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Hot tamales!

So, in my last post I showed you how to slow cook pork into amazing fall apart goodness and turn it into carnitas. You can use carnitas for just about any savory dish you can create. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, salads, bbq, hors d’oeuvres…the possibilities are endless! But I made mine into tamales. Yum yum. If you haven’t had a freshly steamed homemade tamale then you are in for a real treat.

Corn husks

So, before we prepare our masa for the tamales, we need to soak our corn husks in some lukewarm water. I usually just scrub out my sink, put the drain plug in it and fill it up. You can purchase corn husks from your local Mexican grocery.


You also need to get some masa flour. Most regular groceries have this on the baking aisle with regular flour.

Masa dough

To mix up your masa dough, start with about 2 pounds (half of a 4.4 pound bag) of masa flour in an extra large bowl. In a separate microwave safe bowl, microwave a whole stick of butter flavored crisco until it is melted…you may need to cover the bowl with a plate or paper towel to keep it from splattering. Mix into your masa flour.

Mmmm masa!

Traditionally you would use all fat for your liquid in this dough…but I modify it and use the stock from the carnitas. Add enough of this stock to get the dough the consistency of pretty wet sand. Add about 1.5 tablespoons of baking powder and salt to taste. I usually just guesstimate and taste test as I go. You want the dough to be flavorful and moist. If it’s too dry your tamales will be like eating thick paste….you don’t want that!

Soaked corn husks

Next, drain your corn husks and gently shake the water out. I like to place them in another large bowl lined with paper towels.


While you let those drain a little…pull out a few and tear them into thin strips to use for ties when you wrap the tamales. Make sure the narrower end is thick enough to use as a tie.

Corn husk ties

Nifty little things! Set these aside on your counter or tamale work surface. Go ahead and make that margarita!

Assembling tamales step 1

Place a corn husk on your work surface with the wide end towards you…

Assembling tamales step 2

Place a scoop of the masa dough on the bottom half of the husk…

Assembling tamales step 3

Spread it out using the back of a spoon…

It should look like this!

Spread all the way to the edge but leave a little space on the left and only do the bottom half of the husk.

Assembling tamales step 4

Now place a scoop of that yummy pork. I like to mix the carnitas with the sauce I made from the stock. Plus some fresh cilantro mixed in…


If you reduced down your stock from the meat, add a little tomato sauce and tomato paste to it to round out the flavor and some fresh cilantro.

Assembling tamales step 5

Drizzle some extra sauce on the meat…

Grated Monterey Jack

Did I mention cheese? You have to have cheese in your tamales! Grated Monterey Jack works really well.

Assembling tamales step 6

Sprinkle a generous amount of cheese on top or your open tamale.

Assembling tamales step 7

Next, begin rolling the right side of your tamale…

And we’re rolling


It should look something like this.

Assembling tamales step 8

Now fold the top unfilled section of the corn husk toward the open flap of the husk.


Assembling tamales step 9

Now take one of those little strips you tore and place the tamale fold down on top of it and tie.

All tied up

View from the top

Rolled and tied

Continue the tamale assembly steps and place rolled and tied tamales upright in a container so the filling won’t spill out while you prepare the rest.

Once you have a few dozen rolled up, arrange them in the top of a deep steamer basket that fits a large pot. Mine isn’t quite deep enough, but I have found if I kind of spiral them they are all mostly upright. Fill the pot with as much water as possible without touching the steamer basket.


Steam these on medium high for about an hour. Carefully check your pot every 20 – 30 minutes to be sure there is still water in the pot.


After an hour, turn off the heat and carefully open the lid. Remove each tamale and arrange on a platter.

These won’t last long!

Serve with extra sauce and cheese if you wish. Just slide the tie off, unroll the tamale, and drizzle with sauce! These really are delectable. This recipe makes a ton so be sure to freeze some. They are great to have around for another day.


Note: If you don’t want to make all the tamales at once, the masa and fillings will store well in the fridge for a few days. Also, if you have way too much masa left you can wrap it really well in plastic wrap and freeze it. Or make it into tortillas! I’ll show you that another time!


Printable Recipe


Corn husks
Masa flour
Butter flavored Crisco
Stock from carnitas
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Begin by filling a large bowl or cleaned sink with lukewarm water. Loosen the corn husks a little and immerse them in the water.

In a separate large bowl, pour in about a half of a bag of masa flour (about 2.2 pounds). Melt an entire stick of butter flavored crisco in a bowl in the microwave and add to the masa flour. Now add as much of the stock from the carnitas to make the flour the consistency of wet sand. Go ahead and taste test it and flavor it with salt and stock to taste. Set aside.

Drain the corn husks and place in a bowl lined with paper towels to allow to dry a little. Pull out a few and tear into thin strips lengthwise to use for ties.

Now start the tamale assembly!

Step 1: Place a corn husk on the counter wide side toward you.

Step 2: Place a small scoop of masa dough on the husk and spread on bottom half of husk to the very edges leaving an inch border on the left edge.

Step 3: Scoop out some carnitas (I like to mix it with the sauce made from the stock) and spread on the right side of the masa on the husk.

Step 4: Sprinkle on some cheese!

Step 5: Roll corn husk lengthwise starting with the right side.

Step 6: Fold the empty end of the husk back over on the filled end.

Step 7: Tie with a corn husk tie.

Place assembled tamales in a container so they stay upright. Repeat the assembly until you have enough to fill up your steamer basket.

Arrange tamales in a steamer basket that fits with a large pot. You may need to kind of spiral them around so they are mostly upright. Pack them in tight! Fill pot with as much water as possible without touching the steamer basket.

Steam for 1 hour on medium high. Carefully check every 20 minutes to be sure there is still water in the pot.

After an hour, turn off the heat and carefully open lid. Remove the hot tamales with tongs and arrange on a platter.

To serve: unwrap, drizzle with sauce, sprinkle with cheese and….