5.0 from 3 votes

Duck Tamales Recipe

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Duck tamales is such an underrated recipe that will surprise your taste buds when you take that first bite! The recipe Im sharing today shows you how to easily achieve this legendary dish. Yes, it is indeed a legendary dish. Today, I’m sharing a legendary recipe inspired by the Purepecha people of Tzintzuntzan, Michoacan.These tamales are a flavorful and cultural powerhouse that has transcended the test of time.

I’m about to show you how to make traditional tamales with ease. Trust me, these are the best duck tamales you’ll ever taste. Enjoy the legendary “tamales de pato!”.

Beverages to go with Tamales

Enjoying a Duck tamales recipe is already satisfying, but imagine adding a delicious Atole de Nuez to go with such delicate recipe. It will be an explosion of traditional flavors which is typical in Mexican cuisine. Other options to consider are Champurrado and a nice cup of coffee.

Duck tamales

While this recipe is not the regular, heard of tamales recipe, I can assure you it brings out a different level of flavors.

Video Tutorial

Below is my easy to follow video tutorial on how to make this Delicious Duck Tamales recipe. Also, the video will give you an additional in-depth knowledge and the visuals of the step-by-step process to enhance your understanding. You will also find the video down in the recipe card.

Youtube VIDEO tutorial on how to make duck tamales.

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Make tamales in two days- TIPS

Making tamales is considered a labor of love. But, the work can be split into two days and the outcome will still be delicious! Review steps below for a detailed break down.

  1. Day one: Step 1-8 need to be done. Store the filling, broth and reserved sauce; individually, in air tight containers. Refrigerate until needed. 
  2. As soon as the fat from the broth rises to the top and solidifies, remove it and place in a different container. Keep refrigerated until needed.  
  3. Second day: Resume steps 9-13. But first (see below)
  • Warm up the filling to room temperature (microwave).  
  • Warm up the broth until comfortable to handle (microwave or stove top.) 
  • Sauce needs to be at room temperature (microwave or remove from refrigerator ahead of time.) 

Duck Tamales Recipe

Recipe by Villa Cocina
5.0 from 3 votes
Course: MainCuisine: MexicanDifficulty: Medium


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Cooking time




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Duck tamales is such an underrated recipe that will surprise your taste buds when you take that first bite! The version I’m teaching you is inspired in the duck tamales made by our Purépecha people that use to inhabit the now modern day Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán. Enjoy the legendary “tamales de pato!”


  • Cook Duck 

  • 6.5 lbs whole duck

  • Salt, generously

  • Ground black pepper, generously

  • *** Instant pot***
  • 2 TBSP Avocado oil 

  • 10 cups water 

  • 1 ea white onion, halved 

  • 1 head of garlic, slice end off 

  • 3 ea bay leaves

  • 1 tsp all spice, whole

  • Small bunch, fresh mint leaves 

  • Small bunch, fresh thyme

  • Small bunch, fresh oregano

  • 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro

  • Red sauce
  • 8 ea guajillos chiles

  • 8 ea puya chiles

  • 1 ea ancho chile, large

  • 2 TBSP avocado oil  

  • 1/2 white onion, roughly diced

  • 6 ea garlic cloves, smashed and peeled 

  • 1  tsp Mexican oregano, dry

  • 1/2 tsp cumin, whole 

  • 1/2 tsp all spice, whole

  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups duck broth, hot 

  • Salt to taste (1 tsp kosher salt)

  • Wrapping 
  • 40 ea corn husk

  • Masa – dough 
  • 6 cups corn masa harina, instant

  • 1 TBSP baking powder

  • 2 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • 3/4 cup duck fat 

  • 3/4 cup avocado oil  

  • 1 cup chili sauce

  • 3 – 4 cups duck broth, warm


  • Prep the duck: Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity. Reserve the neck. Using paper towels, pat the bird dry. Remove the excess skin from the neck area. Break down the duck: Remove breast meat from the bone. Cut out the wings, and leg thigh area. Cut off the tail and wing tips. (See VIDEO tutorial for visuals on how to break down the duck.) Reserve excess skin you may have collected. 
  • Roasting the bones: Break down the carcass from the breast and backbone area into smaller pieces. Transfer the carcass, neck and wing tips onto a sheet-pan with a rack. Drizzle avocado oil over them. Also sprinkle, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 425ºF for 30 – 45 minutes or until brown. 
  • Back to the breast, thighs, legs, and wings: Generously season all sides with salt and ground black pepper. 
  • Instant pot – Broth: Set the instant pot on HIGH SAUTE mode for 20 MINUTES.  You can add more time, if you run out. Press START. Once hot, pour in the oil. Brown both sides of the meat. Don’t over crowd the pot; if needed, do it in batches. Press CANCEL. Place all of the duck back into the pot, including the tail and excess skin reserved. Follow that with the roasted bones. Pour in the water, onion, garlic, fresh herbs, bay leaves and all spice. COVER, secure the lid and cook on HIGH PRESSURE for 45 MINUTES, with a 10 MINUTE  NATURAL PRESSURE RELEASE.
  • Red sauce: remove the seeds, veins, and stem from the guajillos, puyas and ancho. Wipe them clean with a damped paper towel. Cut into smaller pieces and set aside. 
  • Instant pot: QUICK RELEASE the remaining pressure. Press CANCEL and remove the duck meat. Strain the broth and reserve. Once the fat rises to the top, spoon it out and place in the fridge to set up. Measure out 3 1/2- 4 cups of the broth for the sauce. 
  • Finish sauce: in a medium sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until slightly softened. Stir in the oregano, cumin, all spice. Toast for a minute. Add the prepped dried peppers and toast for a couple of minutes. Stir continuously and avoid burning them. As soon as they become fragrant, turn off the heat, and pour in 3 cups of the hot duck broth. Hydrate them for about 10-15 minutes. Shred the meat with a pair of forks. Discard the skin, and bones.
  • In a blender, process the hydrated pepper mix until completely smooth. And, if you still end up with big pieces of chili skin, strain it. Reserve 1 cup of the sauce for the masa. Place a sauce pan over medium heat, and add in the sauce. Pour the additional 1/2 cup of broth into the blender, swirl to get the last bit of sauce and pour into the pan. If the sauce looks thick, add a bit more broth. Stir and bring up to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes over medium-low heat, until it slightly thickens and turns a deeper color. Stir in the salt. Mix in the shredded meat. Turn off the heat, and let it cool down. (See tips on how to make tamales in two days, above.)
  • Prep Husks: sort through the leaves. Pick 25 medium-large in size, without holes or dark spots (at least, without many.) Pick another 15, they don’t have to be perfect. Soak in warm water for 20-30 minutes, place a plate on top to keep submerged. Rinse, remove corn silk, and drain. 
  • Masa-Dough: In a large bowl, mix the corn masa harina, salt and baking powder until well distributed. Remove the fat from the fridge and measure out. You will not have enough, use store bought to make up for the rest needed. In a separate large bowl, whisk the duck fat until smooth, and creamy. About 2 minutes.  Mix the oil gradually, as you stir continuously. Once fully incorporated, mix in half of the masa mixture. Then, incorporate the other half. By the end it should resemble the texture of wet sand. Knead in the one cup of red sauce reserved. Now, gradually knead in 3 3/4 cups of the warm broth (could take more or less broth.) Knead in between additions. When the dough forms a mass, feels very soft, and is fully moistened, knead for 5 minutes. The characteristics we are looking for in our masa dough are: softness, keeps its shape, hydrated, and spreadable. Cover with a kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out. 
  • Click on the link HOW TO WRAP TAMALES for the full step by step directions. 
  • Cook the tamales: You will need a large steamer pot with its rack on the bottom. Pour a generous amount of water inside the pot and stop right before you reach the rack.Turn the heat to medium-high. Cover the surface of the rack with husks. Then make a base with three tamales in the form of a T, open side towards the center.  Lay the rest of the tamales all around, open side up. Place a few husk leaves on top to cover them. Once it reaches a boil and you see the steam coming up. Cover the pot, lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 50 minutes – 1 hr 15 minutes, or until the dough is fully cooked. 
  • Check for doneness : Remove a tamal from the pot and let it cool down for 5-10 minutes. Then, unwrap it. They are done,  if it releases easily from the husk, sets up, and does not taste like raw masa. Turn off the heat, keep the pot covered and ENJOY! 

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