Traditional Tamales (Pork)

"This tamale recipe is about as traditional as you can get, although I use a roast instead of the whole pig head that many use. These take about all day to make and are a lot of work, but they are so worth the time and the effort. They are a huge hit here in the West. For added flavor, top with either some of the red sauce used to prepare this recipe, or with my favorite, green chili sauce with pork, recipe #20574. Serve with sides of Spanish rice, refried beans topped with cheese and frosty margaritas for a delicious authentic Mexican meal."
photo by Jonathan Melendez photo by Jonathan Melendez
photo by Jonathan Melendez
photo by DianaEatingRichly photo by DianaEatingRichly
photo by DianaEatingRichly photo by DianaEatingRichly
photo by monicaruiz1964 photo by monicaruiz1964
photo by Patti E. photo by Patti E.
Ready In:
50 Tamales




  • In a 5 qt Dutch oven, bring pork, water, onion, garlic and 1 1/2 salt to boil.
  • Simmer covered, about 2 1/2 hours or until meat is very tender.
  • Remove meat from broth and allow both meat and broth to cool. (Chilling the broth will allow you to easily remove the fat if you desire to do so).
  • Shred the meat using 2 forks, discarding fat.
  • Strain the broth and reserve 6 cups.
  • In a large sauce pan, heat the red chili sauce and add meat; simmer, covered for 10 minutes.
  • To make masa beat shortening on medium speed in a large bowl for 1 minute.
  • In a separate bowl, stir together masa harina, baking powder and 2 teaspoons salt.
  • Alternately add masa harina mixture and broth to shortening, beating well after each addition. (Add just enough broth to make a thick, creamy paste).
  • In the mean time, soak corn husks in warm water for at least 20 minutes; rinse to remove any corn silk and drain well.
  • To assemble each tamale, spread 2 tablespoons of the masa mixture on the center of the corn husk (each husk should be 8 inches long and 6 inches wide at the top. If husks are small, overlap 2 small ones to form one. If it is large, tear a strip from the side).
  • Place about 1 tablespoon meat and sauce mixture in the middle of the masa.
  • Fold in sides of husk and fold up the bottom.
  • Place a mound of extra husks or a foil ball in the center of a steamer basket placed in a Dutch oven.
  • Lean the tamales in the basket, open side up.
  • Add water to Dutch oven just below the basket.
  • Bring water to boil and reduce heat.
  • Cover and steam 40 minutes, adding water when necessary.
  • To freeze these for future meals, leave them in the husks and place them in freezer bags. To reheat, thaw and wrap in a wet paper towel and reheat in the microwave for 2 minutes for one or two or re-steam them just until hot.

Questions & Replies

  1. Can these be. Prepared in an electric pressure cooker? If so, how long would you cook under pressure and would you qr or not? Looking forward to trying this recipe. I,ve made them before but with my own concoction without the pressure cooker.
  2. Can you use a stock pot instead of a dutch oven?
  3. Hi, the sauce is quite bitter. Have I done something wrong?
  4. I would love to watch the video, but when I enter the address listed, it just takes me to the site. I don't see anywhere on the site to access the video. :(
  5. I love Tamales


  1. These are so good and well while the time they take to prepare. If you steam on top of your stove use medium heat & watch closely. Next time I'm going to make an extra cup of the Red Chili Sauce to top each tamale with a tsp or so before serving. These were so good and Karen, thanks for all the help!!
  2. Delicious! These are a lot of work, but the end result is sooooo good! I froze them individually in foil, and then packaged them in freezer bags so that I can take them out as needed and microwave them. I did not change the recipe at all, as this is the first time I've made tamales. Thanks for a great recipe, Karen! :o)
  3. Wonderfully written, simple, and concise instructions. I have only a couple critical points for, what is otherwise, a nearly perfect rendition of the recipe my Mexican aunt taught me years ago. First, shortning? Seriously? Do yourself a favor and go for the gusto: Lard! 100% Lard! The second criticism, in the linked recipe for Red Chili Sauce, the use of cumin is instructed. While cumin is a wonderful thing and very necessary in many Mexican, Indian, and other ethnic dishes, it is NOT FOR TAMALES. If not for the addition of cumin and omission of lard, this would nearly be a five star recipe--Aunt Dorothy's recipe being the standard, of course. *** Tamale Tips: If your tamales come out doughy, try increasing the fat content, remember to also always allow the tamale a few minutes to rest/set after steaming before removing from husks, and, never cheat on the steam time. Also, though steaming prior to freezing is not unacceptable, I find the overall integrity of the tamale is better maintained by freezing them uncooked, then steaming immediately prior to being served. Nuking does something to the flavor and texture that detracts from the culinary perfection of having been freshly steam-cooked. Just posting these tidbits as a lifelong fan of my favorite--and the worlds best--food, the tamale.
  4. My daughter and her boyfriend came to our house last sunday. We spent the afternoon making tamales (150). We had a great time. The tamales were excellent! Best I have ever had. We made half of them with chicken and the other half pork.I used Thai peppers grown by a freind of mine (quite spicy) they were excellent. I didnt understand the direction of using 15 large peppers. How big is a large pepper? So I used 30 Thais per batch. Thank you for a great recipe and a lovely afternoon.
  5. Growing up my grandma used to make tamale every new years and after she past away I have always wish I would of learned her recipe. Than one day I said im gonna find grandma's recipe to make her tamales, I saw this recipe said my gut feeling this is close to it and made them . When I ate one I called my mom and said I just made grandma's tamales. Grandma's tradion lives on making them tonight, Happy New year 2018


  1. I made this yesterday. The meat was a combination of al pastor, smoked pulled pork and carnitas. I added all the seasoning and cooked as above except using lard instead of shortning. My husband and I don't eat anything spicy and we did not use the chili sauce. I bought a can of red tamale sauce and made a cheese sauce to go over them. I am not a big tamale eater as I don't care for the masa. I added 1/2 cup of sugar to the masa, otherwise made it just as the recipe. Tastes absolutely fantastic. Now my grown kids want a tamale making session and make a bunch for each of them! It was the best tamales ever!!!!
  2. Sometimes, since I like to make a lot of homemade mole sauce, I water down the mole and mix it into the meat instead of the red chili sauce. It is delicious! Mole goes wonderful with pork!
  3. We substituted the masa harina with a boxed cornbread mix. It was delicious, added a little sweetness. Took a few to get the folds down, but once we got going it was a lot of fun.
  4. I used the fat from the meat for my masa and substituted 1/4c for bacon grease. Using an electric beater to shred your meat saves a good bit of time.
  5. I made these tamales today with beef instead of pork and they were wonderful. I did make a few small changes to the dough too. I used 1 cup rendered fat from some salt pork and left over beef fat instead of store bought lard and chopped up the pork cracklins from the salt pork and added them to the fat during the whipping stage, it adds a nice salty depth to the masa that can be bland if not adequately seasoned. It took a full quart of stock, homemade beef stock, to hydrate my masa flour properly. I did not end up with 50 tamales but at least a few dozen. I've made tamales several times and like to use this recipe for guidelines on the masa dough and time frames. I don't have a tall enough pot to fit all the tamales in, standing up, so I put a vegetable steamer basket inside my enamel dutch oven, line it with wet corn husk scraps, fill with tamales and gather them towards the center of the pot, I tuck more scraps around the sides of the pot to hold the tamales upright, then top with a final layer of husk scraps and cover with an upturned metal mixing bowl that fits snug to the top of the dutch oven. This works really well for me in about 45-60 minutes. If you have an afternoon to spare, I highly recommend this recipe. It's really flexible and easy to change to suit your needs.


<p>Click here to get to chat:;client=web&amp;chan=%23Recipezaar The picture above is of me, but is not a very recent one. It was taken during a very sweet time of my life many years ago. The face is mostly the same, but atlas....everything has aged by about 20 years. I am a little heavier, my hair is not permed anymore and is straight with a slight wave to it, almost to my waist with a touch of grey at my temples. I like the picture because it reflects me and my love of the beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains near Wellington Lake. I am grandma to Xavier Pryce (aka Zavy) who is 7, his&nbsp;little brother, Rylan James, who is 6 and Baby Wyatt who will be 3 in December.&nbsp; They and their momma are the light of my heart. I enjoy hosting a chat room called #Recipezaar on, named after the old site.&nbsp; Many people don't know this, but I was Recipezaar's first paid employee when was Recipezaar and Gay and Troy owned it.&nbsp; I am finding it difficult to spend as much time here as I used to.&nbsp; I am retired now and spend my days watch my grandsons while their momma works.&nbsp; Trying to spend time on the computer with 3 rowdy, hyper little boys in the house can be frustrating and sometimes even impossible unless their momma is home to keep an eye on things while grandma indulges herself on the computer.I wish I was as witty a writer as some of the others here on, but I am afraid that all of my creativity and talent goes into my cooking, but I will give this my best shot anyway. I am a single mother to one 25 year old daughter (Alicia) and grandma to Xavier Pryce, Rylan James and Wyatt William. They all still live with me, so I am pretty much the boy's other parent.&nbsp; Cooking is never a chore for me. I collect cookbooks and am an avid reader of anything but have a particular love of horror novels. Stephen King and Dean Koontz are my favorite authors. Although I have degree in office management and graduated with a 3.8 GPA, I must be Food's worst spelling member so please excuse me if you notice it in my posts and if you notice it in my recipes, then my thanks in advance for editing the recipe to be spelled correctly if you have done so. My screen name is pretty simple and easy to remember, but sometimes people do ask me why it says Karen from Colorado instead of Karen from California. It used to be Karen IN Colorado until I moved here to Southern California to be near my sister, Morti, after our parent's deaths in 1996 and 97 and the loss of my job in Colorado in 2002. I tried Karen In California after moving, but it just didn't seem like me so I changed it to Karen FROM Colorado which will always be home to me no matter where my address is at the time. I was born there and will always love that bright and beautiful state. Especially my beloved Rocky Mountains where I spent so much of my time while living there all of my life. If you find yourself using one of my recipes as your dinner tonight, please feel free to change it to suit your own tastes. I will not mind in the least. It is what I would do if the recipe were posted by you. Your ideas might be much better then mine and just might make the recipe even better then I thought it was when I posted it. Please do mention the changes and results in your review even if the change didn't work out like you thought it might. I truly do welcome the feedback and promise not to jump all over you if you make this your practice. All I ask is that you not re-submit my recipe as yours with those changes unless they are major changes. Mind if I ask for an inspired by recipe whatever by Karen From Colorado if you do find yourself changing a recipe so much that it becomes a different dish? I have no secrets, so if there is anything else you wish to know about me, then never feel afraid to ask me. I will let you know if your question is too personal. Most likely the only thing I will not give out to most people is my address, phone number and my last name. My thoughts on controversial threads as a forum host: Often (very often), I would wish to post my thoughts and disgust about certain topics just as many others do in these forums. I, too, have an opinion most times and would love to blast certain people with them despite the fact that my opinion is just one more in a vast sea of opinions. However; I have learned long ago that my opinion really is just one more opinion and no one really gives a &amp;%$@ what I think about certain topics, so why put myself out there for others to ridicule me for them. There is ALWAYS someone who will. There will ALWAYS be someone that will move heaven and earth to make you see things their way. I am perfectly happy with seeing things my way and it really doesn't matter to me if others don't view things the way I do. Opinions are not facts. They are opinions only and I don't consider them to be a learning tool. They should not be used as one. If anyone wishes to teach me something, then I hope they will do so with good, solid facts. Not with an opinion. As a forum host, I personally, feel a duty to set an example. I will not be baited into arguments on the forums. I consider it smarter then getting down and rolling in the mud with someone who just likes the excitement of controversial threads in order to entertain others. I will not respond to posts directed towards me with the intentions of dragging me down with them to the bowels of hate and discontent. People that wish to do so can take their best shot at me, but I will not be engaged. In my opinion (told you I had one), that makes me smarter. I will not be the one signing the TOS again. My thoughts on recipe reviews: Please be honest in your reviews. Even a low, but well written, well thought out review can be helpful to other cooks. I have experienced that made a recipe with 50 5 star reviews and hated it thing and wondered why everyone thought it was so delicious. I always think twice about reviewing recipes like that, but I make myself do it because it is what I want others to do. I hate the idea of bringing someones reviews down even a little bit with my less then loved it review, but if we don't, the review system is useless. I don't watch my statistics so much, but I know others do. I still love getting reviews on my recipes. Some make me laugh, some make me sigh and some make my day, but I never let one ruin my day because as nice as it is to read someone's thoughts on one of my recipes (especially one I created myself), it is just not THAT important in the grand scheme of things. The only reviews that really tick me off are retaliatory reviews. Someone's feelings got hurt so they decide to hit back. That is just childish and stupid. I have never had one, but I have read some left for other people. This kind of behavior in grown adults is disgusting. I also dislike reviews that say something like this recipe is not right because it is not made like my mom used to make it. So what! There are hundreds of recipes for spaghetti sauce posted here on Recipezaar. Each and every one of them is sauce recipe for spaghetti. They each have a set of ingredients and instructions for preparing them. That makes them all recipes, with nothing not right about them. I find reviews that say the recipe sounds good or something like that useless. I know that no one is required to make a recipe in order to review it, and I would hate for anyone to lie about making it only so they can leave a comment, but honestly....what good is that kind of statement going to do anyone? I will mark that review as unhelpful and hopefully help send it to the end of a long line of helpful reviews. Reviews that say something along the lines of sorry, but this was just a big mess. We ended up feeding this dinner to the disposal. is also useless. Why didn't it work for you? Was one flavor over powering the rest of the dish? Was it too dry? Too watery? Too bland? Do you have any suggestions for other people that might want to try this recipe? Was the fact that you tossed it into the disposal really necessary to your review? This kind of review is also acceptable on Food, but nothing in that review is helpful to anyone at all. It will also get an unhelpful from me, helping to send it to the back of the list of helpful reviews. Any review that leaves only stars, whether they be 5 stars or 1 star is useless to me. Why did you love it or hate it? Those will get an unhelpful vote. Any 5 star review that doesn't express why this recipe was so great will also get an unhelpful vote. My DH came back for thirds! doesn't tell me anything more then he must have been really hungry that night. Was the recipe easy to prepare? Was it well written? Did all the flavors meld together perfectly? Did you have to substitute any ingredients for taste, diet, or because you can't get an ingredient? Did your changes work? Did you make it just as it was written? Tell us why it was so great. As recipes posters, please never feel the need to thank me for reviewing one of your recipes. My review is in thanks to you for sharing your recipe. You gave me the chance to try something new and for that, that I am grateful. Thank you for posting it so that I may experience something new whether in cooking it or in tasting it. You did me the favor by posting the recipe so that I could make it. I have prepared and enjoyed foods that I would never have tried before if people like you had not shared your recipe. You deserve the thanks. Not me for eating it. If I gave you a cup of coffee, you would most likely say thank you. If I said thank you for the thank you, it kind of throws off the whole exchange. I appreciate your for taking the time to view and read my profile. Your taking that time shows an interest in my ideas and in me as a person and I take that as the greatest compliment possible on ****************************************************** I didn't have potatoes, so I substituted rice. I didn't have paprika, so I used another spice. I didn't have tomato sauce, I used tomato paste; A whole can, not a half can - I don't believe in waste. A friend gave me the recipe; she said you couldn't beat it. There must be something wrong with her, I couldn't even eat it!</p>
View Full Profile

Find More Recipes