Real Homemade Tamales

Real Homemade Tamales


"I had been looking for a Tamale recipe for years. One day I went to the international market and stood in the Mexican aisle till a woman with a full cart came by. I just asked her if she knew how to make Tamales. This is her recipe with a few additions from me. The pork can be substituted with either chicken or beef. This is great served with refried beans and a salad."

Ingredients 3 h 35 m {{adjustedServings}} servings 236 cals

Serving size has been adjusted!

Original recipe yields 16 servings



Amount per serving ({{servings}} total)

  • Calories:
  • 236 kcal
  • 12%
  • Fat:
  • 16.6 g
  • 26%
  • Carbs:
  • 12.6g
  • 4%
  • Protein:
  • 9.1 g
  • 18%
  • Cholesterol:
  • 37 mg
  • 12%
  • Sodium:
  • 401 mg
  • 16%

Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

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  • Prep

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  • Ready In

  1. Place pork into a Dutch oven with onion and garlic, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the meat is cooked through, about 2 hours.
  2. Use rubber gloves to remove stems and seeds from the chile pods. Place chiles in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, then remove from heat to cool. Transfer the chiles and water to a blender and blend until smooth. Strain the mixture, stir in salt, and set aside. Shred the cooked meat and mix in one cup of the chile sauce.
  3. Soak the corn husks in a bowl of warm water. In a large bowl, beat the lard with a tablespoon of the broth until fluffy. Combine the masa harina, baking powder and salt; stir into the lard mixture, adding more broth as necessary to form a spongy dough.
  4. Spread the dough out over the corn husks to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Place one tablespoon of the meat filling into the center. Fold the sides of the husks in toward the center and place in a steamer. Steam for 1 hour.
  5. Remove tamales from husks and drizzle remaining chile sauce over. Top with sour cream. For a creamy sauce, mix sour cream into the chile sauce.
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  1. 210 Ratings


A few things for the beginner: it's better to boil the peppers(any kind will do) and all the flavorings for 30ish minutes, and then cook the meat in that broth. Also, the water should cover the meat in the pan and it needs to be cooked until it is crumbly to the touch--this makes it easier and faster to shred by hand and eliminates any further meat preparation. Depending on the meat I use my cook time varies between 4 hours to overnight. I keep my corn husks in hot/boiling water for at least an hour--they need to be very soft. Two VIP things to note: masa is very bland, there is no substitute for lard! I use the leftover meat juice instead of broth for my masa, and still add lots of other spices. When you are making tamales the masa will dry out; just add a little meat juice to keep the consistency. It should spread like creamy peanut butter. The corn husks should only measure 4-5 inches across; larger ones can be torn to size. Place the meat filling along the edge and roll like a cigar. Also when steaming them, they need to be as close to standing upright as possible. Good reference recipe, thanks!


If you are going to take the time to make tamales, be sure to double or triple the recipe, the Tamales freeze well. You also want them to turn out perfectly. This is a good recipe but the instructions leave out a few important steps: (1.) One of the biggest mistakes is not mixing the masa dough long enough; this causes the tamales to fall apart. Mix the masa dough, with an ELECTRIC MIXER, until a small amount (1 tsp) floats in a cup of water. (2.) Position your corn husks with wide end toward you. Spread a thin layer of masa dough, completely covering the bottom 2/3 of the corn husks and place filling in a line down the center of the dough. (3.) You won't have to secure your Tamales with a toothpick or strip of corn husk, if folded properly. When folding, fold in one long side about 1/3 over dough and filling, fold in the other long side, overlapping the first (like folding a business letter). Fold down the top 1/3 and place in steamer standing upright, with the folded end down and open end up. Don’t over pack the pan, just tightly enough to keep Tamales in an upright position. If you don’t have a Tamale steamer you can use a deep pot with cover. Place a steamer basket in the bottom and stand your Tamales (open end up) in the basket, add water only to the bottom of the basket (you don’t want the Tamales sitting in water) cover, and steam. Check the water level during cooking, to make sure the pot doesn’t run dry.


The directions for preparing the Masa are right on. It's a lot easier than you would expect. To simplify the meat preparation I simply used boiled chicken with monterey jack or queso fresco cheese. The chile preparation is also easy. I added a bay leaf and oregano (remove the bay leaf and add one teaspoon of lemon juice before you blend it). Don't expect a great flavor. The chile is meant to be concentrated so it will taste horrible (very woody and grainy). But when it steams with the masa and meat the end product is wonderful. Placing the masa in the husks is a challenge, be patient. Although, I didn't want to, I had to use extra husk strips to tie the tamales. They kept seeping out in the steamer and would fall apart when I attempted to move them. The last thing you want is wet masa on the bottom of your steamer. I also found the steaming to take ALOT longer. In my case (I've made it 3 times) the steaming took between 2.5-3 hours. I guess it depends on the type of steamer you use. It helps to cover the bottom, sides, and eventually top (once the tamales are in) with extra corn husks. This keeps the tamales dry as you add extra water during the steaming process. It also helps with clean up later. I also put a coin at the bottom of the steamer (when the coin stops clanking, you know that your near the end of water and need to refill it).