Monday, December 27, 2010

Pork Tamales

 Another year is ending. This will mark my 5th year living in the Lone Star State. I had to get used to a few things when I moved to San Antonio from the midwest. These included things like:

1. The high percentage of left lane coasters in this town. Keep right and pass left. It really is that easy. Don't be a left lane camper!

2. The 10 month summer season.

3. "Go Spurs Go"

4. Being able to wear summery dresses and flip flops up to November (refer to #2).

5. Eating tamales during the Christmas holiday. I don't know if this is only a San Antonian tradition, but it's one I've thoroughly enjoyed while living here.

This was my first attempt at making tamales, but the tamale gods must have been smiling down on me because they turned out delicious!

A few things to know before we get started: making tamales is time consuming (plan on two days); I ended up with 104 tamales, so you may want to half the recipe. Luckily, I have a large extended family and I like to share :)


Day 1. Preparing the Pork

2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 (4 pound) boneless pork shoulder roast
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2 cups chicken broth

Mix together spices in a bowl. Coat pork with the spice mixture. Pour the chicken broth around the sides of the pork, being careful not to rinse off the spice mixture.

Cover and cook on Low until the pork shreds easily with a fork, about 10 hours. Turn the meat after it has cooked for 5 hours. When the pork is tender, remove from slow cooker, and shred with two forks. Reserve the cooking liquid to add to the masa.

Day 2: Masa, tamale assembly and cooking

Corn husks

Take one package of dried corn husks and soak in warm water for 3 hours.


9 cups of masa harina
1 tablespoon of salt
2.5 cups of lard or shortening
Reserved cooking liquid from the pork

Place lard and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whip with an electric mixer on high speed until fluffy. Add masa harina and beat at low speed until well mixed. Pour in reserved cooking liquid a little at a time until mixture is the consistency of soft cookie dough.


 Drain water from corn husks. One at a time, flatten out each husk, with the narrow end facing you, and spread approximately 2 tablespoons masa mixture onto the top 2/3 of the husk. (I obviously did not follow directions and spread the masa over the entire top portion of the husk. DON'T DO THAT). Spread about 1 tablespoon of meat mixture down the middle of the masa. Roll up the corn husk starting at one of the long sides. Fold the narrow end of the husk onto the rolled tamale and tie with a piece corn husk.


Place tamales in a steamer basket (I borrowed my parents' steamer they use to make siopao). When you place them in the steamer they need to be standing up as much as possible.

Steam over boiling water for approximately 1.5 hours, until masa is firm and holds its shape. Make sure steamer does not run out of water. Serve immediately.

Allow any leftovers (still in husks) to cool, uncovered, in the refrigerator. 


  1. Heh -- definitely not a San Antonio-only tradition... El Paso PD and El Paso County Sheriff were tweeting about pedestrian congestion and traffic hazards at a well-known tamale vendor on one side of the mountain here. Very cool that you made your own -- Happy New Year!

  2. I applaud you for tackling tamales yourself. I've always heard of the process as a family affair and a once-a-year event at that. A large batch of homemade tamales was delivered to us before Christmas so your pictures are bringing the tastes back to life for me. Great job!

    Happy New Year!

  3. Hi Jean,
    I won't be making these by myself again anytime soon. The left overs should hold me over for all of 2011 :) I hope you and your family have a happy new year!

    Hiya Tiki,
    I can understand the mad rush for them...they can take days to prepare at home! Have a wonderful new year!

  4. Fantastic - Love the process pictures

  5. AHHHHHHHH!! I have been dying to make tamales!! After a cooking night fell through with a friend from church... I wondered when I would ge the chance to have her teach me first hand. Now I can be anti-social and just cook from your blog! I am tickled to find these recipes... thank you!!

  6. I'm in Houston and everything you listed about Texas is true. The Left Lane Campers bothers me the most. MOVE OVER!!!

    Excellent looking tamales. I don't want to learn how to make them otherwise my crazy family will think I'll start making them every year. Heck no.

  7. Oh wait, no on the Go, Spurs, Go.

    That would be Go, Rockets, Go!


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