Homemade tamales with pork filling on a board in wrappers

Authentic Homemade Tamales

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: 356 kcal
Author: Kris Longwell

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. 

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Ingredients

CHICKEN FILLING

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

PORK FILLING

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

BATTER

  • 2 1/2 cups of pork lard* melted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder
  • 7 cups of masa harina** mixed with 4 1/2 cups hot water
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 16 oz package of dried corn husks**
  • *available at Mexican markets
  • **available at Mexican markets or specialty food markets ie, Whole Foods

Instructions

PREPARE THE HUSKS

  1. 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).
  2. Let soak for at least 2 hours.

PREPEARE THE CHICKEN FILLING

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

PREPARE THE PORK FILLING

  1. Add the peppers and the tomatillos to a medium sauce pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a smooth simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Working in batches, if necessary, add the peppers, tomatillos, garlic, black pepper, cumin into a blender and puree.
  3. Strain the mixture a through a medium-mesh strainer into a medium saucepan.
  4. Add the meat, 3 cups of water, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
  5. 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.
  6. Use a fork to break the pork into small pieces.
  7. Taste and season with additional salt, if necessary (taste first).
  8. Let cool.

PREPARE THE DOUGH/BATTER

  1. 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.
  2. Pour in the melted lard, and continue to incorporate with your hands.
  3. Now, add in the broth, one cup at a time.
  4. Keep mixing with your hands. The consistency should be like a cake batter...but not runny. It should hold it's shape in a spoon.
  5. Add more stock if necessary.

FORMING THE TAMALES

  1. 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)
  2. Now, take a corn husk, and pat if off with a dish towel.
  3. Flatten the husk, and with a spoon, scoop out about 1/4 cup of the batter.
  4. In the upper, wider portion of the husk, spread the batter to the size of about a post card. 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 thick...it will expand as it steams.
  5. Now, scoop out about two tablespoons of the chicken mixture and spread it down the middle of the batter.
  6. Fold over the right third of the husk, then fold in the left side.
  7. Fold up the bottom.
  8. Repeat, alternating between chicken and pork filling.
  9. When making the pork tamale, tie with a string.
  10. Place uncooked tamales on a large baking sheet.

STEAMING THE TAMALES

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

Recipe Video