10 Pork Tamales! (Stove & Pressure Cooker)

Pork TamalesThese are the real deal. My friend from Comemos, Let's Eat, spent a few years living in Mexico and knows Mexican cooking.

The first time she asked me to try tamales, I was hesitant.
I have memories of my mom taking some tubular things out of a can and peeling wax paper off of them. I don't think I ever ate those.

I tell you, after one bite of her homemade tamales, I was in love. These were moist and tender and I gobbled them all up! I just HAD to have her recipe. She was more than happy to share her recipe, and advised me to watch and help her make the tamales first. I was glad I did! We made a boatload of tamales and froze them up. They freeze really well. You can easily take out two (or more) out of the freezer bag, cover with plastic wrap and zap them in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

As with some cooking, it is all about technique. I am happy to share with you her process of making tamales, which I hope inspires you to make some!

The first thing I did was make some Enchilada Sauce.

Cindi left a great comment about this sauce and how her family enjoyed it. I promised her that another recipe to use this sauce would be posted soon, so here it is Cindi!

You can make your own shredded pork by cooking 3 pounds of pork in a slow cooker for 4 hours on low/ 8 hours on high with your choice of beef broth, Coke, or water with onions, salt, pepper and garlic. A dash of liquid smoke won't hurt!

-or- You can use your pressure cooker to make the  pulled pork. You can also use the pressure cooker to cook your tamales! Instructions are listed below in the recipe.

You can use beef or chicken in this recipe if you'd like.

I had some leftover smoked pork, (which adds a whole 'nother dimension to this tamale!) and poured just enough enchilada sauce to the pork, coating every piece of meat without making it runny.

If your sauce is too runny, it will soak through the masa.

Set it aside.

You will need some corn husks for this recipe. I have found this particular brand at my local Harmon's to yield a wide corn husk that is suitable for making tamales.

If your husks are too narrow, you can always lay two husks side by side to your desired width. As you make your tamales, you will understand what I mean by this.

Take the husks out and put them in your sink with some hot water.

They will float. You want them to be submerged.

You will need some kind of weight to hold the husks under the water.

I found an old 9x13 pan that fits in my sink and a heavy glass measuring cup that works for me.

For the masa, or dough, I use Maseca corn masa.

This recipe calls for 2 cups masa, which I put in my mixing bowl.

Add 1 teaspoon baking powder

and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Use a mixer with a whisk. It fluffs up the masa beautifully.

Turn on the mixer and blend thoroughly.

I use 2 teaspoons of McCormicks chicken base and water to make 2 cups of chicken broth. You can use 2 cups of canned or fresh chicken broth.

I really like using this base. I makes a fresh tasting chicken broth.

Pour the broth in gradually while the mixer is blending

until it forms a soft dough.

Add 1/3 c. shortening

A reader informed me that the shortening is beaten first and then the masa mixture (Maseca, baking powder, salt and broth) is added to it. This is the correct way of doing it, although I didn't have a problem. My printable recipes have been corrected.

Thank you. I love it when readers give me feedback!

and mix until light and fluffy.

Next, prepare your tamale assembly line.
(1) drained husks
(2) Masa
(3) Pork with enchilada sauce
(4) clean surface or mat to prepare tamales on
(5) spoon for meat
(6) 4" wide plastic putty knife*
(7) tray to place finished tamales

Corn husks have a "smooth" side and a "ridged" side.

Open the husk with the smooth side facing you. If you put your masa on the ridged side, it will stick.

You want to have the narrow part of the husk at the top and the widest part at the bottom.

Place a small mound of masa on your prep surface.

Take your plastic putty knife and grab some masa.

Yep, you don't need a fancy spreader. Get this putty knife at your local hardware store. It's really cheap.

About this much. It's probably about 1/4 cup.

Starting at the top of the husk, press down, holding the putty knife at an angle and pull the knife towards you.

Keep the pressure even, making an even layer of masa on the husk.

This is what you want to see when you are finished.

It's o.k. if the masa tapers off at the end.

Place about 2 teaspoons of the filling down the middle of the spread masa.

Bring up the sides of the husk and look for the edges of the masa.

Match the edges. If you can't match the edges, you have too much filling. Take some filling out and try again.

After matching the edges of the masa,

pinch the seam closed.

Then take the raw edge (the husk that doesn't have the filling in it)

and fold it over the top of the tamale, patting it down.

Then take the narrow end of the tamale

and fold it over towards you.

This puts all the 'seams' of the tamale on one side.

Place folded side down onto a sheet to keep tamales from unraveling.

Prepare a steamer basket with an inch of boiling water at the bottom.

You don't want the water level to touch the tamales.

Place the tamales inside the steamer basket, folded side toward the outside of the basket and open end up. This keeps the tamales from unfolding.

Usually, I make enough tamales to loosely fill the entire basket.

Today, I have it only about 1/3 full, which leaves a space in the middle.

Not to worry!

I put a piece of crumpled foil in the cent to keep my tamales upright.

Steam the tamales for one hour or until the masa pulls away from the husk.

I check it with a fork because these are hot!

I check another one, just to make sure.

Yep, it looks done!

Remove the tamales that you want to eat right away from their husks and dig in...

I like these just as they are, although my husband likes chili or extra hot sauce on them.

After eating these, I guarantee you will never view tamales the same way again.

They're that good.

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2 c. Maseca corn masa
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

2 c. chicken broth
1/3 c. shortening

Shredded pork, beef or chicken
Enchilada Sauce

In separate mixing bowl, combine Maseca, baking powder, and salt in mixing bowl.  Mix briefly.
Add chicken broth slowly while mixing until thoroughly incorporated.
In an electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat shortening until light and fluffy.
Add masa mixture to shortening and mix until light and thoroughly incorporated.

Spread masa dough onto smooth side of damp corn husks.  Fold.  Put open end up into steamer.
Steam for one hour or until masa pulls from husk.
Eat and enjoy.

Cool and freeze in freezer safe bags.  Remove number of desired tamales onto microwave safe plate.
Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 2 minutes.

Put trivet or steamer basket inside pressure cooker.
Put 2 cups of water in the pressure cooker.
Place tamales, folded side down, open end up, inside the pressure cooker.
Tamales should not be packed tight, but enough to stand up on their own.
Close the pressure cooker, set to sealing, and use HIGH pressure for 15-18 minutes.
When done cooking, let the pressure cooker naturally release for 10 min.
After 10 minutes, open the pressure valve, or a quick release.



  1. Just curious - why do you put the shortening into the masa last? My recipe (gleaned from a New Mexican friend) is virtually identical except that we cream the shortening first. (And oh, yeah, we simmer the meat with dry spices, water, and some masa harina, but your sauce recipe sounds tasty, too; I may try it.)

  2. I felt the same way about tamales for years, then I had some good ones at Cafe Rio, but yours look even better!

  3. I'm 50% Mexican and I live in an area that has is very hispanic. My point is, I have never made tamales! Seeing that I finally conquered my fear/ignorance of making my own jam, I am ready to move onto making my first tamales. Your tutorial, as always, is so helpful. I know this takes a lot of time to create, but I really do appreciate your classes. I'm bookmarking these and will definitely let you know how they turn out.


  4. Salome, I checked my recipe and YOU are right! Put the masa, baking powder, salt and chicken broth into a separate bowl; then cream the shortening until light and fluffy, then add the masa mixture. Thank you so much for catching my error!!!

    Good luck, Barbara and Deb! I'll hurry and make the corrections....

  5. Frieda,
    I actually had a really blog savvy friend do my buttons for me. I want to know how you do printable recipes. There are scrapbook sites where you can download (for free) a whole packet of backgrounds and buttons. I will try and find out what the name is.

  6. Hi Frieda!
    I'll have to tell you that my first experience eating tamales was at a friends house when I was about 10 years old. They were canned! (Ack!!) I never got over it! I've never wanted to try another one since (not even in restaurants). BUT after viewing your wonderful instructions...I may have to give it a go. I must admit that they do look very tasty...and they have your delicious ENCHILADA SAUCE in them! There are a lot of steps, but it looks doable. So I think I will be brave and try them soon, and maybe I can get over those gross tamales from my childhood. Canned Tamales....that's just wrong!!

  7. Cindi, I agree with the canned version...it IS so wrong! I've even had the restaurant versions and I ask myself, "Where's the pork?" since there is so much masa on it! It may look like a lot of steps, but it does go very quickly and it is SO worth it! Many Mexican families get together and put the tamales together in an assembly line, so grab a kid or girlfriend and give it a go!

  8. My husband loves fresh tamales (not the canned kind!) and would be so happy if I made these.

  9. Valerie, you should make these! Your husband will be thrilled and happy to help :)

  10. Hi Frieda . . . I've been on the hunt for instructions on how to make tamales and found your post and have to thank you!! The photos and instructions are so so so helpful. I'm no longer lost. You rock!!


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