Preparing Authentic Homemade Mexican Tamales involves a fair amount of work. However, if you are a lover of the real thing – traditional, authentic Mexican cuisine, the labor you put into preparing them will be well worth it. This authentic homemade Mexican tamales recipe will produce tamales that can only be equaled by tamales bought in Mexico or in the very best, authentic Mexican restaurants outside of the country.
You will want a good, large steamer to cook them. Authentic Mexican tamales are steamed – period.
If you need to purchase a quality steamer, you can get one at our online store – just click here.
Authentic Homemade Mexican Tamales Recipe-
(Makes about 4 dozen tamales)
For the Tamale Meat-
- 1 pork roast (about 6 to 8 lb.)
- 1 whole chicken (about 5 lb. – get organic, free range hen if you can – the tastiest and most tender!)
For the Meat Seasonings-
- 1⁄2 cup corn oil
- 6 tbsp. dark chili powder
- 3 tbsp. garlic powder
- 3 tbsp. ground cumin
- 2 tbsp. dried cilantro
- 1 tbsp. black pepper
- 2 tbsp. salt
For the Masa Dough-
- 4 cups corn oil
- 4 lb. masa corn flour
- 6 tbsp. smoked paprika
- 6 tbsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. cumin seeds
- 6 tbsp. dark chili powder
- 6 tbsp. garlic powder
- 4 quarts of broth (reserved from cooking the pork and chicken)
- 1 bag (about 5 or 6 oz.) corn husks or banana leaves
To Cook and Shred Pork Roast-
- Chop the roast into fist sized chunks. Put the chunks into a large deep skillet, and cover them with water. Boil for about 2-1/2 hours, or until the meat becomes very tender. When fully tenderized, take the meat out of the broth and allow it to cool down to where you can handle it. Be sure to save the broth – you will be using it when you make the masa dough.
- After the pork chunks are cool enough to handle, shred them with two forks, or your fingers. Discard excess fat as you work and shred the meat.
To Cook and Shred the Chicken-
- In a suitably sized cooking pot, place the chicken and cover it with water. Boil it for 2 hours, or long enough to where the chicken is very tender.
- Remove the chicken from the pot and allow it to cool. Again, reserve the broth for later when you prepare the masa dough.
- When the chicken is cooled enough to handle, remove and discard the skin. De-bone the chicken and shred the meat into very small filaments. Again, discard any excess fat.
To Combine and Season the Two Meats-
- Combine both meats together thoroughly in very large pan.
- Mix the seasonings and the oil listed above in a smaller pan and warm them up over medium low flame on the stove. Do not cook the mixture, merely warm it up.
- Once the oil and seasonings mixture is warmed, pour it over the meat and mix it into the meat thoroughly with your hands. Keep mixing until the oil and seasonings are completely distributed through the meat. You should work at this step for at least 8 to 10 minutes to do it properly.
- You meat is now ready. Place it in a covered bowl and refrigerate it while you continue with the following steps. Also combine both broths in a bowl and keep it in the refrigerator for now.
To Prepare the Corn Husks or Banana Leaves-
- Soak the husks or leaves in a sink full of warm water for a good 2 hours. When they are hydrated and softened, you will separate them. Do this carefully so that you do not damage or tear them. The integrity of your tamales depends on having whole, full husks or leaves.
To Make The Masa Dough Mix-
- Take the combined broth mixture out of the refrigerator. It will have a layer of fat that has risen to the top. Skim that off and discard. Place the broth in a suitably sized pan and warm it up on the stovetop. Do not boil it, just get it warmed to where you can still insert a finger and it doesn’t hurt you.
- Place the 4 lbs. of Masa flour in a large mixing bowl. Add into the bowl the spices and seasonings listed above. Mix the spices with your hands into the Masa until they are thoroughly incorporated. Make sure you mix well enough that there are absolutely no lumps.
- Next, add 4 cups of corn oil to the spiced Masa mixture; then begin to gradually work in 4 quarts of the warm broth, stirring in about 1 cup at a time. Work the oil and broth into the mixture with your hands to make the dough. If your dough is too dry, add enough more warm broth (or water, if you are out of broth) to get it just the right consistency for spreading. If the dough is too thin, add more Masa flour. You want a consistency like that of thick peanut butter.
To Assemble Your Homemade Authentic Mexican Tamales-
- After the corn husks or banana leaves are soft, take them out of the water, gently shake the water off, then lay them on a flat paper towel covered surface to drain. Pat the tops dry with more paper towels.
- Lay one across the palm of your hand; scoop up about 1/2 cup of the Masa dough with a spatula, and smear it onto the husk or leaf. Leave about 1/3 on the right side uncovered with the dough, and about 1/3 of the top uncovered also.
- Now scoop up about 1 tablespoon of the meat, and spread it on top of the masa, starting about 1 inch from the left (masa dough covered) edge.
- Starting on the left side (the side where the Masa dough goes all the way to the edge), roll the tamale up, all the way to the right edge. Now, fold the top of the shell over (like an envelope) and lay the tamale on the counter with the folded side on the bottom. Repeat this assembly process until all the masa dough mix and meat mix are used up.
To Cook the Tamales-
- Real, authentic homemade Mexican Tamales should be steamed to cook them. Use a very large cooking pot with an insert in the bottom that holds the tamales up and off of the water in the bottom of the pot.
- Add enough water into the pot to come up just flush with the steamer insert; turn the heat up to high, then start stacking the tamales upright until the pot is full. The folded “envelope end” of the tamale should be on the bottom, the open end of the tamale should be on top. Pack the tamales tight together – this will ensure that they do not unfold during the steaming.
- Cover the pot, bring the water to a vigorous boil, then reduce heat to just a very vigorous simmer, and steam for a good 2 hours. Every so often, check on the water level and add more as necessary – do not let the bottom of the pot get dry. It is a good idea to keep a pot of water heated to a near boil on the stove while you steam the tamales. That way, when you have to add more water, it will already be heated and not slow down the cooking time.
- After two hours, take one tamale out and let it rest to cool for about 5 minutes on the counter. Unwrap it and test its doneness. It should be firm, with no raw masa. If it is not yet, return it to the pot and keep steaming a while longer.
- When you are satisfied they are well cooked, remove all the tamales and let them cool on the counter long enough to handle. Then serve your Homemade Authentic Mexican Tamales!
- Note: Any tamales not eaten right away can be stored. Put them in sealable (Ziploc is best) freezer bags, half a dozen to each bag. Even better is if you have a vacuum sealer, certainly use that. If you use zip lock bags, they will stay for up to a year in the freezer. You can save your authentic homemade Mexican tamales in the freezer indefinitely if they are vacuum sealed.
Note: This Authentic Homemade Mexican Tamales recipe is taken from our Mexican Cuisine pages.
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