Chile colorado pork tamales. The word colorado is used to describe the red, dried chiles used in this recipe and not the state of Colorado. If I had a nickel for every tamal I helped assemble while I was growing up at home, I would have quite a savings account, lol! This is truly the one tamal recipe that I remember the most from my childhood. The only difference is that I am using masa harina to prepare the masa because that is all that is available to me. These tamales are also called tamales norteños and are popular in the northern region of Mexico.
My mom’s recipe for chile colorado pork tamales was always prepared with freshly ground masa from the tortilleria. She would bring the masa home, 20 pounds at a time, and my Dad would finish mixing it with the salt, manteca and a little red chile sauce. He had a commercial size stand up mixer in his garage. And if it was not mixed in there, he would mix it in a big plastic tub in the kitchen. It was alot of work.
Chile colorado pork tamales, a recipe handed down for generations. All families have their own versions of those special tamales cooked during the holidays and special parties. This is the recipe I grew up enjoying year after year. And since my Mom could not ship them to me, I made it my goal to learn how to prepare them on my own using masa harina. Real, freshly ground masa from the tortilleria is the ultimate when it comes to preparing tamales, but I have to say that the masa harina has worked out well for me over the years. The first few years I was preparing them, I used vegetable shorteneing instead of the naturally rendered pork manteca/lard that is traditionally added. The manteca is more readily available now and this really helped give my tamales a more authentic flavor. I have to say, I have done well over the years adapting to the ingredients that were available to me. Now, after years of practice, I actually find the whole tamale making process quite enjoyable! The best way to approach tamal making is step by step. And not all in one day. This is my best recollection of my Mom’s recipe for chile colorado pork tamales.
The chile colorado pork tamales featured in today’s blog post are from different years. So many tamales, so little time!
Chile Colorado Pork Tamales-Tamales de Puerco
Without this chile colorado pork tamal, my holidays would not be complete! Simple and staple ingredients are they key to tasty tamales!
For the Pork Filling:
- 4 1/2 pounds pork butt or shoulder boneless if possible
- 1 whole garlic bulb whole head of garlic
- 12 dried chile ancho stems and seeds removed you could use a mix of dried peppers, such as guajillo, new mexico, california..
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1/2 tablespoons cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Pork broth from cooked pork
For the Masa Dough:
- 8 additional chile ancho stems and seeds removed (I like my masa to be well seasoned and colored with the chile sauce, but you could add less if you like.
- 5 cups masa harina
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups warm low sodium chicken broth
- *1 cup chile sauce made from chile ancho
- 1 1/2 cups pork lard melted
- *1/2 to 3/4 cup warm chicken broth
You Will Also Need:
- 40 to 43 corn husks for medium tamales plus more for steaming
- A large steamer pot
- Start by cooking the pork in a big pot with enough water to cover(about 12 to 15 cups) add the whole garlic bulb. Add about 1 tablespoon of salt to the water, cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook for 4 hours, or until pork becomes tender. Skim the foam from pork as it cooks. Place the corn husk in a large pot and cover with boiling water. Cover and let soak for a few hours. The longer the better. I soak mine for overnight, changing the water the next day.
- In another pot add all of the chile ancho(for pork and for masa) and fill with water. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and cook for another 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
- Drain the peppers and transfer them to a blender. Add 3 cups of pork stock or water, 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1/2 tablespoon cumin, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper. Blend in two batches. Blend until smooth, set aside 1 cup to add into the masa dough.
- Once the pork is cooked, remove from the broth and let it cool for a little while. When cool enough, shred the pork or cut into bite-size pieces. Heat 3 tablespoons of manteca or olive oil to medium heat in a large pot. Add the chile ancho sauce from the blender and cook for 5 minutes. Add in all of the pork and 1 1/2 to 2 cups of remaining pork broth. Cook at a low simmer for 40 to 50 minutes or until the broth reduces. Taste for salt.
- Prepare the masa dough: Combine masa harina, baking powder, bouillon and salt in large bowl, gradually add warm pork or chicken broth. Add 1 cup of reserved chile ancho sauce. Using your hands, work into a soft dough. In another glass bowl, melt the shortening/manteca. Add the shortening and remaining 1/2 cup of warm broth to the masa and work with hands until the masa has a frosting like texture. If the masa seems too thick, add a little more broth. Keep masa covered with a damp paper towel or plastic until ready to use. Another popular way of mixing, is to whip the solid manteca or shortening in a stand mixer and gradually add all of the other ingredients until masa forms.
- To assemble tamales: Take a few of the husks at a time, shake off water, if they are more than 4 inches wide, just tear off the side a little. Place the corn husk in the palm of your hand with the wide side closest to you. Spread about 4 tablespoons of masa all over the bottom half of husk. Place a heaping 2 tablespoons of filling lengthwise down the center of the tamale. Fold one side in first, then the other side (it should overlap a little on the first fold). Fold down the empty top section down and lay tamale seam-side down until ready to cook.
Prepare large pot to steam tamales, Fill the bottom of a large steamer pot with water. Insert the steamer. Arrange all of your tamales standing up (open side up). I like to take a few extra corn husks and arrange them on top of the filled tamales. This will help keep them moist while they steam. Turn heat to high to begin steaming, then reduce to medium for the next 90 minutes. After the 30 minutes, I add a little more hot water to the steamer. Steam for another hour. Remove from heat and let stand for 25 to 30 minutes before serving. This will yield 48 small/medium tamales. Serve with rice, beans and tomatillo salsa!
Tips~ When you mix the masa base, I always add equal parts masa harina and liquid/broth. This is before the melted manteca or extra broth is added to make it spreadable. So if adding chile sauce, that portion would count as a liquid. Example: For 5 cups Masa Harina add 4 cups warm water/broth and 1 cup chile sauce. The results, for me, is always a well flavored and moist tamal. Things I have learned over the years....and still learning.
Since this post, I have purchased a stand mixer. I now use it to mix my masa. Start by whipping the pork lard. Gradually mix in the dry masa harina. Mix in the baking powder, salt and chile sauce. At the lowest speed, gradually mix in the warm broth until the masa comes together. Continue mixing for 5 minutes. Ready! Taste for salt!
You can use a mix of dried chiles for this recipe if you like. The chile guajillo, for the most part, is also on the mild side and adds bright red colors! if you like to add some heat to your sauce, you could add some chile de arbol or chile morita for smoky flavors. A little goes a long way, so don’t add too much.
Since this post I purchased a Vitamix blender! I no longer have to strain the chile sauce! It’s pretty powerful!
The meat can be shredded or chopped, it’s up to you.
I typically let the meat in sauce cook down until very thick and then store the cooled meat overnight before using it to fill tamales.
The masa below looks pretty thick, but it’s actually quite spreadable. If it comes out looser, that is ok to. I have work with both variations. The steaming process is very forgiving and yields a tasty tamal every time!
The masa should have the feel of a thick, but spreadable frosting.
The meat can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the freezer.
There must always be a test taco once the meat is ready!!!
Masa Harina for Tamales. If you have this variety available, it works better for the tamales. The masa harina is very light in color, but the chile ancho sauce will give it some extra flavor and great color!
Tips~ All stove tops and pots vary as to how they cook. Make sure you check the water level so you don’t run out of water. I prepare my tamales in stages over a few days. it makes the task at hand a lot easier.
If you have extra sauce, add some on top of the pork while filling the tamales.
When preparing your tamales, the last tamal should always be the biggest! My family in Mexico refers to it as el tamal borracho, the drunken tamal. It it tied with the extra corn husk and placed towards the top when steamed.
Tomatillo Salsa with Chile de Arbol! The salsa pictured above, I added fresh cilantro, finely chopped, after I blended the salsa.