5.0 from 14 votes

Mexican Red Pork Tamales

When authentic Mexican food comes to mind, tamales are definitely among the top contenders. Red pork tamales are as delicious as you can imagine them. The color, texture and flavor in this authentic recipe makes it one to remember. Now you can make them at home and show them off to everyone you know. 

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one red pork tamal in a plate
Flavorful Red Pork Tamales
Red pork tamales are a staple of Mexican cuisine

Red pork tamales are a popular authentic dish from Mexico where masa/dough is spread thinly across a corn husk, then filled with meat, cheese or even veggies. The wrapping process is a talent of its own but with practice and a good technique, you will master this stage in no time. This dish has been prepared for thousands of year and til this day, tamales remain one of the most popular authentic dishes to make all across Mexico. 

meat filling with a red pork tamal behind it
Juicy, colorful, flavorful pork filling.
Let’s talk meat 

The pork will take the longest to cook, take this as an opportunity to develop strong flavors that will season the entire tamal. Since we are going to cook it nice and slow. As a result, the meat will be fork tender and super flavorful. Salt is an essential ingredient when it comes to cooking but we should be careful when seasoning at the beginning because it could turn out salty. This is why, we are lightly adding salt for flavor, but let’s not get too excited with it at this stage. 

Types of filling for tamales
  • Pork
  • Beef 
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Veggies 
  • Cheese
Corn husk

Prepping the husk is a very important step. At this time, you will remove all the bad ones with holes and dark spots. Sort through them and pick out the best looking ones, medium-large in size for a perfect tamal. Then, rinse and soak them with warm water to turn them pliable and soft. And finally, when spreading the masa across the husk choose the smooth side of the leaf. 

red pork tamales wrapped in corn husks
Beautifully wrapped tamales that make a statement.
Pair Tamales with?

There are many ways to serve tamales. In my personal experience, tamales have always been served by themselves with a warm cup of atole or champurrado (hot sweet Mexican drinks.) Growing up in Michoacan this was the only way we ever had them. Having said this, I grew up in a very small town and Mexican cuisine is very diverse. 

Homemade salsa in a molcajete
Mexican Salsa in a Molcajete – Suggested
There are abundant amounts of traditions all over Mexico, entire families bond through them. Making traditional tamales is a way of passing down years and years of culture and learning about our ancestors. Im proud to say, even with the advancement of technology the way our ancestors use to make food remains prominent. To us Mexicans, the flavors of a good homemade meal comes from recipes passed down generation to generation. 
a group of red peppers. guajillo, Chile de arbol, and ancho. used for Mexican red sauces
Guajillo, ancho, chiles de arbol- dried peppers used to flavor this recipe.

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Recipe Video Tutorial

Below is my easy to follow video tutorial on how to make these Red Pork Tamales.

It 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. 

If you enjoyed the video please SUBSCRIBE to my Youtube channel and don’t forget to click the bell icon so you get a notification every time we post a brand new video. Thank you!

Mexican Red Pork Tamales

Recipe by Villa Cocina
5.0 from 14 votes
Course: EntreeCuisine: MexicanDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time




Total time





When authentic Mexican food comes to mind, tamales are definitely among the top contenders. Red pork tamales are as delicious as you can imagine them. The color, texture and flavor in this authentic recipe makes it one to remember. Now you can make them at home and show them off to everyone you know. 



  • Cook the meat until tender: Place a large pot over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion wedges and sauté until slightly softened. Remove the onions and adjust the heat to medium high. Next, brown the meat on all sides. Brown in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding the pot. Pour the water into the pot with the meat and place the pork back into the pot if you cooked it in batches. Add all the aromatics plus the salt. Let it reach a boil then lower to medium low heat. Cook on a gentle simmer and covered for roughly 2-2:30 hrs or until the meat if fork tender. When ready remove the meat and shred apart. Strain the broth and reserve.
  • Prep the dry peppers: Remove the seeds from the dried peppers, except for the arbol chilis. Then toast them on a comal on very low heat just until they become fragrant. Turn continuously to avoid burning them. Rinse, drain and transfer them into a container. Next, pour 2 cups of the hot broth over the chilis to rehydrate them, it will take about 5 minutes. Set aside until we need them. 
  • Molcajete (Optional): If you have a molcajete I recommend this step 100%. If you don’t have one, omit this step for now. Grind and mash the garlic, cumin and salt to create a paste. Loosen it up with the water and transfer to a separate container with a spoon, set aside until needed. 
  • Blend: Transfer the rehydrated peppers into a blender together with the broth, sautéed onions (the ones we did before browning the meat.) If you don’t have a molcajete, this is the time to add the garlic, cumin, salt, but not the water. Blend until completely broken down and smooth. You can strain if needed to get rid of large pieces of chili skin. 
  • Fry the sauce: heat the oil in a large pot over medium low heat, carefully pour in the sauce and stir. Pour in the additional 1 cup of broth into the blender, swirl it in to get the last bit of sauce and transfer into the pot. If you used the molcajete to grind the garlic paste, this is the time to stir in the paste into the sauce. Allow everything to gently simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the meat: Add the shredded meat, salt to taste and mix to combine. Allow the meat to reheat and remove from the heat. 
  • To make the dough: In a large bowl whisk for about 3 minutes the lard and vegetable shortening. When smooth, nice and creamy, it’s ready. In a separate bowl, combine the corn masa harina, baking powder and kosher salt. Add half of the masa mix into the lard and knead. Once incorporated add the remainder of the mix until you end up with a crumbly consistency. Add the broth gradually, kneading in between additions until you reach the desired consistency. The dough is ready when soft, firm but will not stick to your clean hands. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out. 
  • Prep the corn husk: Sort though them and choose the best looking ones, medium- large in size. Discard the ones with dark spot or holes. Submerge them in water for about 15 minutes. Rinse, remove any husk hairs, drain and transfer to a container. 
  • Assemble the tamales: 
    Place a corn husk on the palm of your hand, the wider end at the bottom. Take a small amount of dough enough to spread and cover the husk. Spread in all directions until you have a little bit over an 1/8 of an inch in thickness. When spreading across stop 1/2 inch away from both ends of the husk. When  spreading towards the narrow top stop a little over midway and 1 inch from the bottom wide end. 

    Then spoon a generous amount of the filling in the center of the spread masa but keep in mind we want to be able to close the tamal. Now, take one end from across and fold over, gently press to secure both ends and peel the husk away. Next fold towards the opposite side, press lightly, tuck the husk and roll to wrap the tamal.  Lastly, feel where the masa stops on the narrow top part and fold downward. The top is now sealed, you can lightly pinch the bottom to seal as well. Following the same procedures, assemble the remainder of the tamales. 
  • Steam/cook the tamales: Pour in about 1 inch of water into a steamer pot with a base at the bottom. Over medium heat, allow the water to reach a boil, while that happens, arrange the tamales and be careful not to burn yourself. 
  • Layout: Arrange 3 tamales with the open side facing the center in a T shape. Then lay the rest with the open side facing up, in the empty spaces all around where they fit best. 
  • When the water reaches a boil, lay the extra clean corn husks on top to cover them and carefully tuck. Finally place the lid over the pot. Allow them to cook over medium heat  for approximately 50 minutes -1 hr or until completely cooked. During this time you may need to add more water to the bottom of the pot if running low.
  • Test to make sure they are done: Carefully remove a tamal from the steamer. Let it slightly cool down, during this time the dough will firm up. You will know they are completely cooked if it releases easily from the husk, is set, does not taste raw and feels smooth. 
  • Enjoy with with a delicious authentic Mexican salsa, pico de Gallo, sour cream and queso fresco (see notes above). Enjoy!!!

Recipe Video


  • I like to use part lard and shortening to achieve flavorful balanced tamales. The flavor of the lard can overpower them, if thats all you use for fat.
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  1. These are the best tamales EVER!
    Well worth the effort for an amazing outcome! The recipe is easy to follow and the video is very helpful as well. I’ve made them 3 times already just since last fall.

    1. That is awesome! So happy you’re enjoying them! tamales are a great recipe all year round!☺️

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