The holidays haven’t begun until the Red Mole Pork Tamales are steaming on the stove!
This step-by-step recipe will walk you through exactly how to make the most luscious pork-and-mole-filled tamales for your family this Christmas.
Armando and I have been hosting Tamaladas (tamale-making parties) since our first years together and it is the BEST way to make tamales in my opinion.
You gather a few friends and family and spend an afternoon knocking out dozens of tamales which then everyone gets to take home.
A tamalada not only makes the time-consuming job of making tamales more fun, but stocking the freezer full of tamales at the same time!
Prep For a Tamalada
If you want to give this party idea a try here’s what you have to do:
- Make the pork and mole sauce a couple days in advance and then soak the corn husks the night before the party.
- The masa should be made the morning of the party.
- Ask guest to bring snacks and drinks and before you know it, the tamales will be steaming away.
What’s In A Red Mole Pork Tamale?
Before we dive in to how to make the tamales, let’s look at the recipes that make up the tamales. Here’s what you’ll need to have ready before you actually get to assembling them:
- Mole Coloradito or Red Mole Sauce (see recipe below). This is one of those labor-of-love recipes made with dried chiles, seeds, and a bit of chocolate.
- Shredded Pork. Succulent pork butt simmered until tender with onions, garlic, and bay leaf.
- Masa Dough. A fluffy dough made from masa harina, baking powder, lard and salt.
- Soaked Corn Husk Leaves. These are what you will use to wrap up your tamales.
I think these are the perfect tamales and ones I make every year.
They have all the elements of an authentic Mexican tamale—soft dough, juicy, flavorful pork, savory and complex sauce.
If you’ve ever wanted to try making mole sauce or tamales this recipe is a great place to start.
Wait—What Are Tamales?
Tamales are a dumpling of sorts made all throughout Mexico and Central America and even in parts of South America too, like Venezuela, where they are called Hallacas.
At their most basic they are dough (almost always made with a corn flour called masa harina or ground field corn) wrapped in either dried corn husks or banana leaves and steamed.
They can be filled or not, sweet or savory, tiny or enormous.
The ones we are making today are the savory kind made with masa harina dough, filled with pork and mole sauce, and wrapped in corn husks.
Tools You’ll Need
Make sure you have everything you need before getting started. The last thing you want to do is realize you don’t have the right equipment halfway through.
- 2 large stock pots for cooking the pork and soaking corn husks. At least 12 quarts but if you have a bigger one, that’s better.
- Large Colander
- A large (12-quart) heat-proof container for holding broth.
- Large cast iron skillet or comal or griddle for toasting chiles.
- Heavy-duty blender for mole sauce.
- Fine Mesh Sieve
- Large Mixing Bowl for mixing masa.
- Tamale Steamer Pot
Nice To Have
These things aren’t absolutely necessary, but make preparing the tamales easier.
Step 1: Soak the Corn Husks
Dried corn husks need at least an hour to soak in hot water before they become soft enough to use.
Most people put the dried husks in a large bowl and pour very hot water over them. I like to bring a large stock pot of water to a boil, turn off the heat, add the corn husks and submerge them under the water with a heavy plate.
Step 2: Cook The Pork
Cooking the pork is the next step because you will use the leftover broth to make the mole sauce and the masa dough.
It is also a very simple step, just combine the pork shoulder with the onions, garlic, bay leaf, and salt in the largest stock pot you have. Fill it with water and bring to a boil.
It may seem like a lot of liquid, but you will need a lot of broth later for the other ingredients.
Step 3: Make the Mole Sauce
You can start toasting the chiles, vegetables, spices, and nuts for the mole sauce while the pork is cooking, but you won’t be able to finish it until the broth is ready.
A couple of tips for making the mole sauce:
- Toasting each ingredient separately may seem unnecessary, but it will make it easier to not burn them and easier on your blender to puree each ingredient.
- You will need a high-powered blender to process the mole. If you are having trouble getting the mixture going in the blender add more pork stock until it starts moving.
The final step to making the mole is to fry the sauce and add the chocolate. Make sure you have an apron on or are wearing something you don’t mind getting dirty because the sauce spits and splatters during this step.
Heat a bit of lard in a large, deep frying pan, big enough to hold all the sauce (I use a 5-quart braiser pan) once the lard is melted and hot, add the mole sauce. It will sputter as it fries, so stir constantly with a long wooden spoon as you pour.
Bring to a boil, reduce the heat until the mole is just simmering, then add the chocolate and stir until it melts. Taste and add more salt. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Step 4: Make The Masa
For this tamale recipe we are using masa harina or corn flour to make the masa dough.
If you live near a Latin market, look for fresh masa made from grinding the corn with water to make a soft, pliable dough. It will be labeled “masa preparada para tamales”. This post won’t go into details about how to use this type of masa, but play around with it and see what you think.
To make the masa dough using masa harina, you want to start with the best masa harina you can find. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a lot of Latin products, I urge you to shop online. My favorite is:
- Masienda Masa Harina Masienda partners with hundreds of different farmers throughout Mexico to source heirloom varieties of corn for their masa harina. It is Non-GMO (it’s technically illegal to grow GMO corn in Mexico), organic , and sustainably farmed.
Mix the masa harina with baking powder, salt, about 1/4 cup fat (you can use lard, vegetable shortening, or even butter) per 1 1/2 cups masa harina and warm stock leftover from cooking the pork. Add the stock 1/2 cup at a time until you have a nice, fluffy dough.
Step 5: Wrap and Steam the Tamales
The last step is to fill the soaked corn husks with the masa dough, pork, and mole sauce. Then steam them in the tamale steamer. Here are the steps:
- Lay a corn husk with the widest side facing toward you.
- Spread about 1/3 cup of masa on the bottom half of the corn husk, leaving a border around the edge.
- Place a few pieces of pork in the middle—don’t over fill.
- Add a spoonful of mole on top.
- Then roll the corn husk up and fold the small end over the large end.
From Our Family To Yours
Red Mole Pork Tamales
This recipe is very involved but most of the steps can be made ahead. If you break it up into chunks it’s not too bad. The pork and mole can be made up to 3 days in advance and the husks can soak overnight. Call some friends over to help you assemble; tamales taste better if they are made by those you love. A 15-Quart Tamale Steamer makes quick work of cooking the tamales. You can find them at most Mexican markets or online here. Tamales will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or place in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months. Reheat by placing in a frying pan with 1/4 cup or so of water, cover and steam until hot.
- Yield: 50 Tamales 1x
For the Pork:
- 4 pounds pork shoulder
- 2 large onions, quartered
- 8 cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
For the Red Mole:
- 16 New Mexico Chiles, stem and seeds removed
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 8 unpeeled cloves garlic
- 2-inch piece canela or cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tomatoes, cored
- 2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 50 dried corn husks
For the Masa:
- 6 cups Masa Harina (corn flour)
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 cup lard or vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
- 5–6 cups pork cooking liquid
For the Pork:
- Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot. Cover by 2 inches with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer.
- Cover and cook until meat is very tender, about 3 hours. Remove pork from liquid and strain broth into a heatproof container; reserve broth. Let meat cool slightly, then shred into bite-sized pieces.
For the Mole:
- Heat a dry cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Place chiles in the skillet and toast until darkened in color and fragrant (you may need to do this in batches).
- Place chiles and raisins in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Let soak for 30 minutes.
- Place onions and garlic in the dry skillet and char, turning occasionally, until darkened on all sides, about 10-15 minutes. Add canela to the skillet and toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes, remove and add pumpkin seeds. Toast until they begin to pop and darken.
- Finally add the tomatoes to the skillet and char on all sides until darkened and skin is cracked, about 10 minutes.
- After chiles and raisins have soaked, remove them from the water and place them in a blender (you might have to do a few chiles at a time depending on the strength of your blender) with a 1/4 cup or so of the pork cooking liquid. Blend until smooth, adding more liquid if necessary to get the blender moving. Pour through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
- Add onions, garlic, canela, pumpkin seeds, oregano, salt, thyme, and pepper to the blender with about 1/4 cup of the pork cooking liquid. Blend, adding more liquid if necessary, until smooth. Strain into the bowl with the chile mixture.
- Peel the tomatoes and add to the blender. Puree until smooth. Strain into a separate bowl.
- Heat the lard in a large frying pan over medium heat. Once shimmering add the chile mixture (be careful, it will spurt and sputter) and stir constantly until darkened and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook 5-10 minutes more. Add chocolate and stir until melted. Taste and add more salt as needed. If the mole seems very thick add 1/4 cup or so of the pork stock, but not too much, the sauce should coat the back of a spoon, but not be clumpy.
- Cover the husks with hot water and let soak at least 2 hours before beginning. You may need to weigh them down to completely submerge in the water.
For the Masa:
- Combine masa harina, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add lard and work into the dry mixture with your hands until they are the size of small pebbles. Add cooking liquid and mix it into the flour with your hands until the dough is uniformly wet and soft. It needs to be easily spreadable but not runny, like the consistency of fluffy mashed potatoes. Add more cooking liquid if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.
- Fill a large tamale steamer with enough water to reach the rack where the tamales will sit. If you don’t have a tamale steamer you can fill the bottom of a large stock pot with water and place a wire rack in the bottom.
- Dry one corn husk on both sides with a clean kitchen towel. Hold the widest part of the husk closest to you and use a large soup spoon to spread about 1/3 cup of masa from about the middle to the bottom and out to the sides, leaving about 1/2-inch on each side (but not the bottom).
- Place about 2-3 tablespoons of meat in the center and top with about 1 tablespoon of sauce. Fold one clean side over the the other clean side and roll tightly to secure. Fold the pointy end up towards the top and place open-side-up on the rack of the steamer. Continue until all the masa and meat have been used.
- Place the steamer over medium heat and cook tamales until firm and no longer doughy in the middle, about 1-1 1/2 hours. Remove from husks and serve with salsa, extra mole, or guacamole.
One More Thing
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