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My Grandmother’s Tamales Recipe

Authentic Pork Tamales Recipe


  • Makes approximately 5 dozen tamales
  • Fresh corn masa, 5 lbs.
  • 1 lb. corn husks
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb. lard
  • 5 cups cooked pork broth (drained from cooked pork) To be set aside, used as needed
  • 8 oz. whole chili anchos
  • 5 lb. pork shoulder
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin


The Day Before

Prepare the Chili Ancho

  1. Put the ancho pods in a bowl and cover with boiling water.
  2. Let sit for 30 minutes or more until soft, then remove the stems and seeds and coarsely chop. Reserve the soaking liquid.
  3. Let cool and carefully transfer the mixture to a food processor and process adding reserved soaking liquid as needed until smooth.
  4. Pour blended mixture through a fine mesh sieve and transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the Husks

  1. Fill a stock pot with warm water and corn husks and soak overnight.
  2. Just before you’re ready to make your tamales, rinse husks and dry well and, if too wide, cut in half. Set aside.

Prepare the Pork

  1. Cut pork shoulder into small (1-2 inch) pieces.
  2. Add garlic, pork pieces, and spices to a large stockpot.
  3. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
  4. Reduce to a simmer and cook over low heat for about 3 hours or until meat is tender.
  5. Remove meat and shred. Let meat cool and refrigerate overnight. Reserve pork broth.

The Day Of

Prepare the Masa

  1. Beat 1 lb. lard with a mixer or by hand until light.
  2. Add salt and fresh corn masa.
  3. Add in the chili mixture little by little until a dark pinkish color, and to taste.
  4. Beat with a heavy-duty mixer or knead like bread with a little pork broth until the dough is light.
  5. The dough is ready when a small amount floats when dropped in a glass of water.

Prepare the Pork Filling

  1. Heat some lard in a heavy saucepan.
  2. Add a cup (or more, to your taste) of the blended ancho chili mixture to lard and simmer until sauce slightly thickens.
  3. Add some salt to taste.
  4. Now add shredded meat and both and cook for about 20 minutes.
  5. You may want to add more of the blended chili mixture to your liking.
See also  Heaven On Earth Cake

Fill the Corn Husks

  1. Put some of the masa in the center of the corn husk.
  2. With the back of a spoon, spread the bottom 2/3 of the corn husk evenly to the edges.
  3. Line plenty of pork meat down the center.
  4. Fold the side of the corn husks toward the center, overlap.
  5. Now fold the top (without masa) down and set aside on a platter until ready to cook.
  6. Continue these steps until all masa and pork filling is used up.

Steam Tamales

  1. Bring 3-4 cups of reserved pork broth to boil in a steamer.
  2. Place tamales with the folded side down in the steamer standing upright.
  3. Cover tamales with moist corn husks and a clean moist dish towel.
  4. Put the lid on the steamer and steam for 1 ½ hours or until husk can be easily peeled from the dough.
  5. Add more broth as needed to continue steaming being careful not to pour broth on tamales.



  • Make sure to soak the corn husks overnight for easier handling.
  • Adjust the amount of chili mixture in the masa and pork filling according to your preference for spiciness.
  • Steam the tamales until the dough is cooked through and easily separates from the husks.


Q: Can I use store-bought masa instead of making it from scratch?
A: Yes, you can use store-bought masa, but the taste and texture might differ slightly from fresh masa.

Q: Can I substitute the pork with chicken or beef?
A: Yes, you can substitute pork with chicken or beef for different variations of tamales.

Q: How long do the tamales last?
A: Tamales can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen for up to six months.