Tamales de cerdo tradicionales (traditional pork tamales)

October 26, 2010

Recipes from our recent cooking group.

Tamale Meat Ingredients:

1 pork roast (6-8 pounds)
1 large chicken (5 pounds)
Garlic powder (large bottle)
Chili Powder (We use Gibhardts but any will do)
Cumino (Cumin)
Corn Oil

Spices and Seasonings:

1/2 c corn oil
6 Tablespoon Gibhartds chili powder (Other Chile Powders will work)
3 Tablespoon garlic powder
3 Tablespoon ground cumin (comino)
1 Tablespoon (or less) black pepper
2 Tablespoon salt.

Cook and Shred Pork Roast:

Start with 1 pork roast. Cut the roast into fist size chunks. Put the chunks into a Pan, and cover with water. Boil for about 2 1/2 hours or until it becomes really tender. After the meat is really tender, take it out of the broth to cool (Save the Broth, you will need it for the Masa!)

After the roast chunks are cool enough to handle easily, shred them with your fingers.  Try to remove and discard the fat as you go.  There is no need to throw a lot of fat into the tamales.  If you have cooked the roast chunks thoroughly, it will be easy to shred into small pieces with your fingers.

Cook and Shred Chicken:

Cover the chicken with water in a large pot, and boil for 2 hours, or until the chicken is done and tender.

Take the chicken out of the broth and allow the chicken to cool. (Save the Chicken Broth as well!)

Remove and discard the skin. Take the chicken meat off the bones and  shred the it into very small filaments.  Discard any large chunks of fat.

Combine Pork and Chicken:

Combine both meats in very large pan, and mix together. Make sure that the meats are thoroughly combined and mixed well. You are now ready to add the seasoning:

Add the Spices and Seasonings:

Mix the oil and seasonings listed below in a small pan and warm on the stove. Do not cook the oil and seasonings mix, but just gently warm on the stove.

1/2 c corn oil
6 Tablespoon Gibhartds chili powder (Other Chile Powders will work)
3 Tablespoon garlic powder
3 Tablespoon ground cumin (comino)
1 Tablespoon (or less) black pepper
2 Tablespoon salt.

When the oil and seasonings mix is warm, then pour over the meat and mix with your hands until it is completely distributed through the meat. It takes a good 10 minutes to get the mixture completely uniform.

The meat is now finished.  You should put the meat in the refrigerator covered until ready to make the tamales. Put both the chicken broth and roast broth into the refrigerator as well. You will need the broth when you make the Masa.

Make the Masa Dough Mix

Start with  2 lbs. of the Masa flour. It comes in a 4 lb bag, use half of it. Now, skim the fat off the broth that you saved from the Pork and Chicken we made earlier.  Throw the fat away, and save the broth. Warm the broth from the pork and chicken up.  Don’t get it hot, just nice and warm.

Now put the 2 lbs. of Masa in a large bowl.  Add the following dry spices to the Masa:

3 Tablespoons paprika
3 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
3 Tablespoons Gibhardts Chili Powder
3 Tablespoons garlic powder

Mix the spices above into the Masa until it is completely incorporated. Mix well, as you don’t want a clump of spices in a tamale.

Now add:

2 cups of Corn Oil

http://www.sonofthesouth.net/tamales/images/dough.jpgto the Masa and Spice mixture. After adding the oil,  begin to slowly work in 2 quarts of the warm chicken/pork broth, about a cup at a time. Work the mixture with your hands to make dough. Slowly add the warm broth one cup at a time as you continue to work the mixture with your hands.  If it is too dry, add enough warm water to get it right for spreading. It should be about like thick peanut butter. If it is too thin add more Masa, if it is too thick, add more broth or warm water. Thick peanut butter is the consistency you are trying for.

http://www.sonofthesouth.net/tamales/images/soaking_shucks.jpgB) Prepare the Corn Shucks

Soak the shucks in a sink full of warm water for about 2 hours. You will need to carefully separate them when they get soft.  Try to not tear or damage the corn shucks.  It is easier to make the tamales if the shucks are in one piece.

C) Build the Tamales

After the corn shucks are soft, take some of them out of the water, shake the water off, lay them on the counter on a towel. For clarity now, we will present a series of instructions so you can see just how the tamale is built:

Pick up a shuck,  lay it across the palm of your hand with the small end toward your fingers. scoop up about 1/2 c of the Masa dough with a spatula,  and then smear it on the shuck.
Cover about left 2/3 of the shuck with Masa, leave 1/3 on the right uncovered. Similarly, cover the bottom 2/3 of the shuck, and leave the top 1/3 uncovered.  The picture will help you see what we are trying for here.  You need to leave the top and side uncovered so you can fold it up later. Now, go to the next shuck and do the same, laying them out on the counter as you put the masa on them. I like to do 5 or ten at a time like this.
When you have covered 5 to 10 of the shucks with Masa, it is time to add the meat. Take about 1 tablespoon of meat, and lay it on the masa about 1 in. from the left edge.
Starting on the left side (the side where the Masa dough goes all the way to the edge), roll the tamale all the way to the right edge. Now, fold the top of the shuck over like an envelope and lay tamale on the counter with the fold on the under side. Roll the next one the same until all your shucks with masa on them are rolled.
Now, get more shucks and put masa on them the same way. Then roll the meat in them. Keep doing this until all the tamales are built. You will have about 4 dozen or more.D) Cook the Tamales
To cook the tamales, You need a very large pot that has something in the bottom to keep the tamales out of the water while they steam (the steamer we use is pictured on the tamale ingredients page) . Add about 3 pints of water to the pot, then start stacking the tamales upright until full. The envelope end of the tamale will be on the bottom, the open end of the tamale should be on top, as pictured at left.  Continue to fill the pot.  The tamales need to pack tight enough that they do not fall over and begin to unfold.
Cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low and cook for at least 2 hours. Check water several times and add more if it is getting low, you DON’T want to boil it dry. Please note . . . those of you who forgot to save the chicken broth will probably be the ones to boil the tamales dry.  I think you know who you are. Anyway, for the rest of you,  Add more water as you need to. When done, take one tamale out and leave it on the counter for about 5 minutes to test. Unwrap it and it should be firm, with no raw masa. When done, remove all the tamales and let them cool on the counter, then put in bags for the freezer, 6 to a bag. If you have one of those Vacuum sealers, those are ideal.  You can save the tamales in the freezer indefinitely if they are vacuum sealed.  If you use zip lock bags, they will stay for up to a year in the freezer.



  3 1/2 lbs pork shoulder or 3 1/2 lbs pork butt, trimmed of fat and cut up

  10 cups water

  1 medium onion, quartered

  3 garlic cloves, minced

  3 1/2 teaspoons salt

  4 cups red chili sauce (see recipe #15301 for red chili sauce)

  3/4 cup shortening

  6 cups masa harina

  1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  50 dried corn husks (about 8 inches long)

1 In a 5 qt Dutch oven, bring pork, water, onion, garlic and 1 1/2 salt to boil.

2 Simmer covered, about 2 1/2 hours or until meat is very tender.

3 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).

4 Shred the meat using 2 forks, discarding fat.

5 Strain the broth and reserve 6 cups.

6 In a large sauce pan, heat the red chili sauce and add meat; simmer, covered for 10 minutes.

7 To make masa beat shortening on medium speed in a large bowl for 1 minute.

8 In a separate bowl, stir together masa harina, baking powder and 2 teaspoons salt.

9 Alternately add masa harina mixture and broth to shortening, beating well after each addition. (Add just enough broth to make a thick, creamy paste).

10 In the mean time, soak corn husks in warm water for at least 20 minutes; rinse to remove any corn silk and drain well.

11 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).

12 Place about 1 tablespoon meat and sauce mixture in the middle of the masa.

13 Fold in sides of husk and fold up the bottom.

14 Place a mound of extra husks or a foil ball in the center of a steamer basket placed in a Dutch oven.

15 Lean the tamales in the basket, open side up.

16 Add water to Dutch oven just below the basket.

17 Bring water to boil and reduce heat.

18 Cover and steam 40 minutes, adding water when necessary.

19 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.




Homemade Tamales Recipe


First we are going to break the process down into two days.

The first day will be spent acquiring all the ingredients and cooking the pork. The most time consuming part is cutting the pork into 1 inch chunks. Cooking the pork is just a matter of simmering the meat for a couple of hours so it’s real tender. You can put your feet up and relax during this part.

The second day is spent mixing the masa and then putting the tamales together and cooking them. My tamales recipe will make you about 18 to 20 tamales. Not a huge amount but certainly enough for dinner with a few left over for freezing.

Kitchen Tools Needed To Make Hot Tamales

Make sure you have the following on hand before you start the tamales recipe.

  • a steamer
  • a large bowl to mix masa in
  • tongs
  • Measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • 6 quart or larger stock pot
  • sharp chefs knife
  • cutting board
  • a pot or bowl to soak corn husks in
  • a damp white cotton towel (to place over tamales when cooking)
  • a butter knife or spreader

List of Ingredient For The Authentic Tamales Recipe

  • 7 lb. pork butt roast
  • chili powder
  • ground cumin
  • sea salt, if you have it
  • garlic powder, no salt (fine like flour)
  • chicken base
  • Ibarra chocolate
  • white flour
  • corn husks
  • MaSeCa Instant Corn Masa Mix
  • corn oil

What To Look For In A Steamer

The steamer will probably be the most difficult item to find. The steamer insert needs to be at least 8 inches deep as you will be standing the tamales up vertically when cooking. You will also need room for that cotton towel on top. Make sure the outer part of the steamer you buy can hold at least 2 inches of water without touching the tamales. I searched and searched and found a great 12 quart steamer made of stainless steel for about $50 on sale. I also use the 12 quart stock pot for stews, enchilada sauce, refried beans, etc. when I cook for a large group.

Meat Filling Ingredients For The Pork Tamales Recipe


  • 7lb pork butt roast, prefer boneless
  • 1/3 cup chili powder
  • 96 oz. chicken broth
  • 1 Tbs. + 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 heaping Tbs. Garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. + 2 tsp chicken base
  • 2 triangles of Ibarra chocolate
  • 6 heaping Tbs. flour
  • 3/4 cup cold water

Fill the stock pot with the chicken broth and add the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, chicken base and chocolate. Heat to boiling then cover and simmer on low while you cut up the pork.

Cut the pork into 1 inch cubes. Trim as much fat off as you can. I prefer chucks of tender pork in my tamales recipe instead of shredded pork. You can do it either way.

Add the cut up pork to the boiling sauce. Partially cover and simmer on low for 2 hours or until pork is real tender.

When the pork is done and very tender, combine the 3/4 cup cold water and flour with a whisk until well blended.

Turn the heat up to high and when it is boiling, slowly add the flour mixture to the pork. Stir the pork continuously to avoid lumps just like you would when making gravy.

Continue to slow boil while stiring for about 3 to 5 minutes and then turn the heat off.

Now if you are real ambitious you can start making the masa and preparing the tamales. If you would rather continue the next day, let the pork cool after cooking and then refrigerate.

Day 2 of The Tamales Recipe

If you are making tamales over two days, now is the time to take the pork filling out of the refrigerator and heat it up in a pot on the stove. You don’t have to get it real hot, nice and warm will do.

Before you make the masa, soak the corn husks in warm to hot water in a bowl for 30 minutes to two hours, or until they become pliable. Gently separate the husks so as not to tear them. If some are torn you can use two husks and overlap them before putting masa on them.

Time To Make The Masa

Most of these ingredients for this tamales recipe can be found in your local grocery store and certainly in a Mexican market if you live near one. Be aware that you should not use regular corn meal. I want to recommend MaSeCa (instant corn masa mix) as shown in the picture as it’s specifically designed for tamale making.

I also want to ask you to smell your corn oil, if you’ve had it for a while, to make sure it doesn’t smell rancid. When my oil has that funny smell I toss it.

The following ingredients will yield about 18 – 20 tamales.

If you need more masa to even out with the pork, just whip up another batch of masa. There are a lot of variables here: How thick you make your masa on the corn husks, how much pork you put in each tamale, and if your roast has a bone in it.

Delicious Masa Recipe


  • 4 cups MaSeCa Instant corn Masa Mix
  • 3 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (no salt)
  • 1 cup fresh corn oil
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth

Put the masa, salt, and garlic powder in a large bowl and combine the dry ingredients.Then add the corn oil and mix with your hands. Now add the chicken broth 1/2 cup at a time.

Continue to mix with your hands and adding the broth until you get the consistency of cookie dough.You should have a consistency that you can spread with a knife or spreader.

If you add too much liquid you can always add a little more masa to thicken it up.

Putting The Tamales Together

Now we’re ready for the fun part of the tamales recipe. The corn husks should be soft and pliable. Take a few out and pat them dry with a paper towel or towel.

Take a spoonful of masa and spread it on the corn husk. Leave the pointy end without masa so you can fold it over.

Now I’m starting to get hungry. Place several chunks of pork down the center of the masa.

Fold the masa over so the ends meet. The idea is to put just enough meat so that you can encase it in masa and not leak out. Now roll ‘er up. After you roll the tamale up, fold over the end.

Continue to make tamales and when you are done place them in a steamer with the open end pointing up.

You can put a layer of husks on the bottom of the steamer to help keep the tamales from getting wet, but I didn’t have a problem without them.

Steam Those Tamales

Place the damp cotton towel over the top of the tamales and cover with the lid. Make sure you add just enough water to the bottom of the pan so the water doesn’t touch the tamales. Check it often so the water doesn’t run dry.

Get the water to boil and then turn the heat to low. Simmer/steam for 1 1/2 hours. Check the tamales by removing one and letting it cool for 5 minutes. Open the hot tamale and check that the masa is firm and not mushy.

If need be, cook a little longer and check every 15 minutes until done.

When tamales are done take them out of the pot to cool on the counter. Tongs are great for this.

Go a head and eat one. This is when they taste their absolute best.

I like to use a vacuum sealer to keep my tamales for several months in the freezer. You can also keep them in Ziploc bags in the refrigerator. Use these within a week.

After you have made your tamales, give yourself a pat on the back. The tamales recipe is perfect served with refried beans and rice. Don’t forget to add a little guaucamole and salsa.

More Ways To Use The Tamales Recipe

Serve tamale appetizers at your next party or bring them to one. Just reheat the tamales in the microwave. Put them on a plate and cover with damp paper towels. Heat on high for 45 seconds and rotate. Cook another 45 seconds or until hot.

Carefully remove the corn husk and slice the tamales into thirds and place on a serving plate.

Makes for a great appetizer all by themselves. You could even make a little guacamole to serve on the side so guests can top their tamales with guacamole. Delicious.

Serving Tip

Another great way to serve these tamales is to top them with my enchilada sauce and serve with beans and rice. Sprinkle with mild cheddar cheese and you are in for a feast!



Rockin Robin’s Raving Enchilada Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

Did you think that enchiladas is all you can make with this enchilada sauce recipe? Think again.

You will be able to make disappearing nachos. And that’s exactly what will happen when you make nachos with this sauce.

Then there are tamales. If you have made my homemade tamales recipe, you know first hand how delicious homemade tamales can be.

Now you have a delicious sauce to put over them. Add a littlemild cheddar cheese and pop them in the oven for a mouth watering meal.

You can also use this enchilada sauce as the base for delicious chile beans and a sauce to go on top of burritos if you wish. We called that version our super burrito.

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 Tbs Gebhardt Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 heaping tsp. garlic powder (with no salt added)
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon (less than 1/16 tsp.)
  • 1/3 tsp. sugar
  • 5 Tbs. cold water
  • 5 Tbs. white flour

In a 2 quart sauce pan add the chicken broth, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, cinnamon and sugar (the sugar is a little secret to eliminate any bitter taste from the chili powder).

Use a whisk to mix everything well. Heat to a boil, reduce heat to a low boil and cook for 3 minutes. Whisk frequently to make sure all spices dissolve. This is important for flavor and a nice smooth sauce.

While the sauce is on a slow simmer/boil, add 5 tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl.

With another whisk mix 1 tablespoon at a time of flour. Whisk vigorously to avoid lumps. If you have lumps here, you will definitely have lumps in your sauce.

After 3 minutes of cooking sauce, turn the heat up to high. Very slowly, pour the flour mixture into the boiling sauce. Here you must whisk the sauce vigorously while adding the flour to avoid lumps.

After all the flour is added, continue to whisk for one minute. You can turn the heat down to medium during this time. Just make sure the sauce is boiling.

Turn off the heat, this enchilada sauce recipe is done.

You will notice that as this sauce sits it will form a “skin” on the surface. This is normal and in fact the longer the sauce sits the thicker this skin becomes. All you have to do is peel the skin off and throw it away.

So go on, make some cheese enchiladas tonight for dinner.


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