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!
Go To End Of Blog Post To See Video For Chile Colorado Pork Filling and Red Chile Masa!
Chile Colorado Pork Tamales-Tamales de Puerco
For the Pork
- 4 1/2 pounds pork butt or shoulder boneless if possible
- 1 whole garlic bulb whole head of garlic
- 1 tablespoon Salt
For Chile Ancho Salsa/Sauce
- 20 medium chile ancho or a mix of chile guajillo or chile California
- 4-5 cloves of garlic or 1 tbsp granulated garlic
- 1/2 tablespoon Mexican oregano
- 1/2 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- Salt to taste
- 5 cups pork broth from cooking the pork shoulder
For the Masa Dough:
- 5 cups masa harina corn flour for tamales like maseca brand
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 cups pork broth From cooking the pork shoulder
- 1 cup chile ancho salsa previously prepared and reserved
- 1 1/2 cups pork lard, manteca melted
You Will Also Need:
- 50 corn husks for medium tamales plus more for steaming
- A large steamer pot
- Slice the pork into 2-3 inch chunks. Transfer to large pot. Cover with 15 cups of water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and whole head of garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook at a steady simmer for 2 -3 hours, or until pork becomes tender. Skim the foam off from pork as it cooks. Flip pork over halfway through cooking time.
- 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.
- If the dried chiles are extra large(5-6 inches long), only use 10-12 peppers. Remove the stems and seeds from chile ancho, transfer to a pot and cover 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 broth(from cooking pork), oregano, garlic, cumin, salt to taste, black pepper. Blend in two batches if needed. 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 chop small. Heat 3-4 tablespoons of manteca or avocado 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. 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 and salt in large bowl, gradually add 4 cups room temperature pork broth. Add 1 cup of reserved chile ancho sauce. Using your hands, work into a soft dough. In another glass bowl, melt the manteca just until it begins to melt. Add the lard/manteca and remaining 1 cup of broth to the masa and work with hands for 7-10 minutes. The masa should have a frosting like texture. If the masa seems too thick, add a little more broth. Always taste the masa for salt. Very important. Keep masa covered with a damp paper towel or plastic until ready to use.
- 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 3-4 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 45 minutes, I add a little more hot water to the steamer. Steam for another 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 30-45 minutes before serving. This will yield 48 medium tamales. Serve with rice, beans and tomatillo salsa!
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.
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.