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Homemade Pork Tamales are easier to make than you would think and are delicious when served with green, red, or mole sauce. Invite your friends over for a tamale-making party and make a whole batch!
When I moved to Texas, I discovered that tamales are a holiday tradition here.
In November and December, it is hard to not come across someone selling the savory treats at a farmer’s market, a portable cart, or just out the back of a truck.
You can find tamales in almost any flavor you can imagine, making them great for meat-eaters or vegetarians alike. My friend Lisa even has a recipe for chocolate tamales!
In Mexican families, tamales are often made only once a year, as the process is time consuming. And what better time than at Christmas, when your entire family is around you!
When I first moved to Texas my friend and her sister, who grew up in Corpus Christi, taught me their family’s method of making tamales. Since then, every other year or so I enjoy inviting my friends over to make a whole batch of tamales, just in time for the holidays.
My family enjoys these pork tamales, often alongside bean tamales and black beans, with a variety of salsas and roasted garlic guacamole, capirotada for dessert, and a chimayo cocktail for a full Mexican-inspired Christmas Eve menu.
pork tamale filling
The process of making tamales is admittedly a little time consuming, but thankfully the pork tamale filling is pretty easy to make.
Simply grab a pork roast and rub it all over with salt, pepper, and cumin.
Many recipes include additional spices for the pork filling, but since I like to serve tamales with a variety of sauces, I think it’s better to keep the flavors of the pork simple.
Drop the pork in your slow cooker, add water to cover the pork about halfway, and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.
You can start the pork in the morning and cook it on high if you are planning to assemble your tamales in the afternoon. Or you can cook it on low overnight if you want to assemble them first thing in the morning.
Once the pork is cooked, it just needs to be shredded. Then it’s ready to be turned into tamales!
how to roll pork tamales
Rolling tamales is where most people get confused. I share a full step-by-step breakdown of the process in my tutorial on how to make tamales, but a quick overview is as follows:
Lay a soaked corn husk so it is mostly flat and spread masa dough on the lower half in a downward motion.
Then, spread some of the shredded pork along one edge of the masa-covered husk. Roll up the tamale and fold the edge over.
Once you get the hang of rolling the tamales, you can make something of an assembly line to make it go faster.
After rolling, they’re ready to be steamed and enjoyed!
what sauce goes on pork tamales?
If I’m going to go to the trouble of making tamales, I want to have multiple sauce options to go with them.
Because the flavor of the pork is pretty simple, the pork tamales will go with just about any sauce you enjoy.
I like to serve them with salsa ranchera, salsa verde, and homemade mole sauce. I set them all out in little bowls so my friends can try any or all of them.
can you freeze pork tamales?
Absolutely! One of the best things about making tamales is that they freeze really well. Make a huge batch and then freeze any leftovers.
Future you will thank current you when you’re enjoying homemade tamales as a snack or easy dinner months from now.
To freeze your pork tamales, place the cooled tamales (still in their husks) in freezer bags, remove excess air, and freeze. If you have a vacuum sealer this is the perfect use for it!
how to reheat pork tamales
When you want to enjoy your frozen tamales, just pull however many you want from the freezer and steam for 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of the tamale.
You can steam right from frozen, but the tamales can also be thawed in the refrigerator overnight so they reheat faster.
- 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups water, or chicken broth
- 30-40 corn husks
For the masa
- 2 cups instant corn flour, such as Maseca
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 2/3 vegetable shortening
- Rub pork all over with seasoning and set it in a slow cooker, fat side up.
- Add water to cover pork about halfway.
- Cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 8 hours.
- Remove pork and shred, discarding large fatty bits.
- While pork is cooling, set corn husks to soak by setting them in large pan and pouring hot water over the top. Set a heavy dish on top to completely submerge.
- To make the masa dough, combine masa, baking powder, salt, and chile powder.
- Add water and mix to make a moist dough.
- In a large bowl, beat the vegetable shortening until light and fluffy.
- Add the masa mixture to the shortening and beat until shortening is fully incorporated and dough has a spongy texture.
- To assemble the tamales, select a corn husk, shake off excess water, and lay flat. Spread on a layer of masa vertically from the middle of the husk to the wide edge.
- Add pork in the middle of the masa, then roll up from one side and fold over the skinny end. Set into a steamer rack, folded end down, and repeat until masa is gone.
- Steam tamales for 60 minutes, or until the masa releases easily from the corn husk when unrolled.