Pork Tamales. Authentic Recipe + Video

Those pork tamales are the ultimate Mexican holiday’s food! Fluffy, soft, and incredibly moist and flavorful. Give them a try and you won’t be disappointed.

And don’t worry if you can’t find the original ingredients because we tell you below how to substitute them.

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! Enjoy those delicious red pork tamales with Oatmeal Atole or Café de Olla.

Ingredients & Substitutes

MEAT: For red pork tamales the obvious choice is pork meat. We suggest to 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: Masa Harina Maseca can be found at any Latino American store or also online, but if you can’t find that specific brand you could also use Harina Pan, which is pretty similar to 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 but in the last case the taste will change significantly.

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.

SPICES: You can play around with spices and adjust them to your taste. Also, you can also replace the ones you don’t like with some others, like marjoram, thyme, etc.

CORN HUSKS: Dried corn husks gives a nice flavour and aroma to pork tamales, you can find those in Amazon or Latino American supermarkets. Or you can replace them with aluminium foil or parchment paper.

Red pork tamales piled and seen from front.

The Step By Step Recipe

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

Soaking corn husks on a bowl with hot water.

If you’re using aluminium foil or parchment paper, cut them into 8×6 inch (20x15cm) rectangles and set 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 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 half cup of the sauce and set aside.

Soaking chillies. Bleded chilli sauce.

Preparare 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 of 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 lightly. 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 chilli 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 or aluminium foil you won’t need to tie the tamales, instead, you’ll have to fold them. You can either shape them as shown before or just make them flat by folding it in 3 parts (watch the video).

Tamale on a aluminium foil wrap.

How To Cook Tamales

Prepare a large stock pot with a steamer basket. I personally use one of those folding petal basket. 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 the 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, the 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 let 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 reheat 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.

Watch How To Make Tamales

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Pork Tamales

Those red pork tamales are the ultimate mexican holiday’s food! And don’t worry if you can’t find the original ingredients because we tell you how to substitute them.
PREP 1 hour
COOK 1 hour 15 minutes
TOTAL 2 hours 15 minutes
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 16

Ingredients 

For Tamales

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

For the sauce

  • 6 guajillo chillies (see notes)
  • 1 pasilla chilli (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 meat

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

Instructions

  • Start soaking the corn husks by placing them into a large bowl and covering with warm water. Leave them to soak while you continue with the recipe.
  • If you’re using aluminium foil or parchment paper, cut them into 8×6 inch (20x15cm) rectangles and set 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 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.

PREPARE THE RED SAUCE FOR TAMALES

  • Clean the chillies, if you don’t want the sauce to be hot 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 chillies 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 half cup of the sauce and set aside.

PREPARARE 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 of until the sauce has ticked. Adjust with salt and let it cool.

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

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.
  • 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 chilli 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.

IF YOU’RE NOT USING CORNHUSKS

  • If you’re using parchment paper or aluminium foil you won’t need to tie the tamales, instead, you’ll have to fold them. You can either shape them as shown before or just make them flat by folding it in 3 parts.

HOW TO COOK TAMALES

  • Prepare a large stock pot with a steamer basket. Fill the pot with water just before it touches the basket and place the red 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

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: 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.
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 reheat 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 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
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