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Smoked Red Chili & Pork Tamales

Tamales copy

I’ll admit, I’ve never attempted to make tamales.  I’m more of a fast and easy recipe girl, although I could be persuaded to spend a bit more time in the kitchen for these amazing looking tamales!  Amber Share, a classically trained chef and certified wine professional – shared this recipe with us.  Check out her websites Amber Share Essential Cooking and Eat Like Athena for more of her amazing recipes!

Smoked Red Chili & Pork Tamales

This is a traditional Mexican recipe, rustic and basic. The flavors are deep, rich, and smokey.  It does require a fair amount of hand work but it is not difficult.  It’s a great way to spend a day with friends or family in the kitchen. My extended family have been making tamales together for their entire lives.  – Amber


  • 2 Pounds Pork Shoulder, cut into 3” cubes plus bones if available
  • 4 Ounces Whole Dried Chilis,
  • Pasilla, Guajillo, New Mexico or Ancho
  • 1 White Onion, peeled and quartered
  • 6 Cloves Garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper, preferably freshly ground
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 5 Tomatoes, roughly chopped, or 1 28 Ounce Can Diced
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Hot water
  • 40 Dried Corn HusksPeppers copy

Briefly toast the peppers in a braising pan (large enough to hold all ingredients) on the stovetop over medium heat until they start to smoke and their flavor is released turning to prevent burning.  If your peppers start out dark and somewhat dry (as my Pasillas did) they will require less time in the pan.  Turn the fan on to prevent your kitchen from filling up with smoke. Remove from pan and cool.

Turn the heat up to medium-high.  Add 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil to the pan.  Add the meat (and bones if available), brown on all sides.  Set pan aside. (Don’t worry if you don’t have any bones. I only add them if I have them. The marrow can add flavor but it will be delicious without as well.)

Wearing gloves, tear tops off chilis and remove seeds.  Tear into 2-3 inch pieces.

Put the pan back on the stove over medium-high.  Add all ingredients.  Stir. Add water until it reaches half way up the meat.  Turn to medium-low and simmer until very tender – about 2 hours.  Remove meat to a cutting board to cool.  Discard bones.
Remove pan from heat and set aside.  Shred the meat when it is cool enough to handle.

Soak the corn husks, submerged in hot water, in a large pot for 30 minutes.


(Follow the directions on your bag of masa.  I use Maseca.  Below are their

  • 4 Cups Instant Corn Masa
  • 4 Cups Lukewarm Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 1/3 Cups Vegetable Shortening

Combine masa, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Work broth in with your fingers to make a soft, moist dough.  In a small bowl beat shortening until fluffy.  Add masa and beat until dough has a spongy texture.


Blend the liquid and vegetables that the meat cooked in until very smooth.  In a saucepan reduce until slightly thickened.  Add salt to taste.  Start with 1 teaspoon and increase in 1/2 teaspoon increments.  I added 3 teaspoons to mine but yours may vary depending on how much water you added.

Assembly and Cooking

Remove the soaking husks from the water.
In a bowl add the meat and about 1 cup sauce.  Mix well.
Take some of the masa in your hand and smear it on a husk.  Place a small amount of filling down the center of the masa (see picture).  Lift the bottom of the husk up rolling the masa to cover the filling and meet the other side.  Then bring the top of the husk down.  You will have a cylinder.  Fold the sides in and flip it over to keep it in place.  Some people tie the packages with strings of husk.  I don’t bother.  As long as it is resting on it’s own weight upside down it will stay together.
(It’s hard at first but after a couple you will get the hang of it.  It is like
making sushi or, if you can imagine, like rolling a cigar.)

Start the water, in which they will steam, boiling.  I have a large pot (from
Williams-Sonoma) with two steamers, one low and one high that I use.  You could also use two pots with vegetable steamers inside.  Add a couple inches of water to the pot but not enough that the tamales will get wet.

Place tamales in the steamer.  It is okay to double layer them as long as they are arranged so that steam will move all around them.  Cover and steam for 40 minutes or until the masa pulls away from the husk easily.

TamalesSteaming copy

Serve the tamales by opening the husks and spooning the sauce over them while piping hot.

Tamales copy

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Sunday 27th of November 2011

OK, I truly worry about all the work to put into tamales. Is there a way to truly simplify the process? I found a great recipe for a tamale pie... basically, it had all the essential layers and whatnot for tamale, but without the steaming and messy process. I dunno! HELP!


Thursday 15th of October 2009

These look terrific. I've occasionally had fresh tamales if guests were coming from downtown Denver; nothing less will do once you've had them made fresh. The smoked red chile sounds fabulous; think we'll have a go for football this weekend. Thanks!

Natasha - 5 Star Foo

Friday 14th of August 2009

These tamales look fabulous! I never thought to make tamales at home but you've inspired me!


Friday 14th of August 2009

Looks fab!! I remember a former co-worker's mom would make the office some tamales. It was so delicious. It's been a while since I've had one. I haven't tried making them myself because of the process, but I've just recently tried drying my own corn husks, so tamales may not be that far off on the current list of dishes to make.


Thursday 13th of August 2009

Those look fabulous!