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Authentic Mexican Tamales

Tamales made with red chile pork and wrapped in corn husks
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: mexican tamales, tamales
Servings: 2 dozen


  • Steamer; "Vaporera"



  • 2 lb pork shoulder or pork butt cubed
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp lard can use preferred oil
  • red chile sauce
  • masa
  • 1 lb corn husks

Red Chile Sauce

  • 10 guajillo peppers
  • 3 ancho peppers
  • ½ onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • cups water


  • 8 cups masa flour
  • 7 cups warm water *see notes
  • 2 cups lard melted, **see notes
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp salt


  • Place corn husks in a large mixing bowl, large casserole dish, or in your sink and fill with hot water. Let the husks soak to soften while you prepare everything else.
  • In a large dutch oven over medium heat at lard to melt or use preferred oil.
  • Place pork in dutch oven and cook until cooked through and browned. You may need to do this in batches. Remove any liquid as it accumulates to ensure browned, crispy pork.*
  • *Reserve any liquid/broth for the masa.

Red Chile Sauce

  • Place all ingredients, except salt, in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Let the contents cool for about 10 minutes and place everything in blender, including salt. Blend until smooth and salt more if needed.
  • Add sauce to dutch oven with pork and let this simmer over medium low heat for 20 minutes.


  • Add masa flour to large mixing bowl and add baking powder and salt. Mix thoroughly.
  • Add in melted lard and half of the water. Mix with your hands until thoroughly incorporated. At this point add any reserved, (and measured), broth from the pork and use more water if needed to complete the 7 cups of liquid.
  • Mix with your hands thoroughly until you've made a masa that is smooth and spreads easily. If it is crumbly and dry, add a little more water. Try adding a tablespoon at a time. If it is too sticky add a tablespoon of masa flour. Try the masa and adjust salt as needed.

Assemble Tamales

  • Grab a corn husk, shake off water, and spread about 4 tablespoons of masa onto the smooth bottom part of the husk. You will spread this along the straight edge of the husk, not the pointed end. *The amount of masa you use will depend on the size of your husk. You want the masa to spread across the husk and leaving about ¼ of an inch of the bottom of the husk without masa and only spreading it up to mid husk, spreading roughly into a 4 inch square or rectangle. Remember the masa needs to cover your filling.
  • Add about 2 tablespoon of the pork filling. Fold over one side of the husk over and then fold the other side of the husk on top. This will make a cone-like shape. Fold over the pointed end of the husk over to seal the bottom of the tamale. You can choose to tie a piece of husk around the tamale to secure it but this is not necessary. *The amount of filling you use will depend on the amount of masa used.
  • Add just enough water to steamer to cover the bottom but not spill over the insert. Cover the top of the insert with some corn husks to create a base/barrier between the water and tamales. Bring this water to a boil and then reduce heat.
  • Arrange tamales onto steamer making sure they're all facing up. Cover with lid and increase heat to high to bring back to a boil. Leave the temperature at high for 20 minutes then reduce heat to medium.
  • Finish steaming tamales at medium heat for additional 25-40 minutes.
  • Test the tamales after 25 minutes on medium heat. If they don't separate from the husk easily, are still sticking to the husk, or the masa is still slightly raw and sticky, steam for additional 15 minutes.
  • Once cooked, remove tamales from steamer and serve with your favorite salsa drizzled on top and favorites sides.


*For the warm water in the masa you can use half warm water half reserved liquid from the pork. Make sure you measure it out to ensure you have exactly 8 cups of liquid. This may not be half water and half pork broth but use whatever pork broth you do have and use warm water for the rest. 
** I highly recommend using lard and have not tried it with any other fat. I know shortening will also work, such as Crisco, but lard gives it a unique flavor and texture.