Red Mole Pork Tamales

5 from 4 reviews

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.



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 raw pepitas

1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican 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

To Assemble:

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

56 cups pork cooking liquid


For the Pork:

Combine and bring to a boil. 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.

Cook until very tender. 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:

Toast dried chiles. 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).

Soak chiles and raisins. Place chiles and raisins in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Let soak for 30 minutes.

Char vegetables and toast canela and pepitas. 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 pepitas. Toast until they begin to pop and darken.

Char tomatoes. Finally add the tomatoes to the skillet and char on all sides until darkened and skin is cracked, about 10 minutes.

Puree chiles. 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.

Puree vegetables. 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.

Puree tomatoes. Peel the tomatoes and add to the blender. Puree until smooth. Strain into a separate bowl.

Fry mole sauce. 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.

To Assemble:

Soak corn husks. 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:

Mix dry ingredients. Combine masa harina, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Mix in lard. Add lard and work into the dry mixture with your hands until they are the size of small pebbles.

Add pork broth. 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.

Prep tamalera. Fill a large tamalera with enough water to reach the rack where the tamales will sit. If you don’t have a tamalera you can fill the bottom of a large stock pot with water and place a wire rack in the bottom.

Fill corn husks with masa. 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).

Add meat and mole sauce and roll up. 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.

Steam. 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.

Keywords: pork tamales recipe