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How to Make Tamales

It only sounds intimidating -- you can make your own tamales from scratch at home by following these simple steps.


  • Step 1: Cook the pork Put the pork, onion, garlic, cumin seed, and one teaspoon salt in the Dutch oven and completely cover the ingredients with water. Bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low, simmering for 2 hours, until the pork is cooked through.
  • Step 2: Blend the peppers Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles and simmer them in 2 cups of the broth from the pork for 20 minutes. When they've cooled, blend the peppers with the broth until the mixture is smooth.
  • TIP: Use any kind of chiles you like.
  • Step 3: Shred the pork Separate the cooled pork into small, shredded pieces and then mix 1 cup of the chili mixture into the shredded pork.
  • Step 4: Mix the dough ingredients Soak the corn husks in hot water until you're ready to fill them. While they're soaking, put the masa in a large mixing bowl and mix the baking soda, lard, and two teaspoons of salt in a separate bowl.
  • TIP: You can use shortening if you can't find lard.
  • Step 5: Combine the dough ingredients Combine the masa and baking soda mixture, working it with your hands until they are evenly combined.
  • Step 6: Fill the corn husks Remove the corn husks from the water, spoon the tamale dough evenly into the corn husks, and follow that with a spoonful of the pork filling.
  • TIP: Try adding cheese or other fillings.
  • Step 7: Steam tamales Twist the ends of the filled corn husks and tie the ends with pieces of corn husk. Then arrange the tamales upright in a steamer and steam them for an hour to an hour and a half. When the husk easily separates from the filling, you're ready to enjoy delicious, authentic tamales.
  • FACT: After the 1989 American invasion of Panama, it was discovered that white powder found in one of Manuel Noriega's residences that was thought to be cocaine was actually farina, corn meal, and lard used to make tamales.

You Will Need

  • 2 1/2 lb. pork roast
  • 1 peeled
  • halved onion
  • 2 peeled
  • halved garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp. toasted cumin seed
  • 3 tsp. salt
  • 3 dried chili peppers
  • 36 corn husks
  • 4 c. masa
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 c. pork lard
  • Dutch oven
  • Blender
  • Steamer
  • Chiles (optional)
  • Shortening (optional)
  • Cheese and other fillings (optional)

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