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Home Made Tamales

Few things are better than a plate of hot and fresh homemade tamales. Most know that this dish is a staple of a variety of central American cuisines, but did you know that they are actually the first dish to be made from corn in that region of the world? It’s estimated that the people who call the area we now recognize as Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Belize home were using corn-based dough (masa) to make this food as far back as 8,000 BC! While tamales were being enjoyed all across Mesoamerica, historians think they were first made by the Aztecs who resided in modern-day Mexico. For the Aztecs, tamales were a portable food rich in protein that their warriors could take with them into battle and their hunters could carry with them into the wilderness.

The popularity of tamales has spread far and wide since these ancient times, and families have been making homemade tamales and passing their recipes down through the generations for centuries. Now, we don’t intend to replace your family’s recipe. We wanted to share another recipe for homemade tamales that we love and hope you’ll try. These tamales are filled with delicious pork that’s been smothered in a red chile sauce, and you can easily get many of the ingredients you need right here at Don Juan Chiles!


Our homemade tamales recipe doesn’t call for many ingredients, and all are common in traditional Mexican cuisine. All you’ll need are:

Pork filling

  • 2 ½ pounds of boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of salt
  • 1 bay leaf

Red chile sauce

Masa dough

  • 8 ¼ cups of corn mix flour (masa harina)
  • 1 ¾ tablespoon of fine salt
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1 ¾ cups of canola oil
  • 6 ½ cups of chicken broth

50 Corn Husks

  • You can buy these pre prepared online from Don Juan Chiles by clicking here


  1. Add masa harina, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl and mix with your hands. Once mixed, add canola oil and work the dough with your hands to make everything join together. Then add the chicken broth and mix the dough again until it is all equally saturated. Add more broth if it’s too dry or more masa harina if it’s too wet.
  2. Corn husks typically come dried, so you’ll need to soak them in some hot water until they’re soft and can be easily folded. Typically, this will take up to 1 hour. Once they’re ready and cooled, spread the masa dough thinly on the smooth side of the husk using your hand or a spoon. You’ll want to leave the top 1/3 of the husk empty, so it’s easier to fold these homemade tamales later on.
  3. Rehydrate your guajillo and ancho chiles by placing them in a large skillet, covering them in water, and placing the lid on. Allow them to simmer for 5 to 8 minutes on medium heat. Once they begin to brown, take them off the heat and let the skillet sit with the lid on for another five minutes. Then, blend them in with the ground cumin, garlic, salt, and water for 3 minutes or until the sauce is completely smooth in your blender. Feel free to add other dried chiles from Don Juan Chiles to this sauce if you want to take the heat and spice in these homemade tamales up a notch!
  4. Remove any excess fat on your cut of pork and then cut it into very small pieces that are close to bite-size. The smaller the size, the faster it will get tender. Cook for 15 minutes in a Dutch oven or large pot with cooking oil and salt for 15 minutes while occasionally stirring or until the meat has browned. If you’d like, you can shred the chicken after cooking if you prefer to have shredded meat in your homemade tamales.
  5. Add the red chile sauce and bay leaf to your pork and bring it down to a simmer. Give it a try to see if the taste and tenderness is to your liking. If not, add some more salt and cover, and cook for another 5 minutes.
  6. Add a tablespoon of the pork/red sauce filling to the center of the corn husk.
  7. Fold the long edges of the corn husk like a book once and then in on itself again. Fold the pointy edge over, leaving one side of the corn husk exposed and the other open. To secure your homemade tamales, wrap a thin strip of husk around the closed, folded edge and tie a knot around it.
  8. Prepare a steamer pot to place your homemade tamales in by filling the bottom with water and then covering it with a steam insert. Place the tamales on the insert with the open side facing up, leaning then against the sides of the pot and each other to ensure they don’t fall over. Cover with a lid and place the steamer on medium heat. Cook for 3 and a half hours or until the masa dough has cooked fully.
  9. Let your homemade tamales sit for 3 minutes to let them cool off, and then serve.
You can get many of the ingredients you need to make these homemade tamales yourself here at Don Juan Chiles. Browse our selection of authentic Mexican ingredients today to find what you need to make this recipe, and even add your own spice and flair to it today.

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