Authentic Homemade Mexican Tamales

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This Authentic Homemade Mexican Tamales recipe is taken from our Mexican Cuisine page. If you enjoy the delicious traditional foods of Mexico, for more recipes you can find many more of them if you click here.

Making 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.

Authentic Homemade Mexican Tamales Public Domain

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-
For the Masa Dough-
To Cook and Shred Pork Roast-
  1. 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.
  2. 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-
  1. 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.
  2. Remove the chicken from the pot and allow it to cool. Again, reserve the broth for later when you prepare the masa dough.
  3. 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-
  1. Combine both meats together thoroughly in very large pan.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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-
  1. 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-
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 Authentic Homemade Mexican Tamales-
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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-
  1. Homemade authentic 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 delicious Authentic Homemade Mexican Tamales!
  6. 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.

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8 thoughts on “Authentic Homemade Mexican Tamales

  1. Whoa – this looks like a whole lot of work! However, the satisfaction of make real, authentic tamales is quite alluring. I’ve tasted the real thing, and they are hard to come by in stores and even so-called Mexican restaurants. Soooooo …. you’ve done it again, Old Silly – got me good this time, I just GOTTA make some! LOL

  2. Sounds super, Old Silly! And a labor of love that promises some awesome rewards at the dinner table! I love to cook, and Mexican food is always a hit with my family, so thanks for this one. 🙂

  3. Well I tried your authentic Mexican street tacos, and they were awesome. Really tasted like the real thing I had when I was staying in Mexico. So I will definitely give this tamales recipe a go. And it does make sense to make a lot of them at once. It only takes a little longer to whip up a big batch than it does a small one, and then you are good to go for a long time.

    • Howard so glad you enjoyed the street tacos. I also spent some time in Mexico, and after tasting the “real thing” and never finding it in the States, even is so called “authentic” Mexican restaurants, I just had to research and find a recipe that would produce that unmistakable taste. And trust me, this tamales recipe will give you the same excellent results.

  4. Whew! That does sound like a lot of work, lol. But if makes 4 dozen tamales, which would be several meals, and given how much my family loves REAL Mexican food, hmmm … I think it would be worth spending the time in the kitchen.

    Marv, which do you prefer – the corn husk wraps, or the banana leaves?

    • Hi Margo-
      Yes, making real tamales takes some effort, but you are right – it is such a large batch, you are “paying it forward” with your efforts, because for several future meals all you will need is the microwave, lol.

      I personally like the corn husk wraps, because I think it blends best with the masa corn dough flavor. But it really is a matter of taste and preference. Some people like the slightly sweet hint and contrast that the banana leaves give the tamales.

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