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.
I love making tamales for the holidays. I look forward to them all year!
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 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.
The broth from the simmered pork butt will be used to add flavor to the tamale dough.
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.
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.
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.
Be careful not to burn the chilies or they will take on a bitter taste.
Also toast the 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.
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.
Add 1 1/2 tbsp of oil to a pot over medium heat. When oil is hot strain the chile sauce into the pot.
Simmer over medium low heat for about 15 min. Salt to taste. Reserve 1/2 cup of the sauce for the masa.
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.
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
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.
In another bowl beat the 2 cups of lard with an electric mixer for a couple of minutes.
Add the Maseca and broth mixture to the lard and continue to beat for about 3 minutes more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
For the meat
Add the pork, onion, garlic, bay leaves, water and salt to a large stock pot and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 4-5 hours or until meat is tender and falls apart easily.
Remove meat from pot and transfer to a large bowl and shred with two forks. Or when cool use your hands to shred.
Strain the broth and when cool place in the refrigerator.
Skim the fat off from the broth.
For the sauce
Toast chiles in a skillet over medium heat. (about 25 seconds)
Toast garlic and onion.
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.
Transfer contents to a blender with about 5 cups of the water from the chiles.
Blend for 1 minute (Do this in 2 batches).
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.
Reserve 1/2 cup of the sauce for the masa
Add the shredded pork to the chile sauce and stir well.
For the masa
Soak the corn husks in hot water for 1 hour
In a large bowl add the Maseca, baking powder and salt in a bowl and mix well.
Add the broth and chile sauce to the Maseca and mix well making sure the dough is moist.
In another bowl beat the lard with a mixer until it is fluffy. (a couple minutes)
Add the masa to the lard and continue to beat for 3 min
Assembling the tamales
Spread a heaping tbsp of masa over the corn husks.
Add a heaping tbsp of the pork onto the masa.
Fold each side of the husk and then fold the bottom part of the husk up
Fill the steamer with water then put the steamer insert in and add the tamales standing up.
Bring the water in the steamer to a boil and lower it to medium low.
Cover and cook for 1 hour.