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!


  • 4 stars
    Made them today and very happy with the results! It was my first time making tamales so I’m glad they turned out delicious. A couple things maybe you can help out with though. My masa mix was thick. Like the consistency of cookie dough, even after adding an extra .5 cup of chicken stock. Any suggestions? Also I think next time I’ll do less chicken stock for the chicken mix. Ended up cooking it an extra fifteen minutes because I couldn’t get it to thicken up. The last thing is how fine the puree should be for the pork mix? My strainer did nothing so I dumped it all in. Would love for you to add it to the video for consistency! The Chilis I used were too mild so I’ll do better shopping next time!

  • 5 stars
    My fiancé and I just made our first batch! We’ve been making food from scratch since we moved out of our RV, and we stumbled across your recipe!! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe with the world!

    • That is so awesome!!! There’s nothing much better than homemade tamales. They take a little practice, but sounds like you and your fiancé handled them like pros!!! Woo hoo!! Thank you so much for sharing and for the wonderful review! Please stay in touch and stay tuned…so much more fun and food on the way!!

    • Hi Dawn! Yay! We are so so happy you and your family loved the tamales! Aren’t they fun to make? Thank you so so much for sharing and for the GREAT review. That means the world to us! Please stay in touch! All the best, Kris & Wesley

  • 5 stars
    These are the best Tamales and also the first ones I’ve ever made. Thank you for this wonderful recipe. In the chicken recipe, it calls for 3 1/2 cups stock but instructions call for 2 cups? Could you please clarify. Thanks

    • Hi Kerrie! We are so so thrilled you had such great success with the tamales! And thanks for the heads up with the chicken stock. It should be 2 cups for the filling, and 1½ cups for the batter. We’ve updated the recipe to reflect this. Thanks again and thanks so much for the GREAT review. That means the world to us!!! Kris & Wesley

  • Thank you so much for this detailed recipe! I am currently making these (through a week-long process) with my high school culinary class!

    I have each group making 1 batch of chicken and 1 batch of pork. Do you happen to know the approximate yield on this recipe?

    • Hi Jyll!!! That is so exciting!! It really depends on how much batter and filling is used per tamale, but if you keep it scant (remember, the batter will expand as the tamales steam), then you should get about 15 to 20 chicken tamales and the same for the pork. Please keep us posted on how they turn out and please give our best to those wonderful young culinary kiddos!! AWESOME!!! Kris & Wesley

  • Hi, my daughter and I just made these and they are delicious! Thanks for the step by step video too! Just curious, can you freeze them? And if yes for how long do they keep? Thanks guys.

    • Hi Dawn! Woo hoo!! So so glad you and your daughter made our tamales and had such great success! That is so awesome! Actually, tamales freeze amazingly well. They will stay perfectly fine for up to 2 months. Just let them thaw, and then heat in the microwave or a steamer. Happy Holidays!! xoxo Kris & Wesley

  • My boys loved them . It’s so easy to make . I also made sweet tamales, for my grandkids. Thank you both so much. Hugs and kisses to you both. God be with you both always.

  • These were delicious. It was my first time making them, so I took the opportunity to make both the chicken and the pork recipe. I also made your Tex-mex queso to serve over top! OMG!

    I cooked mine in my pressure cooker. 1 cup of water, Hi for 27 minutes, then a 10 min. natural release.

    I will be making again! Thank you for your delicious recipe and awesome videos!! Cheers!

    • Hi Crystal! That is so wonderful to hear! We are beyond thrilled to hear that you had such success, and kuddos for making them in your pressure cooker! That is just awesome! Thanks for letting us know!! Stay in touch!! All the best, Kris & Wesley

    • Hi Ryan, you can make the dough up to a day in advance, it will probably harden a little. We recommend heating the dough somewhat to loosen it up and add more stock. Should be the consistency of pancake batter, or a little thicker. Also, fully prepared tamales heat up wonderfully after 1 to 2 weeks in the microwave. Hope this helps and let us know if you have any other questions! All the best, Kris & Wesley

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