Pork Tamales

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Homemade tamales are one of our favorite things to eat. It beats any tamale I’ve tried in any restaurant, and it can be made ahead and frozen. They make perfect microwavable snacks, and did I already mention that they’re delicious??

Many people shy away from cooking foods like tamales because they’re constantly told that it’s hard to make. IT’S NOT HARD! I swear! When someone tell me recipe is hard, I assume they mean it’s easy to mess up – that there’s a large chance it won’t turn out right. Well that’s not the case for these babies. It’s just that it takes a while to make, but there are plenty of other recipes on my blog that take way longer, and are actually harder (easier to mess up).

If you’ve tried tamales and didn’t really like them, I still urge you to try these. Tamales are the sort of thing that has so many variations. Every family recipes that’s been passed down for generations is going to be different from the next. You’re almost never going to find two family recipes that taste the same. The first homemade tamale I had was when a coworker brought some for lunch. His mother had made them and he let me try one. It was the most amazing thing I had ever tasted. The dough was nice and fluffy, with a nice kick to it. The filling was also spicy but it was so tender and juicy, just exploding with flavor. These tamales didn’t need a sauce like how some restaurants serve theirs. I’ve asked her for the recipe but she just said “it’s too hard to explain or write as a recipe, you’ll have to come over next time I make them, and I’ll show you”.

That was 6 years ago, so I started looking for a similar recipe. Since then, I’ve tried countless different recipes ranging from completely authentic to americanized. I learned what makes the dough light and fluffy, and how to add so much flavor. Don’t get me wrong, completely authentic tamales with sauce made from scratch is absolutely delicious. But because tamales in general are time consuming as it is, I’ve made adjustments  and come up with my own, faster, recipe.

With a pressure cooker, I can knock out 20 tamales in about 4 hours, including cooking times. That’s a huge improvement from 2 days. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, no worries. You can also use a slow cooker, but you might have to cook the pork the day before.

Ingredients:

corn husks

filling

2lbs pork butt (shoulder roast)

2 (10oz) cans red enchilada sauce

2 tbsp oil

salt/pepper

 

dough

3 1/2c masa harina

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/3c pork lard

 

Soak the corn husks in hot water to soften.

Heat the oil in a large pot on high heat, and season the pork generously with salt and pepper.

Once the oil is smoking, sear the pork on all sides until nice and brown.

 

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Add one can of enchilada sauce and put on pressure cooker lid. Leave on high heat until pressure is high. Then turn the heat down to maintain the pressure for 1 hour. Use natural pressure release.

If using a slow cooker, transfer seared pork to the slower cooker, add 1 can of sauce and cook for 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low.

The pork is done when it falls apart.

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The fastest way to shred any type of meat is to put in the mixer with a paddle attachment. I let it go on medium speed for about a min or two until the pieces are as big as I like them. You can also shred by hand if you don’t have a stand mixer.

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Add the second can of enchilada sauce to the shredded pork. Taste and add salt if needed.

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Skim the fat from the pork cooking liquid, and save in a mixer bowl.

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Add the lard to the skimmed fat. I used bacon fat, but you can find lard some at grocery stores next to the shortening. If your pork fat is melted, leave in fridge until opaque, but not too hard.

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Whip the fat until fluffy, it should be doubled in size.

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Add the masa and mix on low until incorporated.

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Take the pork cooking liquid and pour into the dough while mixing. I used about 2 cups of liquid, but it will vary depending on the humidity. You want the end result to hold it’s shape and still stay together when spread (not crumbling).

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Drain and dry off the corn husks.

If you like your tamales with a thin layer of dough and mostly meat, I recommend using an offset spatula.
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You can also use your fingers to press down and spread the dough, but it won’t be as thin.

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Lay the filling down the center. Notice I didn’t spread the dough all the way to the top of the husk (top of photo), or the left. You actually do want the dough to go all the way down to the edge (on the bottom of the photo) which I didn’t do such a good job on.

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Start rolling from the side with the dough all the way to the edge, ending at the side without any dough.

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Fold the thin part of the husk up
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And you got yourself a tamale!

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If you come across corn husks that are too small, you can put two together like this:

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Arrange the tamales upright in a steamer. I have this separate little steamer, but most people will be using a metal pot with a basket inside, that goes on top of the stove.

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Steam for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. I noticed the dough doesn’t come off the corn husk nicely when it’s fresh out of the steamer.
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Tamales
Yields 20
Print
Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
2 hr 30 min
Total Time
4 hr
Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
2 hr 30 min
Total Time
4 hr
Ingredients
  1. corn husks
  2. 3 lbs pork butt (pork shoulder)
  3. 2 (10oz) cans red enchilada sauce
  4. salt/pepper
  5. 3 1/2c masa harina
  6. 1c lard
  7. 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Instructions
  1. Soak the corn husks in hot water to soften.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot on high heat, and season the pork generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Once the oil is smoking, sear the pork on all sides until nice and brown.
  4. Add one can of enchilada sauce and put on pressure cooker lid. Leave on high heat until pressure is high. Then turn the heat down to maintain the pressure for 1 hour. Use natural pressure release.
  5. If using a slow cooker, transfer seared pork to the slower cooker, add 1 can of sauce and cook for 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low.
  6. The pork is done when it falls apart.
  7. The fastest way to shred any type of meat is to put in the mixer with a paddle attachment. I let it go on medium speed for about a min or two until the pieces are as big as I like them. You can also shred by hand if you don't have a stand mixer.
  8. Add the second can of enchilada sauce to the shredded pork. Taste and add salt if needed.
  9. Skim the fat from the pork cooking liquid, and save in a mixer bowl.
  10. Add the lard to the skimmed fat. I used bacon fat, but you can find lard some at grocery stores next to the shortening. If your pork fat is melted, leave in fridge until opaque, but not too hard.
  11. Whip the fat until fluffy, it should be doubled in size.
  12. Add the masa and mix on low until incorporated.
  13. Take the pork cooking liquid and pour into the dough while mixing. I used about 2 cups of liquid, but it will vary depending on the humidity. You want the end result to hold it's shape and still stay together when spread (not crumbling).
  14. Drain and dry off the corn husks.
  15. Spread the dough on the corn husks all the way to the edge on two sides, and leaving space on the corn husk on the other two sides.
  16. Lay the filling down the center.
  17. Start rolling from the side with the dough all the way to the edge, ending at the side without any dough.
  18. Fold the thin part of the husk up
  19. Arrange the tamales upright in a steamer.
  20. Steam for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
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2 thoughts on “Pork Tamales

    1. Thank you so much! btw it means the world to me you checked out my blog 🙂 I follow you on instagram and love your recipes!

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