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Step by Step Tamales Recipe

Step by Step Tamales Recipe

By: Adriana Pallaci


My family will go to markets or find people who sell homemade tamles to get their tamale fix. They don't stop there. When they find a good tamale maker, they order in bulk and distribute tamales to others so that they can get their tamale fix. If they're really good, they store them in the freezer to eat throughout the year. The tamale addiction is real.

Why go through the hassle? Why not just make them on their own? They always said that it's labor intensive and such a process.


After all, when my grandma would make them, it was like an assembly line in that kitchen! Someone working the masa, someone steaming, and who knows what else?! When I was little, I didn't care who was doing what. My only question was: When will the tamales be ready?

Now that I live in an entirely different state from my family, I don't have my tamale dealers (hi, mom and dad!) bringing me foil wrapped frozen tamales. I'm on my own! After years of being afraid of the process and taking this on (virtually) by myself, I decided to just go for it.

I posted our tamale-making-journey on Instagram and received a bunch of DMs with questions and requests for my recipe. I had a general idea of what I was doing but I didn't write down a recipe! So, after all was said and devoured, Vinnie and I wrote down how a lineup of ingredients became tamale-dealer-worthy.

I'm far from an expert, but this is a quick outline of what we did. Also, head over to my Instagram highlights to see some pics and videos from the day we made tamales.


It's a process but it's so worth it!


Pork Tamales


Makes 40


Day 1:


In a Crock-Pot:


5 lbs of pork shoulder

1 onion, quartered

9 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons of cumin

1 tablespoon of pepper

Add water to just the top of the pork


Set on low for 15 hours.


Day 2:


40 corn husks

12 dried New Mexico chiles

3.5 c. lard

6 c. water

2.5 tsp salt

1.5 tablespoons baking powder

10 c. masa harina


*Grab the chiles I used here.


Step 1:

Soak corn husks in hot water for an hour.


Step 2:

Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles. Make sure to wear gloves! And for Pete's sake, don't touch your face. Put the chiles in a pot with 6 cups of water and simmer for about 20 minutes.


Step 3:

In a large bowl, beat lard until fluffy. Add salt and baking powder.


Step 4:

In lard mixture, add the masa harina and with your hands.


Step 5:

Take peppers and water from pot and put them into a blender and blend until smooth. Strain peppers and mix 5 cup of the mixture into the shredded pork.


Step 6:

Mix the rest of the pepper mixture into the masa harina mixture. Add more masa if needed to make it smooth and spreadable.


Making the Tamales:


Step 1:

Spread masa on the wide top of the corn husk to about halfway up.


Step 2:

Put a spoonful of pork along the middle of the masa, fold the tamale like a book, and then wrap the sides around to the back. Flip the bottom of the tamale up to close one end. Do this for every husk.


Step 3:

Place tamales in steamer for about 22 minutes per batch. We were able to fit 20 at a time in our steamer.


*Optional: try different fillings! We made some with cheese and jalapeño. Next time, I want to make chicken tamales too. 🤤