Tamales are not hard. They are just labor intensive. Grab a few friends so it can go faster.
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This is an authentic recipe for red pork tamales (or tamales de puerco) just like my mom, grandma, and aunts make back in Mexico.
I’m making them in the Instant Pot so we can get to the eating part faster!
Also try Instant Pot Chicken Tamales.
Table of Contents
- 1 Cooking the Pork
- 2 👩🏼🍳 Pro Tips:
- 3 🌽 Corn Husks
- 4 🌶️ Making the Chile Sauce
- 5 How to Clean Dried Chiles
- 6 🫔 How to Assemble Tamales
- 7 Dessert Tamales
- 8 ⏰ Cooking Tamales in the Instant Pot
- 9 For More Tamale Recipes:
- 10 Downside to Instant Pot Tamales
- 11 😋 Hungry for More?
- 12 Instant Pot Pork Tamales
Cooking the Pork
- Chop the pork meat into smaller pieces.
- Add the garlic, onion, water, and spices. Cook until tender.
This is pork shoulder. You can also use pork butt. I asked the butcher for a pork bone just for some extra flavor.
The pork broth that’s made is going to be used to flavor the masa as well. Not just the meat.
Pork is really fatty. When it’s cooking, be sure to skim the fat off every so often. Let this cook for a long, long time.
👩🏼🍳 Pro Tips:
- The trick to tamales faster is making everything in stages and ready to go.
- I highly suggest making the filling in a slow cooker or making it the day before. You can even make it two days before.
- Invite friends to help and reward them with tamales.
- Don’t be afraid to buy prepared masa.
- Tying an extra knot around the tamales is extra work. It’s ok to just fold them and skip the tying.
🌽 Corn Husks
- The corn husks need to be soaked.
- I usually soak them the night before. Then the day of, I drain and soak them again.
Yes, you can soak the husks that day. 20 minutes in warm water. That will do the trick, but test the corn husks to see if they are pliable enough.
Will they wrap, bend, move easily? If so, then great! They are ready. If not, add more hot water and let them soak longer.
🌶️ Making the Chile Sauce
- You need a lot of ancho chile. You can also use a combination of ancho and guajillo.
- Clean them, devein them, and remove the seeds.
What can I say? This is the way my grandmother made them. My grandmother being the original Mama Maggie, my namesake.
If guajillo is on sale that week, use guajillo! Ancho chile, though, is preferred.
In Mexico, dried chiles tend to be dusty. It mainly has to do with the way that they are stored. I’ve even found little bugs. EEK!
How to Clean Dried Chiles
- Get a damp paper towel and gently wipe off any dust.
- Do not rinse them under the faucet. I feel like that takes away some of the flavor.
This is another reason why you should not use the rehydrating water when cooking.
I know that’s the way most of our moms made food, but I’ve started to go away from doing this. No bugs for me!
- Blend until smooth.
- Put the sauce through the strainer and push with the back of your cooking spoon.
- Set Aside.
Sometimes the blender won’t get all the chile, and there are bits and pieces of chile still in the sauce.
You can even make this sauce ahead of time. It will last in the fridge up to 3 days. Or a few months months in the freezer.
- Save some of the sauce in a separate container.
- From here, add the reserved red sauce to the masa.
- Mix the masa and the red sauce.
Make your own Masa for Tamales or buy some at the Mexican market. Whatever works for you.
Notice how the masa turns orange. Yes, you can skip this step and use all the red sauce in the pork.
However, the sauce gives the masa a good flavor.
- Once the pork is cooked, you want to let it cool slightly.
- Shredding meat is harder when it is hot.
- Then add the remaining sauce to the pork.
Some people like their the filling to be really saucy. Mexican food is alllll about the sauce. It’s boss!
- If you want it saucier, add some pork broth to the stock pot with the red pork.
- Add more pork broth until you get the consistency, texture, and taste you want. If need be, add more salt.
Taste this filling. Remember that if the filling is good, the tamales will be good.
From here, the next step is to assemble!
🫔 How to Assemble Tamales
- Shake off any excess water from the corn husk.
- Add about a tablespoon of masa to the lower part of the corn husk.
- Add a tablespoon of the pork filling. You can also add more sauce if you like.
- Then fold one side over.
- Then fold the other side over.
- Lastly, fold the corner top into the center of the tamal.
- Repeat until done.
Here, we’re making savory tamales. Have you ever tried sweet tamales? Yum!
⏰ Cooking Tamales in the Instant Pot
Seriously, whoever invented the instant pot is a genius. You know how tamales usually take 1 ½ hour but closer to 2 hours to cook?
Instant Pot Tamales cook in half the time. SAY WHAT??!! That’s right. No waiting around for hours on end for the tamales to cook.
For Frozen Tamales:
- Set the time for 45 minutes. Then full release.
- Let them sit for about 5-10 minutes before removing the lid.
For Fresh Tamales:
- Set the timer for 35 minutes. Then full release.
- Let them sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
We’re talking under an hour to cook the tamales. Happy Dance! 🕺🏻
For More Tamale Recipes:
- Tamale Masa Recipe with Oil
- Pickled Jalapeño and Cheese Tamales
- Beef Tamales
- Chicken Salsa Verde Tamales
- Tamales de Frijol
Downside to Instant Pot Tamales
- There’s a downside though. It couldn’t all be good, right? You can only cook a few at a time.
- This recipe is for 3 dozen tamales. I can only fit about 18 full-sized tamales and 2 small tamales.
My advise is to cook one batch. Serve and while everyone is eating, make the other batch. By the time the next batch is ready, your family will be done with the first batch.
Or, you can freeze the second batch. Unless your family is hungry. My family’s motto: “Leave no tamal behind.” lol.
Don’t have an instant pot? Try the original Tamales Rojos recipe made in a steamer.
😋 Hungry for More?
Did you make this recipe? Please rate the recipe below!
Instant Pot Pork Tamales
- For the Pork Filling:
- 3 ½ pounds pork butt or shoulder rough chopped
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 onion
- 12 dried chile ancho stems and seeds removed
- ½ tablespoon whole cumin
- Salt and pepper
- 4 – 5 cups Pork broth reserved from the cooking
- For the Masa Dough:
- 2 ½ lbs of prepared masa
- 1 cup of red chile sauce reserved from the pork filling
- 36 corn husks
- 1 Cup Water
- In a large stock pot, add the pork pieces.
- Add the garlic, onion, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
- Cover with water.
- Leave about 2 inches above all the contents in the stock pot.
- Place a lid on the pot and cook on low for 2 hours.
- (Note: You can also do this in the slow cooker on low for 6 hours).
- Soak the corn husks in warm water for at least 20 minutes. Overnight is best.
- Place an object on top of the corn husks that’s heavy enough so they can soak completely.
- Once the pork is fully cooked, remove the meat and let cool.
- Reserve all the liquid from the stock pot.
- For the Red Chile Sauce:
- Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles.
- If they are dusty, wipe them with a damp paper towel.
- Place the chiles in a pot and cover with water.
- Bring the pot to a boil.
- Turn the heat off.
- Let the chiles soak for 5 minutes, or until pliable.
- To a blender, add the rehydrated chiles, ½ tablespoon cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3 cups pork broth.
- Blend until smooth.
- Using a mesh strainer, strain the chile sauce.
- Help push the sauce through the strainer using the back of a cooking spoon.
- Reserve ½ cup of the red chile sauce for the masa, and set aside.
- Once the pork is cool enough, shred the pork meat using two forks.
- Add the shredded pork meat to a large stock pot.
- Pour the remaining red chile sauce to the pork and 1 cup of the pork broth.
- (For a saucier filling, add 2 cups of pork broth instead).
- Coat the meat with the sauce.
- Cook for 20 minutes.
- (If you are making a saucier meat, cook for an additional 10 minutes).
- Let the meat cool slightly before assembling the tamales.
- For the Masa:
- Add ½ cup of the reserved red chile sauce to the masa.
- Mix well until the chile sauce.
- The masa will take on an orange color.
- To Assemble the Tamales:
- Drain the water from the container with the corn husks.
- Shake off any excess water from the corn husk.
- Place the husk in the palm of your hand.
- Spread about 1 large tablespoon of masa on the corn husk.
- (You might need more or less masa depending on how big the husk is).
- Only spread the masa on the bottom and halfway to the top.
- Add 1 tablespoon of the pork filling to the center of the masa on the corn husk.
- Fold one side of the husk in.
- Fold the other side in.
- Fold the pointy top over to the middle of the corn husk.
- Set aside.
- Continue assembling tamales until you run out of corn husks or filling.
- (Remember to leave a few corn husks for the pot).
- Place the metal crate for the Instant Pot.
- Add 1 cup of water.
- Arrange as many tamales as you can open-side up.
- (I was able to fit 18 large and 2 small tamales).
- Close the lid.
- Move the valve to Sealing.
- Press Pressure Cook.
- For Frozen Tamales: Press the + button for 45 minutes.
- For Fresh Tamales: Press the + button for 35 minutes.
- Full Release.
- Wait 5 minutes.
- Open the lid.
- Serve with your favorite salsa.
Maggie Unzueta is the writer/blogger, photographer, recipe developer, videographer, and creator of In Mama Maggie's Kitchen. She has been developing easy and authentic Mexican food, Mexican-inspired recipes, and traveling tips since 2010. From family recipes to her extensive travels throughout Mexico, she brings traditional Mexican flavors from South of the Border and into your kitchen. Maggie has been featured in notable culinary websites and other media outlets. For more details, check out her About page.