to add less liquids to the dough.
Nutrition
Calories: 413kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 21mg | Sodium: 577mg | Potassium: 438mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1426IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 62mg | Iron: 3mg
Don’t miss any recipe.Subscribe for free to our Newsletter!

LOVED THIS PORK TAMALES RECIPE? Please, don’t forget to rate it and leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you! Also, remember to share it using the buttons below and follow this blog on PINTERESTINSTAGRAMFACEBOOK and YOUTUBE!.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating




9 Comments

  1. I just made you picadillo and arroz verde tonight. Last week was Albóndigas and the week before was tinga pollo. I can’t wait to make these! Love how easy your recipes are to follow!