Red Chile Pork Tamales

An authentic red chile pork tamale recipe that also has some built-in shortcuts. Not only will these magical little meat caves attract the whole family like a magnet- they can also be easily assembled with my tamale prep process!
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 9 hours 20 minutes
Total Time 10 hours
Servings 48 tamales
Calories 147kcal


For the meat

  • 1 bone-in pork shoulder take note of the weight
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic smashed
  • 32 ounces chicken broth
  • kosher salt use 1 1/3 teaspoons per pound if using Morton's, or 2 1/8 teaspoon per pound if using Diamond Crystal*

For the red chile sauce

  • 24 dried mixed red chile peppers- California, New Mexico and Guajillo washed, stem removed and seeds removed
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder

For the masa

  • 10 cups masa harina for tamales
  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 3 Tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 3 Tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 3 cups lard room temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons red chile sauce optional

For assembling and cooking tamales

  • 6 to 8 ounces corn husks soaked in very warm water about 30 minutes, silk strings removed
  • water to fill bottom of tamalera


For the meat

  • Pat the pork shoulder dry with paper towels, and as soon as you can prior to cooking, coat with salt (preferably several hours in advance, or overnight).
  • Prepare a crockpot by lining the bottom with sliced onions and smashed cloves of garlic. Pour the chicken broth over the onions and garlic.
  • Add the pork shoulder. Cook on low heat for approximately 8 hours, or high heat for approximately 6 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
  • Remove the meat and let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove and throw away the fat cap and bone. Then, working with your hands, two forks, or meat shredders, shred the meat, setting fattier pieces aside. 

For the red sauce

  • Cover the dry chile peppers in water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until softened. Discard the water once finished cooking.
  • Place the chile peppers into a blender with the chicken broth and garlic powder. Blend until smooth and adjust seasonings and liquid as needed.
  • With a bowl underneath, pour the red chile sauce through a fine mesh strainer, squeezing as much of the liquid out as possible. 
  • Combine the red sauce with the prepared pulled pork. Refrigerate if not using immediately.

For the masa

  • In a very large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly with a hand mixer until well incorporated and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Use a silicone spatula to scrape the side of the bowl as you go. The masa should be moist but not watery. Add a little extra broth or masa harina if needed to adjust the texture.

Assembling and cooking the tamales

  • Pat dry the soaked corn husks and orient them with the wider end pointing towards you, smoothest side up. 
  • With a spoon, spatula or masa spreader, place a few Tablespoons of the masa in the center of the husk. Spread the masa into a thin rectangular layer, leaving some space on the left and right side, and also at the narrow end. Make sure the thickness is fairly consistent. If there is a hole or tear in the husk, feel free to double up and use another husk behind the first.
  • Once the masa is evenly spread, place about one Tablespoon of the meat and red sauce length was in the center of the masa rectangle. Avoid the very top and bottom of the masa, as the meat and sauce can spill out.
  • Gently fold the right side of the husk over the meat, and bring the left side up and over to make a rounded tamale. Take the long narrow end of the husk and fold it under the tamale to tuck it in. You can also take kitchen twine or small thin ribbons of soaked husk and tie them around the tamale to help secure the fold in place.
  • In a tamalera or tall stockpot fitted with a steamer basket on the bottom, fill with water until it barely reaches the steamer basket. Place the tamales open side up in rows inside the pot. When you can't fit any more in the pot, cover the top of the pot tightly with plastic wrap and/or aluminum foil and place the lid on.
  • Turn the heat to high to bring the water up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for one hour. After an hour of steaming, you can open a tamale to check for doneness. The masa should be moist but firm and cooked through.


*Chef and author Samin Nosrat drops expert salting knowledge in her book Salt Fat Acid Heat. I live and die by her salt by weight chart!


Serving: 0g | Calories: 147kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 23mg | Sodium: 771mg | Potassium: 321mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0g | Vitamin A: 280IU | Vitamin C: 7.2mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 2.5mg