Red Chile Pork Tamales

Most recipes on this blog are intended to be made in just a few hours. Some even take mere minutes to make!


If you’re going to make these babies and stay sane, you’re looking at a full weekend’s worth of work (unless you have a lot of friends with large kitchens and even larger hearts).

Before we get to the how-to, here’s a few things I learned over the last month:
1. When you buy 6 bags of chiles, everyone in the store knows you’re making tamales. Especially if you’re also purchasing corn husks…
2. Make the masa from scratch.
4. Using the word “manteca” instead of “lard” will make you feel better about the quantities you’re using.
5. Toasting peppers in a pan without the fan on or the window open is a lot like getting mace’d.
6. Frosting spatulas make excellent masa-spreaders.
7. Super-absorbent paper towels don’t do squat in the war that is drying-your-husks. Go with the cheapies for this project.
8. No pot is too large for it’s intended role.
9. Mexican oregano is not the same as Italian oregano. But no one is really going to know which one you chose to add ;)
10. Cookie scoops = filling dispensers!

Red Chile Pork Tamales: A weekend project!

Saturday = Chile sauce and shredded pork + soak husks overnight
Sunday = Rinse husks + mix masa + assemble and steam tamales


Shredded Pork:
3 1/2 pounds boneless pork butt in 1 piece, well trimmed of fat
1 whole head of garlic, unpeeled, washed, cut crosswise in half
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 large bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt

Place pork in medium stockpot. Add garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt. Add enough cold water to cover by at least an inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer, partly covered, skimming any froth from the top during the first 15 minutes of cooking.

A piece this size should be well-cooked but not dried out in 2 1/2 to 3 hours. When a fork can be inserted into the meat with little to no resistance, relocate pork to a glass bowl and allow it to come to room temperature.

Shred on a cutting board using two forks. Return to glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

Chile Sauce:
15 ounces large, medium-hot whole dried red chiles, ancho and guajillo (that’s like 3 bags of each)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 cups water, chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon white sugar

Remove the stems and most of the seeds from your chiles while rinsing under cold water. If you can stand the heat, just remove the stems – it’s easier that way, anyways ;) Meanwhile, heat a cast iron skillet over med-high heat until a drop of water dances on contact.

Place the chiles on the griddle and toast until the aroma is released, 30 to 60 seconds.

Place the chiles in a pot of boiling water (enough to cover the chiles) and let soak until softened, about 10 minutes.

Drain the chiles and discard the liquid.

Place chiles, oregano, 2 garlic cloves and the water or stock in blender and puree. Add more stock if it is too thick to blend thoroughly.

Remove the chile mixture from the blender and work through a medium-fine strainer held over a large bowl. Pour in a little more liquid to help rinse the sauce through the sieve, and discard any remaining chile bits stuck in the strainer.

In heavy, medium-size saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat until rippling.

Add flour, stirring constantly until golden. Add strained chile puree, garlic powder, and kosher salt to the pan and reduce the heat to low.

BE PREPARED! The chile mixture WILL splatter, so be careful. Wear an apron. A mask. SHOES! It.gets.every.where.

Cook over low heat, stirring often, until the raw taste is gone and the flavor of the chiles has mellowed, about 10 minutes.

Reserve 1/4 cup of the chile sauce for flavoring the masa.

Add pork to chile sauce, mix well, and return to glass bowl. Cover and pop in the fridge overnight.

Soak the husks:
30 corn husks, dried

Sort through your corn husks and pick out the largest, strongest, and overall best 30 husks. Place them in the bottom of a steamer pot, placing the steamer basket on top, filling with cool water until the husks are fully submerged. Let soak overnight.


Rinse your husks under cool water to remove any bits of silk or dirt still attached. Separate and place between a single layer of paper towels. Keep moist until until assembly time.

Mix the masa:
6 cups masa harina
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth, warm
2 cups lard (manteca!)
1 tablespoon tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup reserved chile sauce

In a large mixing bowl combine masa and warm broth until combined.

Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes to let the masa soften. Gradually add in the salt, cumin and onion powder by sprinkling them over the dough as you mix it.

In the bowl of stand mixer, whip lard for about three minutes until fluffy. Add the dough to the lard a little at a time while mixing until well combined. Mix in the reserved chile sauce until fully incorporated and everything’s a lovely pink color :)

The mixture should be about the consistency of peanut butter at this point… If not, add more masa flour or broth as necessary.

Assembly time!!!
Set up your work space assembly line style.

Husks > Masa > Filling > Steamer Basket

1. Take a moist corn husk and place it on a clean workspace (cutting board, SilPat, counter top, etc), narrow end furthest from you – wide end closest to you.
2. Using a large offset frosting spatula, take a baseball-sized amount of masa and place it near the narrow end off the husk.
3. Placing the offset spatula on the far side of the masa ball, gently drag it toward you, leaving a 1/2 cm thick layer of masa on the husk. This is going to take a few tries, so you may want to practice on a separate cutting board or SilPat until you get it down.
4. Replace extra masa back into your masa bowl.
5. Using the edge of the offset spatula, remove about an inch of masa from the wide end of the husk. Ideally you want borders of husk around your masa in the form of 1.5 inches at both the narrow and wide ends, and .5 inch to the left and right for overlap purposes.

6. Using a tablespoon cookie scoop, place two scoops of filling in the middle of the masa rectangle. Try to create a vertical log so you get meat in ever bite!

7. Fold the left and right sides to meet in the middle, pushing together until the masa meets. Fold to the side, and using one hand to hold the fold in place, fold down the narrow and wide ends. If you want to get fancy you can secure them with thin strips of husk or butchers twine.
8. Lay them flap-facing-out in the steamer basket.
9. Repeat x29!!!
10. Celebrate with some seriously strong margaritas. DO IT.
In a steamer pot, add water (enough so when the basket is placed, it does not touch the water), 3 bay leafs, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, if your steamer basket isn’t quite full enough to hold the tamales snugly, wad up a piece of foil and place it in the empty zone.

Place steamer basket in the pot, cover, and turn heat to low. Steaming time really depends on the thickness of your masa and the number of tamales you have in the basket. 1.5 to 2 hours seems to be the magical time when my tamales hit not-too-doughy-but-not-too-dry. To test doneness, remove the largest tamale from the basket and open. If the masa looks puffy and doesn’t stick to the husk, you’re done! If it’s not quite there yet, pop the tamale back in the basket and set the timer for an additional 30 minutes. Repeat until you hit the puffy stage.

When the tamales are done, turn off the heat, and remove steamer basket to the sink. Remove tamales and place on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving. If freezing, allow tamales to cool for 30 minutes before placing in a freezer-safe zippy bag.

Need to reheat? See all your options here!






We did our research at AZCentral,,, and Thanks to all the great tips, tricks, and motivation, everyone!