Authentic Homemade Tamales

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These babies are the real deal.   They take some time, but that’s part of what makes them so magical.

Families have gathered for many, many years, often just before the holiday season, and each person would have their own job – working together, laughing, reminiscing, and creating delicious treats for everyone to enjoy whenever anyone wants one during the holiday season.

homemade tamales recipe

How to Make Tamales

Making authentic homemade tamales from scratch is easier than you might think! Watch us show you how to make the best tamales in town!

We provide you with a chicken tamales recipe and a pork tamales recipe.  Good luck deciding which you like best!


Soaking the corn husks for a couple of hours is important to make them nice and pliable for when you are ready to fill them.  I do this by taking a large roasting pan, placing the husks in the pan, and then filling the pan with water.

I then place something heavy (my Dutch oven lid works perfectly) on top of the husks, and then just let rests for at least 2 hours.

Once you are ready to use, pat them off with a kitchen towel, and you’re good to go!

Authentic Tamales recipe

The pork filling is so incredible, the peppers give them just a little heat, but not too much.

And there is something about the chicken filling that is just so satisfying.  Let the chicken filling simmer until it has thickened somewhat.

Both fillings are amazing in these homemade tamales. Sometimes this may take a little longer than expected, but just be patient, it’s all so very worth it!

Homemade tamales being wrapped


When making the dough, I like to use my hands.

Keep adding stock until you’ve got the consistency of cake batter. It shouldn’t be runny.

You can see here, we’re real close, just a little more chicken stock, and then we’ll be set.

Homemade tamales

Once you are ready to spread the masa dough onto the husk, you won’t need too much.  Just a thin layer works perfectly.  This is because the dough will expand in size as it is being steamed.

And did I mention how delicious using rendered pork lard is in the dough? I didn’t?

Well, it really, really is.  And…it’s better for you than shortening. Seriously!

Authentic Tamales recipe

Fold once side in towards the middle, and then fold in the other side.

It takes just a little bit of practice, you’ll get the hang of it very quickly.

It’s almost steam time, which means we’re getting close to HOMEMADE TAMALES TIME!

Authentic Tamales recipe

What is a Tamale?

The history of this culinary masterpiece is almost as exciting as the dish itself.  Sometimes called a Mexican Tamale, or a Hot Tamale, it all adds up to incredible taste and texture. Read all about its amazing history from

A trip to a Mexican market may be required to make these truly authentic, but trust us, it’s worth it.

You will not be disappointed. The only problem is, once you start devouring these gems, it’s hard to stop.

They are really amazing with a little Classic Tex-Mex Queso on the side!

Other Authentic Mexican Dishes to Try:

In the meantime, have fun with this authentic tamales recipe!

homemade tamales recipe

Ready to make the best Mexican treat this side of the Rio Grande? Go for it!

And when you make them, take a picture, post to Instagram, and tag @HowToFeedaLoon and #HowToFeedaLoon!

Homemade tamales with pork filling on a board in wrappers

Authentic Homemade Tamales

Authentic Homemade Tamales are something magical. This is a recipe for both chicken and pork tamales. They are the real deal. About as good as you'll find. So heart-warming and steeped in history and cherished by families generation after generation.  We absolutely love them.  They freeze very well, too. 
4.91 from 10 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Mexican
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chicken tamales, homemade tamales, pork tamales
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 6 hours
Servings: 12 people
Calories: 229kcal


  • Steamer



  • 1 lb tomatillos (10 to 12), husked, stemmed and rinsed
  • 3 jalapenos fresh, stemmed
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled and roughly chopped
  • tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • Salt about 2 teaspoons
  • 4 cups chicken, coarsely chopped cooked, roughly chopped, a roasted chicken from the supermarket works well
  • cup cilantro fresh, cilantro


  • 16 medium guajillo and/or ancho chiles dried, stemmed, seeded and torn into rough pieces
  • 4 tomatillos
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ tsp black pepper freshly ground
  • ¼ tsp cumin ground
  • lbs pork boneless, shoulder or butt works well, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt


  • cups pork lard melted, or shortening
  • 1 tsp salt
  • tsp baking powder
  • 7 cups of masa harina mixed with 4 1/2 cups hot water
  • cups chicken stock
  • 1 16 oz package dried corn husks



  • Place the husks in a large bowl, or even your kitchen sink with the stopper in. Fill with warm water and weight the husks down with heavy pot(s).
  • Let soak for at least 2 hours.


  • Place the tomatillos and jalapenos in a medium sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then lower to a smooth simmer.
  • Simmer the veggies for 20 minutes.
  • Add the cooked veggies, plus the garlic in your blender, and process to a smooth puree.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet, or Dutch over medium high heat.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the puree all at once and stir until thicker, and a little darker, about 10 minutes.
  • Add 2 cups of the stock and simmer over medium heat until thick enough to coat a spoon, about another 15 minutes.
  • Season generously with salt, about 2 teaspoons.
  • Stir in the chicken and cilantro, remove heat.


  • Add the peppers and the tomatillos to a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a smooth simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Working in batches, if necessary, add the peppers, tomatillos, garlic, black pepper, and cumin into a blender and puree.
  • Strain the mixture through a medium-mesh strainer into a medium saucepan.
  • Add the meat, 3 cups of water, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • Simmer, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the pork is fork-tender and the liquid is reduced to the consistency of a thick sauce, about an hour and a half.
  • Use a fork to break the pork into small pieces.
  • Taste and season with additional salt, if necessary (taste first).
  • Let cool.


  • Get a large pan (I like to use a roasting pan), and add the wet masa (make sure you've already added the hot water to the masa) salt, and baking powder, and mix with your hands.
  • Pour in the melted lard, and continue to incorporate with your hands.
  • Now, add in the broth, one cup at a time.
  • Keep mixing with your hands. The consistency should be like a cake batter...but not runny. It should hold its shape in a spoon.
  • Add more stock if necessary.


  • Take a corn husk and rip into string size pieces (you'll use these later to tie up the pork tamales...this will help you know which are pork and which are chicken)
  • Now, take a corn husk, and pat it off with a dishtowel.
  • Flatten the husk, and with a spoon, scoop out about 1/4 cup of the batter.
  • In the upper, wider portion of the husk, spread the batter to the size of about a postcard. With the short side of the rectangle at the top of the husk, and the body of the rectangle running down the length of the husk. Leave about an inch of space on each long side of the husk (watch the video for reference). Don't worry about making the batter will expand as it steams.
  • Now, scoop out about two tablespoons of the chicken mixture and spread it down the middle of the batter.
  • Fold over the right third of the husk, then fold in the left side.
  • Fold up the bottom.
  • Repeat, alternating between chicken and pork filling.
  • When making the pork tamale, tie with a string.
  • Place uncooked tamales on a large baking sheet.


  • Place unused corn husks on each layer of your steamer. Place corn husks over the top of the tamales.
  • Add water to the steamer and cover.
  • Heat and steam over constant medium heat for about 1 and 1/4 hours.
  • Watch carefully to make sure that all the water doesn't boil away, add more water as necessary.
  • Tamales are done when the husks peel away from the masa easily.
  • The tamales will need to stand for at least half an hour for the dough to firm up.
  • For the best tamales, let them cool completely, then steam again to warm (you can easily heat in a microwave at this point).



Pork lard is best (and better for you), but shortening can be used in a pinch.
The dried peppers, masa harina, dried corn husks, and pork lard can all be found in many well-stocked supermarkets, at Mexican food markets, or online.
Be sure to allow the tamales to rest for at least an hour.  They need this time to fully 'set.'


Calories: 229kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 399mg | Potassium: 505mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 154IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Take a Picture!Mention @HowToFeedALoon or tag #HowToFeedALoon!


  • Hi guys, these look so good! Going to try. How many tamales does this make? I know you say feeds 12 but…wondering how many tamales if you do both the chicken and the pork. Wanna have a tamale party! And 12 people?…. one each?

    • Hi Nancy!! This recipe makes a lot of tamales. Of course it will vary, depending how much filling you put in each tamale, but usually when I make a full batch, I get in the range of 50 tamales. They are fantastic to make ahead of time. They really re-heat beautifully in the microwave. Let us know if you have any other questions!! And let us know how they turn out! It’s one our most favorite recipes on the blog!! Good luck and have fun! Nothing much better than a tamale party!! Best, Kris & Wesley

    • Hi Mago!!! We can’t wait for you to try them either!!!! Please do let us know once you make them and what you think!! We love ’em so much!! Best, Kris & Wesley

      • I have made tamales most of my life have never heard of using baking powder what does it do to the masa?

      • Hi Mary, the baking powder helps the dough to expand during the steaming process. It’s not 100% necessary if using self rising masa harina, which most brands include. We add it to help in the process. We’re sure yours are absolutely perfect as they are!

  • My husband smoked a Boston butt and I wanted to use the leftover meat and make tamales. I watched your video and have read your directions several times. Do you have a red sauce that would pair well with the meat I already made? Since it was smoked, it doesn’t have onion or garlic etc..

    What are your suggestions?

      • I used a different red sauce which I did not care for. I should try the one you mentioned another day. I did make some chicken tamales too with a salsa verde. They were my favorite. Thank you for how detailed your recipes are and the videos. They were helpful too. I will try tamales again in the future.

      • Hi Verena! Well, one day you should give our ancho chili sauce a try, we like it a lot and think you might, too. That’s so great to hear about the chicken tamales. We are thrilled to hear you had success! Let us know if you ever have any other questions and please stay in touch!

  • You guys are awesome!! So happy I came across your webpage this look absolutely delish!!!
    I ended up changing my dinner menu and grocery list to give ya’ll a try !! Thank you

    • Hi Mindy!! You have no idea how much that means to us!! We truly hope you have success with our recipes and if you have any questions or anything at all…just let us know!! And please let us know how everything turns out! All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    Your picture shows tamales being steamed on their sides. I always thought you had to stand them up. I never made them because I don’t have a pan tall enough to stand them up. Does it work well to steam them on their sides?

    • Hi Jane!! So sorry for the delayed response. You can lay them on their side and they’ll steam beautifully. Just try avoiding stacking them on top of each other. I use my double-stack bamboo steamer, and it works perfectly!!

      • Wife makes about 70 dozen per week by hand. It’s better to use fresh ground masa instead of Maseca – the flavor is so much better. Also, if you actually cook the masa, adding the broth from the pork into it while staring constantly, you get a moister, more flavorful tamale. By the way, she also makes a bunch of sweet ones, like pineapple, strawberry, chocolate, etc., plus the veggie ones she calls “Rajas”. The sweet ones take rice flour and use Maseca, plus the sugar in the masa, pureed fruit etc. She will generally use jam for the filling, i.e., strawberry preserves for strawberry, etc.

  • I can’t wait to make these next week. Im also so happy I stumbled on this site, I watched the video and you two are amazing together 🙂 I throughly enjoyed watching the entire video

    • Hi Cassandra! Thank you so much!!! We are so excited that you found us and we found you!! You are going to LOVE these tamales!! So good!!! And thanks so much for the comment. We appreciate it so very much. Please stay in touch! All the best, Kris & Wesley

    • Hi Jo! They’re not real spicy, but if you’re sensitive to spice, the best way is to cut back on the jalapeños. And definitely make sure you don’t get any seeds and try to remove the interior ribs. These are really delicious, though, and hope you give them a try! Let us know if you do and what you think! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • ** found in Mexican markets.- freshly ground corn masa already seasoned and prepared. The only way to go if you have in your area. Will taste authentic

    • Hi Angie! Yes, you can use purchased wet masa, that will work great. I do not believe you would need to add the hot water, but you might double check with the folks you buy it from…I bet they’ll know! Let us know how it turns out!

  • 5 stars
    I made this recipe for my husband and my stepson because they are from Mexico, i wanted to know how to make it. They are definitely delicious with pork, chicken was good just slightly dry. I also had made some with mole and chicken it was amazing.

    • That is amazing Nathalie! What a wonderful thing to hear that you impressed your husband and stepson! Sounds great. Thanks so much for letting us know how they turned out, and please stay in touch! Best, Kris & Wesley

  • I love tamales & my sister in law made some 1 year for Christmas & needless to say, I was in heaven! She used beef roast to make them & the sauce I can’t remember the name but they were amazing! Thank you for sharing & I will definitely be making these soon!

    • Hi Bobbie!

      I tell you, I don’t think I ever met a tamale I didn’t like! Roast beef sounds pretty darn good! We just love making these. The recipe makes quite a few, so they are great for sharing with loved ones, too. They always get rave reviews! Let us know how they turn out! All the best, Kris & Wesley.

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