Recipe courtesy of Pauline Pimienta

Pork Red-Chile Tamales

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 5 hr 40 min
  • Active: 1 hr 30 min
  • Yield: 26 tamales
We can think of plenty of reasons to gather with family this time of year, but the best one might be simply having the extra sets of hands for tamale-making. Tamales have long been associated with the holidays — they’re often part of the Mexican celebration of Las Posadas, commemorating Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter before Jesus’s birth — but the tradition of eating them has become more than just a religious practice. Tamales are a way to reconnect with family and Latinx heritage, and this starts with the big job of making them. Tamales can be labor intensive, so why not get the whole family involved and host a tamalada? If enough people are making and filling the masa and wrapping the bundles, you can crank out dozens of tamales at a time. Try a few batches this year using this recipe from Pauline Pimienta, co-owner of The Tamale Store in Phoenix. Her family’s red-chile tamales are so beloved, customers start placing their holiday orders in August! — Nora Horvath, for Food Network Magazine.


For the Pork:

For the Ancho Chile Salsa:

For the Masa:


  1. Make the pork: Combine the pork with the garlic, 1 tablespoon salt and 3 quarts cold water in a large pot or dutch oven. Bring to a boil, partially cover, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until the pork is tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning the pork halfway through and adding more water as needed to keep the pork submerged. Remove the pork to a plate, reserving the broth. Let the pork cool slightly, then shred.
  2. Make the salsa: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the chiles and simmer until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving the saucepan; transfer the softened chiles to a blender along with the granulated garlic, oregano, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add 1 1/2 cups of the pork broth and puree until smooth. 
  3. Wipe out the reserved saucepan. Heat the canola oil in the pan over medium heat. Add all but 3/4 cup salsa to the pan and cook, stirring, until it thickens and darkens, about 5 minutes. Stir in the shredded pork and 1 cup pork broth. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 45 minutes. Season with salt. 
  4. Make the masa: Mix the masa harina, baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Using clean hands, gradually mix in 3 1/2 cups warm pork broth, the reserved 3/4 cup salsa and the melted lard until smooth and fully combined; the mixture should be fluffy, almost like frosting. Season with salt.
  5. Assemble the tamales: Place a softened corn husk on a work surface. Spread 1/4 cup masa across the wider end of the corn husk. Add 2 tablespoons pork mixture in a line down the center. Fold in the sides of the husk to encase the filling, then fold in the narrower end so the goodness doesn't come out. Repeat with the remaining husks, dough and filling. 
  6. Cook the tamales: Fill a tamale steamer or large pot with a steamer insert with 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stand the tamales up in the steamer basket with the open end up. Steam, covered, until the tamales are softly set, about 1 1/2 hours, checking halfway through and adding more water if needed. Remove the tamales and let cool 10 to 15 minutes to firm up. Serve with salsa, cheese and sour cream.