Authentic Mexican Pork Tamales Rojos Recipe (2024)

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These Muy Bueno authentic Mexican Pork Tamales Rojos are filled with tender shredded pork simmered in a homemade spicy red chile sauce, then wrapped and steamed to perfection. Making homemade tamales, especially with this beloved family recipe, is a traditional, comforting experience that will create cherished memories for you and your loved ones.

Authentic Mexican Pork Tamales Rojos Recipe (1)

Nothing compares to the rich flavor and texture of homemade tamales. If you’ve always wanted to try to make tamales, you have come to the right place. Look no further than this recipe for pork red chili tamales—it’s all you’ll ever need. In this blog post, I’ll walk you through each step with meticulous detail. This cherished recipe is so special that it’s also featured in the very first Muy Bueno cookbook.

Making tamales is always a big part of my December — they’re one of the most popular authentic Mexican recipes for Christmas! Plus, who doesn’t love starting the new year with a stocked freezer? This big-batch recipe will ensure many delicious meals to come.

And, while making my red pork tamales recipe does take some time, it’s easier than you might think. Feel free to break it up into smaller tasks over the course of a few days to make it feel more manageable.

Heck, you can even turn making tamales into a special party, known as a tamalada! From personal experience, I can tell you that making it a group activity is not only super fun, it’s also much faster than working alone.

This spicy, pork-filled, authentic Mexican tamales recipe is extra special to my heart because it is made entirely from scratch. While there’s no shame in using instant masa harina for your tamal dough – I’ve done it myself plenty of times! – the flavor of freshly ground masa is unparalleled.

Table of Contents

What is Red Chile Pork?

Simply put, red chile pork refers to shredded pork that’s been simmered in a versatile red sauce, perfect for tamales, enchiladas, stews, and beyond. Think of this red sauce as one of the “mother sauces” of Mexican cuisine.

If you’re familiar with the delectable Mexican pork stew known as Asado de Chile Colorado, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what the red chili pork filling for these tamales tastes like.

Here we’re using a different cut of pork (either slow-cooked shoulder or butt versus pork loin in the stew), as we want small, fork-tender strings (rather than cubes) of meat. But the red sauce that forms the base flavor profile of this pork for tamales, the asado stew, and my favorite stacked red enchiladas is the same across all recipes.

Why You’ll Love This Authentic Pork Tamales Recipe

  • Each batch makes 60 red chile pork tamales, making it perfect for freezing for the future.
  • The fresh masa dough is perfectly tender and flavorful.
  • My easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions will ensure this red pork tamales recipe will come out perfectly every time.
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Ingredients & Substitutions

The complete list of ingredients, quantities, and instructions can be found in the printable recipe card below.

  • Pork Butt or Pork Shoulder: These inexpensive and relatively tough cuts of pork are ideal for making shredded pork recipes like carnitas or pork tinga. The additional connective tissues break down beautifully during the slow cooking process, yielding fork-tender meat. If you’re not a pork eater or want to make these red chile sauce tamales lighter, try swapping in shredded poached chicken breast.
  • Sea Salt: For seasoning your meat.
  • Pork Broth: The homemade pork broth is used to make masa and filling more flavorful.
  • All-Purpose Flour: For thickening the red chili sauce for tamales. If you’re gluten-free, swap with masa harina.
  • Red Chile Sauce: This homemade sauce is key in tons of my favorite recipes, so do yourself a favor and make extra to freeze for later!
  • Tamal Dough (Masa): If you can find it, fresh, unprepared masa will yield the best pork tamales. You can also use shelf-stable masa harina instead.
  • Dried Corn Husks: Also known as hojas, these are our tamal wrappers. You should be able to find them at any Hispanic grocery store or online.

How to Make Pork Tamales Rojos

Step 1: Cook the pork. Place pork, water, and salt in a slow cooker and cook for 6 to 8 hours. After meat is cooked, remove from the slow cooker and let cool to room temperature.

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Step 2: Shred the pork. In a large mixing bowl, shred pork and remove fat while shredding, reserving fat. (Usually, after pork is cooked and shredded, you will be left with about 3 pounds of meat.)

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Step 3: Reserve pork broth. In a blender combine the cooled broth from the cooked pork and the leftover fat pieces. Blend and reserve for using when making tamale masa and filling. Broth can be kept, tightly covered, for 1 week in the refrigerator. The broth also freezes well and will keep for 4 to 6 months.

Step 4: Make Red Chile Sauce. The sauce in this recipe is the same sauce used to make red enchiladas. Simply rehydrate California or New Mexico red chile pods in hot water to soften them before blending them with garlic, salt, and flour.

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Step 5: Make red chile pork filling for tamales. Heat the 6 tablespoons broth in a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add flour and whisk for at least 4 to 5 minutes. Add red chile sauce and salt, stir, and cook for 10 minutes. The chile sauce will be very thick at this time. Add shredded pork and stir so all the pork is well coated with the red chile sauce. Simmer for at least 10 minutes. Let mixture cool before filling tamales.

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Step 6: Prep the corn husks. Hojas (corn husks) come dried, and need to be pliable. Rinse the corn husks in water to remove debris. Place the corn husks in a bowl or sink filled with warm water until they become soft and flexible. To ensure they remain submerged, weigh down the husks with a molcajete or a heavy pot. I soak the corn husks for a couple of hours before tamale-making.

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Step 7: Make the masa. For this recipe, follow the recipe to make Masa for Tamales using fresh ground corn (unprepared masa). These tamales can also be made using masa harina, if needed. Follow this recipe for Tamales with Masa Harina.

Step 8: Drain the corn husks. Place a handful of wet corn husks in a colander to drain before using. The goal is to achieve a soft and pliable husk that’s ready to wrap your tamales.

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Step 9: Assemble the tamales. Spread masa on a pliable corn husk, add a spoonful of the filling, and fold the tamales closed. Repeat with remaining ingredients. See step-by-step photos and the recipe card below for detailed instructions.

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Step 10: Steam tamales. Using a 15 to 16 quart aluminumorstainless steeltamalera (steamer pot), fill with water up to the fill line. Set the rack over the water. Place tamales upright, with fold against the sides of the other tamales to keep them from unfolding. Cover pot with a tightly fitting lid. Set heat on high and bring to a boil, about 15 minutes. Lower heat and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Keep lid on tightly. To test if done, place one tamal on a plate and let rest for a few minutes, and then remove husk. If husk comes off without sticking to the tamal they are done. Read this blog post for tips on different size and types of tamaleras/steamers. You can also steam a batch of tamales in an Instant Pot!)

Please sit back and enjoy watching this video of a tamalada I hosted.

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Optional Variations

  • Chicken and Red Chile Tamales: You can find this recipe in my latest cookbook, Muy Bueno Fiestas.
  • Tamales with Masa Harina: This pantry-ready recipe is perfect if you don’t have access to ground masa.
  • Gluten-Free Red Chili Pork Tamales: Swap out the all-purpose flour with masa harina.
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Serving & Topping Suggestions

These homemade pork tamales rojos are so deeply flavorful on their own that I can eat them just as they are. However, if you’re hosting a holiday fiesta, here are a few suggestions.

Wondering what to put on tamales? I suggest setting up a toppings bar for your guests to help themselves to whatever they like. I always love setting out a variety of salsas, such as Roasted Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa, Easy Pico de Gallo (Salsa Bandera), and Chile de Arbol Salsa.

If you’d like to add a bit of creaminess, you can’t go wrong with sour cream, crema Mexicana, queso fresco, or sliced avocado. For a pop of acidic brightness, Pickled Red Onions (Cebollas en Escabeche) and Escabeche (Pickled Jalapeños) are the way to go. And, as with just about every savory Mexican recipe, a sprinkling of freshly chopped cilantro is always welcome.

Expert Tips & Tricks

  • Make-Ahead. Get a leg up on these red chili pork tamales by making the separate elements ahead of time.
    • Red chile sauce can be made in advance and kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. This easy sauce for tamales can then be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen for up to six months.
    • Pulled pork and broth can be made in advance and kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer; it will last in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for 4-6 months.
    • Masa for tamales can be made and refrigerated up to three days in advance.
  • Soak corn husks. You want to soak corn husks in warm water for at least an hour before you start assembling tamales. I also recommend only grabbing a few soaked corn husks at a time to ensure they stay damp and pliable. This way, they’ll be more pliable and won’t tear when you’re filling and folding them.
  • Float test. Don’t forget to test the masa by taking a small piece (1/2 teaspoon) and dropping it into a cup of cold water. If it floats it is ready; if it sinks, beat for 5 minutes and test it again.
  • Cover masa. Keep the masa dough covered with a damp paper towel while you work to prevent it from drying out.
  • Spread the masa on the smooth side of the corn husk. When assembling, spread the masa on the smoother side of the corn husk. It’s not a deal-breaker, but following this step will make unwrapping the tamales much easier.
  • Place a penny beneath the steamer rack in the pot. As the water level decreases, the penny will rattle, alerting the cook to add more water.
  • Check if tamales are cooked through. Tamales are ready when the husk easily peels away from the masa. This recipe typically takes around 2.5 hours to cook, but the exact time can vary depending on factors such as the pot used, heat level, and the quantity of tamales being made.
  • Allow tamales to rest. After cooking, let tamales sit for 10 minutes on a plate before serving. This helps them firm up, making them easier to unwrap.

Freezing & Reheating Instructions

While you can certainly eat these authentic pork tamales rojos straight from the pot, one of the very best things about tamales is that you can freeze them (before or after they are steamed)!

  • Allow the tamales to cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing. Cool tamales on a sheet pan – it should take about 45 minutes. Once cool, you can pop the tamales in a zip-top bag or airtight container. Label and date them, then pop them in the freezer for 3-4 months. For the freshest tasting tamales, I recommend packing them in quite tightly or wrapping them in aluminum foil and then placing them in a freezer-safe bag.
  • Reheat. Simply re-steam tamales or microwave thawed tamales wrapped in a damp paper towel until warmed through.
  • Tamales can be frozen before cooking. Remember to label your packaging as “uncooked” so you’ll know they still need to be steamed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best masa for tamales?

If I have access, I prefer making tamal dough with fresh, unprepared corn masa. If not, I make my tamal masa with masa harina. Either way, the results will be delicious! Just remember to add a bit of the red chile sauce to the masa to emphasize the delectable flavor of these red pork tamales.

Do I have to make my own masa dough from scratch?

Nope! If you want a quick shortcut, reach for a bag of Instant Masa next time you’re at the store. You can use my fast, masa harina version of tamal dough for these authentic homemade tamales.

What is the best sauce for tamales?

There are so many good ones to choose from! I love the authentic red chili sauce for tamales that we use here, but my chicken mole tamales and tamales verdes (with salsa verde) are also so flavorful. I also love keeping it simple with some roasted green chiles as my topping.

How do you eat pork tamales?

After steaming (or reheating), gently unwrap the corn husk to expose the tamal inside. Drizzle with extra chili sauce, add any toppings you prefer, then dig in with a fork!

Do you eat the corn husk on tamales?

Nope! They are only used for steaming, and sometimes as a makeshift plate if you’re eating on the run. Don’t fret though; corn husks are entirely biodegradable and can be popped in your compost bin when you’re done. In fact, my grandma used to recycle husks for the next year. She would wash them in vinegar water, rinse, and dry them before storing them for future use.

How many tamales does this recipe make?

One batch of this pork tamales rojos recipe will yield about 60 (5 to 8 dozen) tamales, depending on size.

Is this recipe for tamales scalable?

Absolutely! However, if you’re going to make more than 60 tamales, you may as well try some other flavors – variety is the spice of life, after all! Tamales can be savory or sweet, spicy or mild, and even vegetarian! For more inspiration, check out the recipes listed below or the tamales category on the blog.

What is the best tamale steamer to get?

Check out my informative post on tamale steamers for more information.

How spicy is the red sauce?

It honestly depends on what type of chile you purchase. Sometimes the packages for the dried chiles will indicate whether they are mild or spicy, but for more information check out this post on types of Mexican chiles. The pork and masa will help to tame the heat even if the sauce is spicy.

Are pork tamales gluten-free?

Not if you make the recipe as written, as I’m using all-purpose flour as my thickener. If you’d like to make them gluten-free, I’ve given instructions in the “optional variations” section above.

More Mexican Tamales Recipes

If you’re planning on making tamales Mexicanos this year, try branching out with a few different flavors. Here are some of my favorite savory and sweet tamal recipes:

  • Easy Homemade Chicken Tamales With Salsa Verde
  • Pumpkin Spice Tamales
  • Instant Pot Pork and Roasted Green Chile Tamales
  • Chicken Mole Tamales
  • Sweet Mango Dessert Tamales

If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo andtag me on Instagramwith #muybuenocooking.

Authentic Mexican Pork Tamales Rojos Recipe (18)

Authentic Mexican Pork Tamales Rojos

4.59 (87 ratings)

If you've been itching to learn how to make everyone's favorite traditional Mexican holiday dish, you've come to the right place. These Muy Bueno Tamales Rojos are mouthwateringly delicious; tender shreds of spicy red chile pork are wrapped in a soft masa dough and steamed to perfection for a rustic, comforting meal you won't soon forget.

Print Pin Rate

Yield: 60 tamales

Prep Time: 35 minutes mins

Cook Time: 12 hours hrs

Total Time: 12 hours hrs 35 minutes mins

Ingredients

Shedded Pork

  • 7-8 pounds pork butt or pork shoulder
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt

Filling

  • 6 tablespoons broth with fat pieces from cooked pork
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 1/2 cups Red Chile Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Assembly

  • 1 Batch Masa for Tamales, or masa harina tamal dough
  • Corn husks, hojas

Instructions

Shredded pork:

  • Place pork, water, and salt in a slow cooker and cook for 6 to 8 hours. After meat is cooked, remove from the slow cooker and let cool to room temperature. Shred pork and remove fat while shredding, reserving fat. (Usually, after pork is cooked and shredded, you will be left with about 3 pounds of meat.)

  • In a blendercombine the cooled broth from the cooked pork and the leftover fat pieces. Blend and reserve for using when making tamale masa and filling. Broth can be kept, tightly covered, for 1 week in the refrigerator. The broth also freezes well and will keep for 4 to 6 months.

Filling:

  • Heat the 6 tablespoons broth in a large skillet. Add flour and whisk for at least 4 to 5 minutes.

  • Add red chile sauce and salt, stir, and cook for 10 minutes. The chile sauce will be very thick at this time.

  • Add the 3 pounds shredded pork and stir so all the pork is well coated with the red chile sauce. Simmer for at least 10 minutes. Let mixture cool before filling tamales.

Prepare Hojas (Corn Husks):

  • Soak corn husks in water for an hour before using, rinse well with running water to take off any dust or corn husk fibers. To keep corn husks pliable and easy to work with, keep in water while filling tamales. Place a handful of wet corn husks in a colander to drain before using.

Spread Masa:

  • Place the wide end of the husk on the palm of your hand, narrow end is at the top. Starting at the middle of the husk spread 2 tablespoons of the masa with the back of a spoon in a rectangle or oval shape, using a downward motion towards the wide-bottom edge. Do not spread the masa to the ends; leave about a 2-inch border on the left and right sides of the husk.

Fill Corn Husks:

  • Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of your chosen filling down the center of the masa. Fold both sides to the center; finish off by bringing the pointed end of the husk toward the filled end. Make sure it’s a snug closure so the tamal will not open during steaming. Secure by tying a thin strip of corn husk around the tamal. This will keep the tamal from unwrapping during the steaming process, especially if the husk is too thick and will not stay folded.

Steam Tamales:

  • Use a deep pot or tamale steamer to steam tamales. If using a tamale steamer fill with water up to the fill line. Set the tamale rack over the water. Place tamales upright, with fold against the sides of the other tamales to keep them from unfolding. Cover pot with a tightly fitting lid. Set heat on high and bring to a boil, about 15 minutes. Lower heat and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Keep lid on tightly. To test if done, put one tamal on a plate and take off the corn husk. If it comes off without sticking to the tamal they are done.

Video

Notes

Expert Tips:

  • Soak corn husks. You want to soak corn husks in warm water for at least an hour before you start assembling tamales. I also recommend only grabbing a few soaked corn husks at a time to ensure they stay damp and pliable. This way, they’ll be more pliable and won’t tear when you’re filling and folding them.
  • Float test. Don’t forget to test the masa by taking a small piece (1/2 teaspoon) and dropping it into a cup of cold water. If it floats it is ready; if it sinks, beat for 5 minutes and test it again.
  • Cover masa. Keep the masa dough covered with a damp paper towel while you work to prevent it from drying out.
  • Spread the masa on the smooth side of the corn husk. When assembling, spread the masa on the smoother side of the corn husk. It’s not a deal-breaker, but following this step will make unwrapping the tamales much easier.
  • Place a penny beneath the steamer rack in the pot. As the water level decreases, the penny will rattle, alerting the cook to add more water.
  • Check if tamales are cooked through. Tamales are ready when the husk easily peels away from the masa. This recipe typically takes around 2.5 hours to cook, but the exact time can vary depending on factors such as the pot used, heat level, and the quantity of tamales being made.
  • Allow tamales to rest. After cooking, let tamales sit for 10 minutes on a plate before serving. This helps them firm up, making them easier to unwrap.
  • Make-Ahead. Get a leg up on these red chili pork tamales by making the separate elements ahead of time.
    • Red chile sauce can be made in advance and kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. This easy sauce for tamales can then be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen for up to six months.
    • Pulled pork and broth can be made in advance and kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer; it will last in the fridge for a week, or in the freezer for 4-6 months.
    • Masa for tamales can be made and refrigerated up to three days in advance.

How to Freeze Assembled Tamales:

  • Allow the tamales to cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing. Cool tamales on a sheet pan – it should take about 45 minutes. Once cool, you can pop the tamales in a zip-top bag or airtight container. Label and date them, then pop them in the freezer for 3-4 months. For the freshest tasting tamales, I recommend packing them in quite tightly or wrapping them in aluminum foil and then placing them in a freezer-safe bag.
  • Reheat. Simply re-steam tamales or microwave thawed tamales wrapped in a damp paper towel until warmed through.
  • Tamales can be frozen before cooking. Remember to label your packaging as “uncooked” so you’ll know they still need to be steamed.

For more tamal-making help, check out my post all about Mexican tamales!

Calories: 229kcal, Carbohydrates: 37g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 22mg, Sodium: 2006mg, Potassium: 269mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 898IU, Vitamin C: 11mg, Calcium: 99mg, Iron: 3mg

Author: Yvette Marquez

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: Mexican

Originally published: January 2014.This recipe is also published inthe Muy Bueno cookbook.

Authentic Mexican Pork Tamales Rojos Recipe (2024)

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