Pork Tamales (step-by-step photos!)

5 mins read

Learn how to make Authentic Pork Tamales using this easy to follow step by step guide! These tamales are filled with tender shredded pork coated in a homemade red Chile sauce. All covered with masa that is smooth, light and melt in your mouth.


All about these pork tamales…

Tamales are a staple in Texas during the Christmas Season. Tamales are a traditional Mexican recipe with Aztec roots. Cooked meats, fruits, or vegetables are rolled inside of leaves or corn husks that have been smeared with a corn based dough mixture (masa). It is thought they were used as a portable food, something for people to grab and go. Now they are made to be enjoyed as a meal for special occasions!

Some reasons to love this recipe:

  • Easy to make, but they can be time consuming. This is why this is a great recipe to get the family involved in! Grab some kids, friends, family and spend a couple hours spreading masa and assembling. Then enjoy a delicious meal together.
  • Makes a lot. A little meat goes a long way, just using 4 lbs of pork we will be able to make 60-70 tamales. This is great if you are wanting to gift some, sell some, or freeze some!
  • Traditions, I love family traditions. And this is a great one to implement. Making tamales during the Christmas season is a great way to spend time together, plus it’s a great way to connect to the culture around you or previous generations.

Ingredients Needed:


Notes on some ingredients:

  • Masa: this is referring to the dry masa harina, or corn flour. My favorite brand is Maseca, it’s in the baking aisle next to the flours, and comes in a white package with green and yellow lettering. There are two kinds, you willl see a Maseca for Tamals, and a regular Maseca corn flour. The Maseca corn flour comes in yellow or white, either will work it’s preference. I typically will use white, but as you can see above this batch was made with yellow. The Masa for Tamals, has a larger grain size, but personally I like the smoothness I get from the regular corn flour. Again, it’s a preference. Any type will work.
  • Lard: this is the fat that is used to create the masa dough. Lard has been given a bad name, but honestly, it’s just rendered pork fat. Which makes it natural when compared to some other options in the markets today. It gives a great consistency to our masa dough. Other options if needed would include: butter, shortening, cooking oil.
  • Pork: pork shoulder, or pork butt (which are the same thing) bone-in is the best option. The bone is great for helping to create a nice broth, which we will be using. If you are unable to get a bone in, you could try using pig trotters, or ham hocks to help get some bone broth.
  • Ancho Chiles: these are a dried poblano pepper, they have a sweet, mild flavoring. (1000-2000 SHU)
  • Guajillo Chiles: another dried chile pepper. These are dried Marisol peppers, they also have a sweet, mild flavoring (2500-5000 SHU)
  • Corn Husks: dried husks are typically sold in most markets during Christmas time, they can also be found year round in the Mexican aisles. If needed you could order online.

How to make (step-by-step):

  • Step 1: Prepare the pork and broth. Using a large pot add the roughly chopped pork, seasonings, and aromatics. Save everything from making the pork. The onion and the garlic will be used in the chile sauce. The broth will be used to make the masa dough. 
  • Step 2: Prepare the chile sauce by soaking the chiles in hot water, again save the water since this will be used in the actual chile sauce also.
  • Step 3: Remove the cooked pork and shred, place the meat in a large container. If you are making this recipe in two days, you can store the meat in a sealed container in the refrigerator overnight. Be sure to save all the broth and the aromatics that you used also! The only thing we will dispose will be the bay leaves.
  • Step 4: Place the softened chiles, the onion from the broth, and the garlic from the broth in a blender and blend with some of the pork broth and some of the water from soaking the chiles. Add a little salt and cumin for flavoring.
  • Step 5: Blend until this is completely smooth. If needed run through a fine mesh strainer to get all the tough bits of skin out of your sauce. I find this unnecessary if using a high powered blender.
  • Step 6: Whip the lard, using a hand or stand mixer, until it is light and fluffy. It will have a smooth and airy texture to it.
  • Step 7: Using your fingers combine the lard with the corn flour until it resembles coarse meal.
  • Step 8:Add in the remaining chile sauce, and pour in cups of the pork broth (they should be warm but not too hot to burn your hands), mixing with your hands until the masa is nicely hydrated and feels almost like a creamy mashed potato texture. It should spread smoothly. If you run out of pork broth, use some warmed up chicken broth.
  • Steps 9-13: Assemble the tamales. Pat the corn husk dry to remove any excess water. Spread the masa on the widest part of the corn husk. If the masa is slipping off of the husk, it is too warm, let it cool down. Then add 1-2 tablespoons of meat in the center of the masa and roll the corn husk over and fold up the bottom. Continue until all the tamales are rolled.
  • Step 14: Place the rolled tamales in the steamer. Place one tamale on the bottom of the steamer basket, and then stack the remaining moving around almost like building a campfire out of wood. Top the tamales with some leftover corn husks to prevent condensation from dripping, then cover with the lid and steam for 1.5-2 hours.

Expert Tips:

  • Save everything from making the pork. The onion and the garlic will be used in the Chile sauce. The broth will be used to make the masa dough. 
  • This recipe is easiest to do in 2 days. Using one day to prepare meat and the Chile sauce. Then the second day to assemble the tamales. 
  • Assembly will be when you want someone to help out! Tamales aren’t difficult, but they are time consuming. Have some family, children or friends come and help spread the masa.
  • Have some extra chicken broth on hand if needed for making the masa, depending on how much water you can fit in your pot with the pork, you may need a little extra liquid. 
  • If you are doing this in 2 days, don’t mix the chile sauce with the pork, just store everything separately. Then add the pork to a skillet, heat over low and stir in the chile sauce. Warm the broth, don’t remove any of the fat from the broth from it cooling, use it all. And warm the chile sauce also, they all need to be warm for making the masa dough


What can I use instead of lard?

First of all, I want to tell you that lard is a great option. It’s simply rendered pork fat, which means it’s a ‘clean’ cooking fat. Clean here meaning there’s nothing added to it, it’s natural. However, if you would prefer to use something else, other options would include unsalted butter, cooking oil (avoid olive oils due to strong flavoring), or shortening.

How do you eat pork tamales?

Simply unwrap the corn husk and dispose of it. Serve up the tamales with a little sour cream and hot sauce. Or you can enjoy them all on their own, they’re plenty flavorful.

What is the best way to reheat tamales?

To retain the moisture in the masa the best option is to steam them again. Place in a steamer pot and steam for 20-30 minutes until warmed through. Or you can wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave until warmed.


More Authentic Mexican Recipes:

If you tried this recipe please leave a comment and a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating below! Thank you so much!

Photography done by the talented @KJandCompany.co