Recipe for Tamales: How to Make Homemade Mexican Pork Tamales

pork tamales that are homemade and ready to eat

There’s nothing like a batch of freshly made tamales. These bundles of flavor wrapped in corn husks have a unique, mouth-watering taste and texture.

The process of making tamales might seem intimidating at first. However, as long as you take the time to follow the proper steps for preparing and cooking tamales, you can enjoy them without going to a restaurant.

In this article, you’ll find a recipe for pork tamales, inspired by the You’ll also find some tips and hints about replacements or alternative techniques and ingredients.

A tamale is basically seasoned meat wrapped in cornmeal dough and baked or steamed in corn husks. The seasonings, flavorings and meat choices are up to you!

Feeling hungry yet? Let’s get started!

What You’ll Need

  • A protein. The main types of proteins used in tamales are pork, chicken and beef. Cheese is also used as a delicious vegetarian option. For this recipe, you’ll need boneless pork shoulder. You can also use pork loin if you prefer.
  • Seasonings. To make your tamales pop with flavor, you’ll need to season the meat and filling with a good amount of fresh, dried and ground ingredients. For this recipe, you’ll be using salt, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, sugar, peppercorns, cumin, and chili powder. You can add any type of spice you want. Others include cayenne, ancho chile or California chile pods. Note, if you want to find the best cumin substitute, check out the Yummy Lounge for a list of spices that can do the trick without using any cumin!
  • Extra flavor and texture. Onion and garlic add an extra depth of flavor. You’re also going to need all-purpose flour and vegetable oil for the filling.
  • Dough ingredients: Aside from the spicy filling, the dough of a tamale is what creates the beautiful union of texture and taste. Masa harina, which is essentially instant corn flour, is a traditional type of flour used in Mexican cooking. In fact, the word “masa” literally means “dough” in Spanish. For this recipe, you’ll also need lard, which gives tamales their richness.
  • A steamer basket and dried corn husks. In order to give them their iconic taste, you’ll need to wrap the tamales in corn husks and steam them with a steamer basket. You can also bake them. Some recipes use banana leaves instead of corn husks.

Fast Ingredient List

  • Boneless pork shoulder (2 ½ pounds)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh thyme or dried thyme (4 sprigs or 2 teaspoons)
  • Dried Mexican oregano (2 teaspoons)
  • Bay leaves (2)
  • Ground cumin (2 teaspoons)
  • Black peppercorns (12)
  • Chili powder (1/3 cup plus ½ teaspoon)
  • Sugar (2 teaspoons)
  • Onion (1 in quarters)
  • All-purpose flour (2 teaspoons)
  • Garlic clove (1 minced)
  • Masa harina (4 cups)
  • Lard (1 1/3 cups)
  • Vegetable oil (1 tablespoon)
  • Dried corn husks (24)

Mexican Pork Tamales Step by Step Recipe

Step One: Cooking the Meat

The first step to great pork tamales is cooking a juicy, well-seasoned piece of pork. For this recipe, you can use a deep saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover the pork shoulder in about 6 cups of cold water.

Add seasonings into the pot with the meat. This includes two teaspoons of salt, all of the onion, thyme, oregano, bay leaves and peppercorns. Many cooks like to rub the meat with the powdered spices.

Cover the pot and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once it begins to simmer, you’ll need to reduce the heat to a “gentle” simmer. At this point, you’re going to let the meat cook for about 1 ½ to 2 hours until fully cooked and tender.

To prepare the cooked meat for the filling, shred it.

DO NOT throw out the cooking liquid, but DO strain it.

NOTE: While the meat is cooking, soak the corn husks in a bowl of hot water. Make sure to keep them submerged (you can use a plate) and soak them for about an hour. They should become pliable.

Step Two: Making the Filling

Get out a large skillet and add in the pork, 1/3 cup of chili powder, flour, garlic, sugar and vegetable oil. You should also add in 1 cup of the cooking liquid that you reserved from cooking the meat.

Bring everything to a simmer over medium heat. Stir occasionally as the filling cooks until most of the liquid gets absorbed. This will take about 25 minutes.

NOTE: You can do the next step while the filling cooks.

Step Three: Making the Dough

Mix together the masa harina, lard, about two teaspoons of salt and the rest of the chili powder. You’ll also need to add in around 2 2/3 cups of the cooking liquid that you reserved from cooking the meat. Blend everything together until well-combined.

Step Four: Putting Together the Tamales

Make sure the corn husks are patted completely dry.

Lay them out in front of you and begin spreading about 3 tablespoons of the dough down the husk. Start ½ inch from the wide end of the husk, and leave a 1 inch border on the sides.

Spoon in the filling (about 2 tablespoons). It should go down the center of the dough.

Fold the sides of the husk, making sure that the dough is wrapped around the filling. Fold the narrow end of the husk upwards.

Repeat for the rest of the tamales.

Step Five: Steaming the Tamales

Fill the steamer with 1 to 2 inches of water and arrange the tamales in an upright position. Make sure the folded side is down.

Cook on medium-high heat. Once the water starts to boil, cover for about 45 to 50 minutes. The dough should become firm. Allow to cool.

Step Six: Enjoying and Re-heating

When you’re ready to eat a tamale, unwrap it from the corn husk and enjoy! The best way to make tamales is in bulk. This will allow you and your family to enjoy them throughout the week. Check out AdonKitchen’s best ways to reheat tamales for some great tips on warming up cooked tamales.

There you have it! Remember, there are dozens of different tamale recipes in cookbooks and on the web. Do some research and find a recipe that sounds delicious to you.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here