How To Make Tamales

How To Make Red & Green Tamales

This is a very special tradition in my house and I am happy to pass along this amazing family recipe to you!

Once you read through this post you will realize that making tamales is not a super quick or easy thing to do, it takes a family and a lot of preparation. But, it makes for amazing food and memories with loved ones. I have the best memories of making tamales with my family around Christmas when I was little and hope to pass along this tradition to my daughter.

Before tackling this recipe here are a few tips:

•Buy all ingredients 1-2 days before actually making them
•The day before making/assembling tamales prepare as much of the ingredients as possible. I prepared the following a day before: shredded pork shoulder, red sauce, and salsa verde.
•Recruit the family and friends because this process is not easy to do alone
•I promise you will get better each time you make tamales, so don’t be so hard on yourself the first time! Each year I have gotten better, but still no where near as good as my Grandma or Mom…one day!

Red Tamales

Red tamales consists of 3 things: shredded pork shoulder mixed with red sauce & 1 can of black olives


1. Red sauce


2 bags Chili California Entero
1 cup Chili Water (the water that the chilis will soak in)
3-4 Garlic Cloves
Salt & Pepper


•Full directions here (same sauce you use for enchiladas)
Tip: you want the final sauce to not be too liquidy and not too thick, so when adding water to the soaked chilis in the blender add 1/2 cup first and continue adding as needed.


2. Pork shoulder


5lbs Pork Shoulder, cut into cubes
1 Onion, cut into wedges
3-4 Garlic Cloves


•In a crockpot place all ingredients in and cook on low for 8 hours (could also cook on stove in a large pot). When pork falls apart easily, drain the water and transfer pork to a large bowl. Shred pork with 2 forks, then add red sauce, and mix.
Tip: cook this the day before you assemble the tamales, this will save you so much time! 
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3. 1 can of Large Whole Black olives


Green Tamales

Green tamales consists of 3 things: salsa verde, poblano peppers, and cotija cheese


1. Salsa verde


12 Tomatillos
2 Roma Tomatoes
1 Onion
4 Serrano Peppers
4 Garlic Cloves


•Boil tomatillos and roma tomatoes (~15-20mins) in water until softened and skin is falling off. In a skillet char all sides of onion, serrano peppers, and garlic. Once charred combine all ingredients in the blender. Set aside salsa verde in a bowl. Salsa should be a slightly thick, you don’t want it too runny.


2. Poblano peppers


5 Poblano peppers
Olive oil spray


•Wash and dry peppers. Spray all sides of poblano pepper with a small amount of olive oil and then broil for 4-5 minutes on each side (watch closely they will burn quickly). Once the skin is slightly burnt and blistered transfer to a plastic bag, tie it, and allow them to sweat for 10 mins or so. Take the peppers out and allow them to cool before peeling off the transparent skin. Then cut pepper into thin slices.The more of the seeds you leave, the more spicy it will be.
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3. Cotija cheese


•Cut into thin long strips.

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Masa & Tamale Husks


8.5 lbs of prepared masa [this made roughly 50 tamales]
Tip: it’s best to use a large/wide bowl when applying masa to husks. 



1lb of dried husks. To prepare them for tamales, soak in warm water for at least an hour.
Tip: soak the morning of actually making the tamales while preparing everything else.


How to assemble a tamale

•The most important part is setting up stations in an organized way.




1. Using a spoon, scoop some masa to middle horizontal section of smooth side of the husk. With the backside of the spoon spread the masa evenly from middle to bottom of husk. Once the masa is spread evenly and not too thick (you don’t want a doughy tamale I promise) add fillings.


2. To fold the tamale, fold hotdog style by lining up the ends. Fold the combined ends over and flip the empty tail end up.


3. Use a small amount of masa to cover the top of exposed tamale.


4. Place all tamales in double boiler or steamer for 30-60mins or until dough is fully cooked. Before covering pot put a small dish towel and 2 trash bags over the tamales to keep the steam trapped inside, then cover.


If you make these please share with me or if you at least enjoyed all the photos/how much work I put into making this post I would love to hear from you!


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