Make your own batch of tasty pork tamales at home using masa harina, or as others know it, maseca. These Mexican tamales are stuffed with a juicy pulled pork and served with your choice of salsa. In this post, you will find a step-by-step photo tutorial on how to make authentic Mexican pork tamales that your family will love!
Oh, the holidays! So much to do, and so little time to enjoy. And while cooking this month, a series of email messages were exchanged to help a fellow blogger in her pursuit of preparing the traditional tamales during this time of the year.
The subject of the emails was about the dough for making the tamales. People who are familiar with making tamales outside of México will use corn flour made especially for tamales.
You know, the one sold by “Maseca” in a 5-pound paper package.
So, I decided to make a step by step tutorial on how to make pork tamales in case any of you were wanting to learn how to make them too.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pork Tamales
Before I share my tamale recipe, here are a few questions my blogger friend asked me about tamales.
What kind of corn flour can I use if I can't find fresh corn dough (masa)?
When it comes to finding corn flour alternatives for masa, there are actually quite a few options.
This corn flour I mentioned above is a good substitute if fresh corn dough (masa) is not available. But, what happens if you can’t find that type of flour and you want to make pork tamales, and the only one available is the one sold for regular tortillas?
The regular Maseca for tortillas is also a good alternative for making pork tamales or any other type of tamales, but you will need to take good care to mix the right amount of ingredients to achieve the consistency needed to cook tamales.
What kind of filling can you add to tamales?
This specific recipe has a pork filling with a red sauce made with dry red peppers, very similar to the ones made in the Mexican Northern States of Coahuila and Nuevo León.
If you don't eat pork, take a look at this recipe for chicken tamales in green salsa.
Do you eat the corn husk on tamales?
No. You need to make sure you unwrap the tamale from the corn husk before you eat it. I will say you can use the husk as a plate so you can eat your tamale.
Authentic Mexican Pork Tamales
Many years ago, a lady from Monclova, Coahuila gave me her recipe for pork tamales. Her name is Yolanda and she sells these tamales to her neighbors and friends. When I asked for the recipe, she invited me over to her house to learn how she made Mexican pork tamales.
That day, we made 100 tamales! They are small and very tasty, almost addictive.
Here is a list of ingredients you will need:
For the dough:
- Masa harina (for tortillas)
- Pork broth (from the cooked pork)
- Baking powder
- Salt (if needed)
For the Meat:
- Pork shoulder (cut into cubes)
- Garlic cloves
- White onion
- Bay leaf
For the Sauce:
- Ancho peppers
- Guajillo peppers
- Garlic cloves
- Ground cumin seeds (fresh)
- Vegetable oil
- Salt and black pepper (to season)
- Corn husks (large plus more for the steaming pot)
Please note: For exact measurements of the ingredients listed above, scroll down to the recipe card located at the bottom of this post!
How To Make Pork Tamales: Step By Step Tutorial
To make things easier for you, I am going to breakdown the directions to this recipe into sections.
Pork Filling For Tamales
- In a medium-size pot, combine the pork meat, garlic, onion, bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Cover with the water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat.
- Simmer partly covered, occasionally skimming and discarding fat from surface, about 1 hour or until meat is tender enough to shred.
- Remove the onion, garlic, bay leaf, and discard.
- Skim the broth and when the meat is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces and set aside.
Make Red Peppers Sauce
- While the meat is cooking, soak the dry peppers in a medium-size pot with warm water for about 20 minutes.
- Drain and place in the blender with the garlic cloves, cumin, and ⅓ cup of soaking water.
Combine Pork With The Red Sauce
- Heat the vegetable oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat.
- Add the red pepper sauce and 1 cup of the pork broth. Cook for 8 minutes.
- Add the shredded pork and season with salt and ground black pepper. Add more broth if needed.
- Simmer until heated through for about 5 more minutes. You want the meat for your pork tamales to be very flavorful.
Prep the Corn Husks
- Place the corn husks into a large bowl or pot. Pour enough boiling water over the husks to cover.
- Place a metal lid or heatproof dish on the husks to keep them submerged.
- Soak for about 45 minutes.
- Remove the husks, drain, and set aside.
Make the Corn Masa Dough
- In a large bowl, beat the lard by hand or with an electric mixer until it is light. Add the baking powder, the masa-harina, and gradually the stock until the dough is very light. Taste and add salt if needed.
- Continue to beat until dough is well combined, light and smooth.
Assemble The Pork Tamales
- Place a small amount of the dough in the center of a corn husk. Using the back of a spoon, spread the dough and top it with 1 ½ tablespoon of the meat filling.
- Fold the sides of the husks first, followed by folding the bottom toward the center.
Cook The Tamales De Cerdo
- Place the now uncook pork tamales standing up in your already prepared tamale steamer.
- Cover with a layer of corn husks and a dishtowel to trap the steam in.
- Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Add more water to the steamer if needed during that time.
Cooking Tips and Suggestions
- Do a dough test to make sure your dough is good. To make sure your dough is light enough place a small amount in a glass with water. It will float when it’s ready. If the dough doesn't float, do not worry- just make sure the dough is very airy. Your pork tamales will still come out okay.
- Does your dough look dry? Add a little bit more broth or water but not too much.
- Make sure to check for the doneness of the tamale before pulling them out. To check for doneness, remove one of the tamales, and if the husk can easily be removed from the dough, they are ready. But, if the dough sticks to the husk, place them back into the pot and cook for 15 more minutes.
- Need a vegetarian option for the filling? Take a look at this tamale recipe that has a filling made with cheese and roasted peppers. It's delicious!
What To Serve With Mexican Tamales
I like to serve my pork tamales with a warm cup of sweet corn atole. You can also serve these tamales with a side of Mexican red rice and spoonful of habanero tomato salsa for a spicy kick.
More Tamale Recipes To Enjoy
If you enjoyed this recipe for pork tamales, take a look at some of these other authentic Mexican recipes:
- Chicken And Vegetables Tamales Recipe
- How To Make Sweet Tamales
- Green Salsa Tamales With Chicken
- Sweet Corn Tamales
- Cheese and Roasted Peppers Tamales
- Homemade beef tamales
I hope you make these Mexican pork tamales, and if this recipe was of any help to you, come back to let me know your experience. Please leave us a comment done below and tell us all about it!
Pork tamales using corn flour
For the Dough:
- 3 cups of Masa Harina for Tortillas
- 1 ⅓ cup of Lard
- 2 ½ cups of the broth where you cooked the meat.
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- Salt if needed Broth has already salt added
For the Meat:
- ¾ pound of pork shoulder cut into cubes.
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¼ white onion
- 1 Bay leaf
- 4 cups of water
- 1 teaspoon of salt
For the Sauce:
- 2 Ancho Peppers cleaned deveined and seeded.
- 3 Guajillo Peppers cleaned deveined and seeded.
- 2 small garlic cloves
- ⅓ teaspoon of fresh ground cumin seeds
- 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil
- Salt and black pepper to season
- 16 Large Corn Husks plus more for the steaming pot
Instructions for the filling:
- In a medium-size pot, combine the pork meat, garlic, onion, Bay Leaf and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Simmer partly covered, occasionally skimming and discarding fat from surface, about 1 hour or until meat is tender enough to shred. Remove onion, garlic, Bay leaf, and discard. Skim the broth and when the meat is cool enough to handle shred into bite-size pieces and set aside.
- While the meat is cooking. Soak the dry peppers in a medium size pot with warm water for about 20 minutes. Drain the peppers and place in the blender with the garlic cloves, cumin and ⅓ cup of soaking water. Process until you have a smooth sauce. Heat the vegetable oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat, add the dry peppers sauce, 1 cup of the meat broth and cook for 8 minutes. Add shredded pork and season with salt and ground black pepper. Add more broth if needed. Simmer until heated through, about 5 more minutes.
- Place corn husks into a large bowl or pot. Pour enough boiling water over the husks to cover. Place a metal lid or heatproof dish on the husks to keep them submerged. Soak for about 45 minutes. Remove, drain and set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the lard by hand or with an electric mixer until it is light. Add baking powder and the masa-harina and gradually the stock until dough is very light. If your dough looks dry add more broth or water. Taste and add salt if needed.
- Continue to beat until dough is well combined, light and smooth. To make sure your dough is light enough place a small amount in a glass with water. It will float when it’s ready.
- Now comes the fun part. Assembling the Tamales. Place a small amount of the dough in the center of a corn husk. Using the back of a spoon spread the dough and top it with 1 ½ tablespoon of the meat filling. Fold the sides of the husks. Fold bottom toward the center. And place tamales standing up in your already prepared tamal steamer cover with a layer of corn husks and a dish towel, cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Add more water to the steamer if needed during that time. For more pictures and instructions to assemble and cooking the tamales check this post “Chicken in green sauce Tamales”
- To check for doneness remove one of the tamales and if the husk can easily be removed from the dough they are ready. But if the dough sticks to the husk place back into the pot and cooks for 15 more minutes.
I love that you included the float test! That’s how my mom checked if the masa was ready. I’ve never been passed the float test. What’s the secret?
What would you recommend as a replacement for the lard for folks who want to/need to stay away from that?
Use vegetable oil or even olive oil. Check this recipe to get an idea of the amounts of oil and masa harina. https://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/healthy-tamales-recipe/
I would love to make your recipe. I would like to know about how many tamales this recipe yields?
It says in the recipe card at the bottom. It yields 16 tamales.
HAve fun cooking!
I can hardly wait to try these for Christmas. Can I make ahead and freeze? I'll
Re-post after mt attempt. 🙂
Yes, you can.
This recipe is very similar to the way I do it by memory of mother's recipe. The only thing that concerns me, is each time I see a recipe for the Chile sauce, is after you blend in a blender, none of the recipes calls for putting sauce through a sieve. I sieve mines because I'm not crazy of the skin from Chile. Even if they are just minuet pieces. Am I doing it wrong--not blending enough??
Many people use a sieve. However, nowadays there are many blenders that do an excellent job of processing the peppers and rending a very fine & smooth sauce.
Great recipe. Very authentic! First time making tamales and I’m Caucasian and it was a hit!
Great recipe, I would like to know the weight of the dough in relation to the 1.5 tbsp of filling, I'm looking to do a very consistent product, thanks. Was very tasty.