How to Make Tamales: Tamales Rojos de Puerco (Pork tamales in red sauce)

You want to learn how to make tamales. I’m here to show you exactly how it’s done!

If you’re going to take time to learn, this is a great, classic tamale recipe to make!

In this post, I’ll teach you how I make delicious tamales rojos de puerco (pork tamale in red sauce). This is the first part in a 2-part video/recipe series. The second part will cover how I make tamales de rajas con queso (tamales filled with strips of poblano chiles and cheese).

In the video, I’m making a batch of two dozen tamales. I did end up with a good bit of sauce-covered pork leftover, so if you follow this recipe, keep that in mind, you can probably use less of everything in making the sauce. I said I was going to be using about 2 lbs of pork, but I think I ultimately ended up boiling about 3 to 3 1/2 lbs.

About some of the ingredients

Making tamales does call for ingredients that are unfamiliar to many who did not grow up in Mexico or other parts of Latin America. I’ll detail a few of them here:

  • Maseca – This is a brand of masa harina, which is a type of corn flour. It looks similar to corn meal, but it’s very different because it is treated in lime water before it is dried and ground into a meal. Maseca (or any masa harina brand) is used to make a variety of foods like tamales, corn tortillas, gorditas, and pupusas.
  • Chiles guajillos – Guajillo chiles are the dried form of the marisol chile. They are rated medium heat.
  • Chiles anchos – Ancho chiles are the dried form of the poblano chile. They aren’t very spicy.


Pork filling

  • 2 lbs pork shoulder cut up
  • 1 tbsp garlic minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt generous amount

Red chile sauce

  • 6 ancho chiles
  • 6 guajillo chiles
  • 1 tbsp garlic minced
  • ½ white onion small
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • salt to taste


  • 2 ½ cups lard
  • 6 cups Maseca
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 5 cups pork broth


Prepare pork

  • Boil pork with garlic, bay leaf, and salt until it is tender and falling apart

Prepare red sauce

  • Clean, seed, and de-vein dried chiles
  • Boil chiles for about 20 minutes
  • Blend together chiles, garlic, onion, oil, and salt, and if necessary a couple of tablespoons of the reserved liquid from where you boiled the chiles until you have a smooth sauce.

Prepare filling

  • Remove pork from broth, but reserve the broth
  • In a pot, shred pork and combine with red sauce.
  • Add one cup of pork broth
  • Stir well and let simmer on low heat until flavors come together well. Taste and add salt if needed.

Prepare corn husks

  • Bring large pot of water to a boil and turn off, then place your husks in the pot to soak in the water.
  • You’ll need to rinse the husks. You can rinse the husks before or after soaking. I prefer to rinse husks after soaking in hot water to bring down the temperature and make them easier to handle. Plus, rinsing after soaking loosens up some of the debris on the corn husks from where they have been sitting in their packaging.

Prepare steamer pot

  • Fill bottom of steamer pot with water so that it comes up to just below where the steamer tray sits.
  • Put a coin in the bottom of the pot so you can hear it jiggle around in the bottom of the pot if the water gets too low.
  • Add steamer tray and set aside to be filled with tamales

Prepare masa

  • Strain pork broth into separate pot or bowl so it is free of any bits of pork for when you add it to the masa mixture
  • Beat lard with mixer until it is light and fluffy
  • Add masa and baking powder, start mixing slowly
  • Begin to add pork broth one cup at a time, while mixing slowly
  • Once all of the broth is added, continue to beat masa mixture until it is all well-incorporated and fluffy

Prepare tamales for steaming

  • Spread masa on clean, soaked corn husk. If the masa seems difficult at all to spread, you can either add a little bit of water or broth to the masa, but you can also just dip your spoon in water so it will be easier to spread the masa on the husk.
  • Add filling to masa
  • Roll up tamal, twist bottom of husk, and place in steamer
  • Steam tamales for an hour or more, until the husk will easily come away from the masa

Enjoy your tamales!


Reheating tips

  • To reheat just one or two tamales, place them in a ziplock bag and sprinkle in a few drops of water. Microwave unsealed bag for 30 seconds to 1 minute. (You’ll need to determine time based on the power of your microwave.)
  • To reheat several, place tamales in steamer pot and reheat for about 15 to 20 minutes, or if frozen, add another 10 to 15 minutes.

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Here are some other recipes you may like.
How to Make Tamales - Pork Tamales with Red Sauce (Tamales rojos de puerco)

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