Mexican Tamales

45 servings


1 hour 30 minutes

active time

5 hours 30 minutes

total time


3 ounces guajillo chiles, (rinsed, stemmed, and seeded)

3 ounces ancho chiles, (rinsed, stemmed, and seeded)

Water, (as needed)

1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder

3 teaspoons kosher salt, (divided)

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 ½ pounds boneless pork shoulder, (cut into large 4-inch chunks)

1 bay leaf

8 ¼ cups masa harina (about half of a 4.4 lb bag of Maseca)

1 ¾ tablespoons fine salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 ¾ cups canola or avocado oil (see Notes for making masa with lard*)

7 cups broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable, plus more as needed)

50 corn husks (about ½-¾ pound bag)

Hot water, (as needed)


Prep the corn husks. Add the corn husks to a large bowl or pot. Pour enough hot water over the corn husks to cover them completely. Cover the bowl with foil or plastic wrap and let them soak for 1 hour to soften them up. Meanwhile, make the filling and masa dough.

Make the chile sauce. Add the guajillo chiles, chiles, and enough water to completely cover them in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let the chiles soak for 10 minutes to soften.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the softened chiles to a large blender. Add 1 cup of the chile-soaked water, 1 ½ cups of fresh water, garlic powder, 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, and ground cumin. Blend until completely smooth. If the sauce is not smooth, pour it through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl to remove any solids.

Cook the pork. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Season the pork with the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt, then working in 2 batches, add the meat and sear on all sides until browned.

Add all the seared meat back to the pot. Carefully pour in the blended red chile sauce and stir in the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 2 ½ hours until the meat is fall-apart tender.

Make the masa dough. (See Notes for how to make masa with lard.) In a very large mixing bowl or pot, add the masa harina, salt, and baking powder. Stir together to combine.

Add the oil and mix it together using your hands. Work the dough through your fingers until everything is well combined and incorporated. The dough should feel a little crumbly, almost like wet sand, and should lightly hold its shape when pressed together.

Add the broth and mix for about 3-5 minutes until the dough is fairly wet and well-saturated. The dough should be soft and spreadable like thick hummus. If the dough is too dry, add more broth. If it's too wet, add more masa harina.

Finish prepping the corn husks. Drain the water from the corn husks and pat them dry. Lay them flat onto a baking sheet for easy access.

Spread the masa onto corn husks. Grab a corn husk and identify which is the smooth side and which is the side with ridges. Place the smooth side face up onto the palm of your hand or on a plate. Grab a heaping spoonful of masa and place it in the middle of the corn husk. Spread it in a thin layer using the back of the spoon to create a large square shape, leaving the top ⅓ of the corn husk empty. (See post above for step-by-step photos)

Add the filling. Place a spoonful of the filling in a line down the center of the dough. You only need a little bit, about 1-2 tablespoons. Try not to overstuff it, or the filling will ooze out when you fold it.

Fold. Fold together the long edges of the corn husk like a book, and then fold it once more. Fold the pointy edge up so that only one side of the corn husk is open and exposed. Set aside and continue assembling all of the tamales until you’ve used up all the dough.

Prepare the steamer pot. Fill the bottom of a large steamer pot with water. Add a penny or coin to the bottom of the pot, then cover with the steamer insert. Place the tamales in the steamer pot with the open end facing up. Lean them against the side of the pot so they don't fall down.

Steam. Cover tightly with the lid and place the steamer over high heat. Bring the water to a boil. You’ll know it’s boiling when you hear the coin rattle in the pot! Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 ½ hours or until the masa is fully cooked. (See notes on cooking time if making masa with lard.)

Check for doneness. Remove 1 tamal from the steamer pot. Let it sit for 10 minutes. If the husk peels away easily from the masa, then it’s done. If the masa is still gooey or sticks to the husk, steam it for 15 more minutes, then check again.

Serve. Remove the tamales from the pot and let them cool for 10 minutes before serving to help them firm up and make them easier to unwrap.


Serving Size

1 tamal


212 kcal

Total Fat

13 g

Saturated Fat

2 g

Unsaturated Fat

9 g

Trans Fat



15 mg


188 mg

Total Carbohydrate

18 g

Dietary Fiber

1 g

Total Sugars

2 g


7 g

45 servings


1 hour 30 minutes

active time

5 hours 30 minutes

total time
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