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Red Chile Pork Tamales (Tamales de Puerco)

Savory, flavorful and satisfying, these red chile pork tamales are absolutely delicious. In the Mexican culture, eating tamales for breakfast or during celebrations evokes a connection with family and land. Traditional tamale recipes differ in stuffing and preparation depending on the region. The recipe being shared today uses corn husks as the wrapping but banana leaves are another popular way to wrap tamales.

Red chile pork tamales in corn husks.

I love making tamales for the holidays. I look forward to them all year!

Tamales are perfect for the holidays along with this Mexican Christmas punch and bunuelos!

Since making tamales is labor-intensive many people choose to hold a tamale making party known as a tamalada, which turns the normally big commitment into a fun activity.

Unfortunately for me it’s just my husband and I making them.

Therefore I like to spread out the tamale making process over the course of two days.

This makes the whole process a lot less daunting.

Have a go at trying my homemade red chile pork tamales recipe and never be ripped off by buying store bought tamales with tiny amounts of meat ever again!

I’ve broken down the steps for you as best I can and have included photos to guide you throughout the process.

What are pork tamales made of?

Pork is arguably the most traditional filling for tamales.

There are five key components that will ensure the success of the red chile pork tamales. They include:

Pork butt

Pork butt is one of the most inexpensive but toughest cuts of meat.

It’s an economical choice and all it really needs is some TLC.

It’s cooked long and slow in order for it to become tender.

It’s also used to make carnitas.

Broth

The broth from the simmered pork butt will be used to add flavor to the tamale dough.

Masa harina

Traditional masa is dough made from nixtamalized corn.

For convenience this recipe uses Maseca (dried corn flour).

Maseca needs lard along with broth to bring the consistency of the dough to it’s desired thickness.

Salsa

The salsa I use is made from guajillo chilies and morita chilies.

The chiles are what’s going to provide the red color for our red tamales.

It provides another layer of flavor to the pork meat and masa dough as well.

Corn husks

The corn husks (hojas de maiz) are for wrapping the tamales before being steamed.

Hojas de maiz are the most popular wrapper. Other kinds of wrapper include banana leaves, maguey and avocado leaves.

The use of either lends an earthy essence to the dish.

How many types of tamales are there?

There are many variations of tamales depending on the region.

Some are filled with chicken, beef or rajas. Some are red while others are green.

There are also sweet tamales which are very popular during the holidays.

Different countries have their own versions of the dish as well. One of my favorites are Colombian tamales.

How to make red tamales

Day 1: Make the meat and chile sauce

Put the meat, onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt and water in a large stockpot and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer on low for 4 hours or until the meat is tender and falling apart.

While meat is cooking toast the chiles on both sides in a skillet over medium heat. This will take less than a minute.

toasting chile

Be careful not to burn the chilies or they will take on a bitter taste.

toasting chile

Also toast the onion and garlic.

toasting onion and garlic

Transfer chiles, onion and garlic to a pot with about 6-7 cups of warm water and simmer on medium low for about 10 min or until chiles are soft.

soaking chiles

Transfer the chiles, onion and garlic to a blender with 5 cups of the water and blend for 1 min. Do this in two batches.

chiles in blender

Add 1 1/2 tbsp of oil to a pot over medium heat. When oil is hot strain the chile sauce into the pot.

straining-sauce

Simmer over medium low heat for about 15 min. Salt to taste. Reserve 1/2 cup of the sauce for the masa.

cooking red sauce for tamales.

When the meat is done remove it from stockpot and shred with two forks making sure to discard any fat. Or use your hands when the meat is cool.

When the broth is cool strain it and store it in the refrigerator.

Mix together the shredded meat and the chile sauce.

Don’t forget to reserve 1/2 cup of the sauce which we will use for the masa.

pork in red chile sauce

Store the meat and the rest of the sauce in the refrigerator when cool.

Day 2: Make the tamales

Put the corn husks in a large pot with hot water and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat off and let the husks soak for at least one hour.

Take the broth out from the refrigerator and skim off the fat

fat from broth

How to prepare masa for tamales

In a large bowl mix together the Maseca, baking powder and salt.

Then add 5 cups of the broth and the 1/2 cup of reserved sauce and mix well either with a spatula or your hands.

Maseca with broth

In another bowl beat the 2 cups of lard with an electric mixer for a couple of minutes.

lard

Add the Maseca and broth mixture to the lard and continue to beat for about 3 minutes more.

maseca with lard

After the husks have soaked shake off the excess water.

Take 1 husk and spread a heaping tablespoon of masa over it.

Then add a heaping tablespoon of the pork filling on it.

Preparing red chile pork tamales.

Fold the sides of the husk then fold the bottom part of the husk up.

You can tie the tamales with long stringy pieces of the husks to make them more secure but this is optional.

tamal tied

Repeat the above steps until all the masa and pork filling are gone.

Fill a tamale steamer with enough water so that it won’t run out while steaming but not too much that it gets the tamales wet.

The water shouldn’t come through the holes of the steamer insert.

Put all of the pork tamales in the steamer standing up.

Bring the water in the steamer to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low.

Cover and cook for 1 hour.

How do I know when tamales are done?

You’ll know the tamales are done when you can easily peel the husks from the masa.

To do this remove one tamale from the steamer. Let it cool for a few minutes before peeling.

As you peel the dough should not stick to the cornhusk.

If the masa is mushy and is still sticking to the husks, steam for an additional 15-20 min.

What usually goes with pork tamales?

It’s pretty common for tamales to be eaten by themselves. However, if you want to make more of a meal for your family try serving the tamales with some fried eggs with the sides extra crisp and the yolk still runny.

Pinto beans and Mexican rice are also great options that will help the tamales stretch even further.

Are you supposed to eat the husks of tamales?

Cornhusks hold the tamales together and help keep them from drying out.

They need to be pliable enough to wrap but don’t have to be soft.

The husks allow steam to penetrate allowing the tamales to cook just right.

It is important to note that you are NOT supposed to eat the husks. Cornhusks are not edible.

Take care to remove them especially when smaller children are eating.

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Pork Tamales with red sauce

Red Chile pork tamales along with other types of tamales are very popular during the holidays.

They are incredibly flavorful and go great with many Mexican sides.

Give them a try this holiday season! It’ll be the best thing you’ll unwrap this year!

I hope you will give this recipe a try and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this recipe in the comments below and don’t forget to leave it a rating. Thanks for visiting!

Red chile pork tamale after steaming.
3 tamales
4.24 from 71 votes
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Red Chile Pork Tamales

Moist and full of flavor everyone will fall in love with these amazing red chile pork tamales! They're especially popular during Christmas and New years.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword pork tamales with red sauce, red chile pork tamales
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours 20 minutes
Total Time 5 hours 35 minutes
Servings 45 tamales
Calories 224 kcal
Author carissa

Ingredients

For the meat

  • 5 pounds pork butt cut up into pieces
  • 1 white onion quartered
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 16 cups of water
  • 3 teaspoons of salt

For the sauce

  • 25 dried guajillo peppers
  • 5 dried morita peppers
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon oil
  • salt to taste

For the masa

  • 5 cups of Maseca for tamales
  • 5 cups of pork broth
  • 1/2 cup of chile sauce
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 2 cups of lard
  • corn husks

Instructions

For the meat

  1. Add the pork, onion, garlic, bay leaves, water and salt to a large stock pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 4-5 hours or until meat is tender and falls apart easily.
  3. Remove meat from pot and transfer to a large bowl and shred with two forks. Or when cool use your hands to shred.
  4. Strain the broth and when cool place in the refrigerator.
  5. Skim the fat off from the broth.

For the sauce

  1. Toast chiles in a skillet over medium heat. (about 25 seconds)
  2. Toast garlic and onion.
  3. Transfer chiles, garlic and onion to a pot with about 6-7 cups of warm water and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Simmer for about 10 min or until chiles are soft.
  4. Transfer contents to a blender with about 5 cups of the water from the chiles.
  5. Blend for 1 minute (Do this in 2 batches).
  6. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in a pot over medium heat and when hot strain the chile sauce into the pot. stir, cover and cook over medium low for about 15 min. Season well with salt.
  7. Reserve 1/2 cup of the sauce for the masa
  8. Add the shredded pork to the chile sauce and stir well.

For the masa

  1. Soak the corn husks in hot water for 1 hour
  2. In a large bowl add the Maseca, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix well.
  3. Add the broth and chile sauce to the Maseca and mix well making sure the dough is moist.
  4. In another bowl beat the lard with a mixer until it is fluffy. (a couple minutes)
  5. Add the masa to the lard and continue to beat for 3 min

Assembling the tamales

  1. Spread a heaping tbsp of masa over the corn husks.
  2. Add a heaping tbsp of the pork onto the masa.
  3. Fold each side of the husk and then fold the bottom part of the husk up
  4. Fill the steamer with water then put the steamer insert in and add the tamales standing up.
  5. Bring the water in the steamer to a boil and lower it to medium low.
  6. Cover and cook for 1 hour.
Nutrition Facts
Red Chile Pork Tamales
Amount Per Serving
Calories 224 Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Fat 14g22%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Cholesterol 40mg13%
Sodium 463mg20%
Potassium 303mg9%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 11g22%
Vitamin A 515IU10%
Vitamin C 3mg4%
Calcium 47mg5%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Learn how to make authentic pork tamales with step by step directions
Recipe Rating




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Olivia

Wednesday 18th of January 2023

Hi I tried this recipe a couple years ago and it was sooo good! So I am doing it again but I wanted to ask if you recommend warming up the broth before adding it to the maseca?

Carissa

Wednesday 18th of January 2023

Hi, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the tamales. I don’t warm up the broth and the tamales always come out great. I know some people do prefer to warm up the broth though.

Lea

Wednesday 21st of December 2022

How much red chili sauce do I need for this recipe? I have many quart jars of it in freezer.

Carissa

Wednesday 21st of December 2022

Good question, I should have specified in the post how many cups of sauce the recipe makes. I posted this recipe years ago and can’t remember how much sauce it yielded. However I would say somewhere between 3-4 cups.

Sandy

Thursday 27th of October 2022

I made these a couple of years ago and I'm going to make them again this weekend. DELICIOUS! I do have a question, some of our family love them mild and others prefer hot red chile. Do you have any suggestions on how I can please everyone without doing two separate batches?

Thank you, S. Hil!

Carissa

Thursday 27th of October 2022

This is a good question. If it were me I would divide the chilies and simmer them in 2 different pots. In one pot I would add some arbol chilies 3-7 depending on how spicy you want the sauce. Then make as usual.

Tommie Lou Rogers

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

I love the idea of adding the sauce to the masa. Sounds delicious. My sister is coming for a long visit and I am hoping that she will want to make these as a holiday project.

Carissa

Tuesday 27th of September 2022

That's a great idea, it's so much easier and faster when there's more than one person.

Isabela Teck

Tuesday 2nd of November 2021

I love making the tamales but some of mine are still a little moist. I read the recipe and follow it to cover. I put them in the rice cooker that has a steam button. Should I be making them in a big pot or something.

JackieT

Tuesday 4th of January 2022

@Isabela Teck, I purchased an expendable steam basket with handle from Walmart and put it in a tall pot with lid. It has legs about 2" so don't ad more than 1.75" of water. Keep an eye on it and add water as needed. Works great. So does an inverted aluminum pie tin with tons of holes in it.

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