Little Pork Tamales with Red Chile Sauce

  • Active Time 1h 5m
  • Total Time 3h 50m

Makes 2 dozens

These tender tamales with smoky, smooth ancho sauce are easy to make, but they do take some time. However, all the work can be done ahead, and at the last minute all you need to do is reheat them.


  • 1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder or butt
  • 5 cups water
  • 3 teaspoons salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 white corn tortillas, quartered
  • 1/2 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup coarse white grits (see Note)
  • 1 cup masa harina
  • 5 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 24 large dried corn husks (see Note)


In a saucepan, cover the pork with the water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover partially and simmer over low heat until the pork is very tender, about 2 hours. Transfer to a plate; cover with a damp cloth and let cool.

Strain the cooking liquid and return it to the saucepan; skim off the fat. Add the onion, garlic, anchos, tomatoes and tortillas. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

In a skillet, toast the pumpkin seeds over moderate heat until puffed, about 3 minutes. Puree the ancho mixture with the pumpkin seeds in batches. Return the puree to the saucepan and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt.

In a bowl, combine the grits, masa harina and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Slowly stir in the grits and masa harina. Cover and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring. Add the butter, season with salt and let the dough cool slightly.

Meanwhile, soak the corn husks in water until pliable, about 20 minutes; drain. Shred the pork into a bowl and stir in 3/4 cup of the ancho sauce; season with salt.

Spread a corn husk on a work surface. Spread 3 tablespoons of the warm tamale dough over the wide end of the husk to form a 1/4 inch-thick rectangle. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the pork filling in the center of the dough. Using the husk, bring the dough up to enclose the meat. Fold the husk around the dough and fold the narrow end of the husk under the tamale. Repeat with the remaining husks, dough and pork filling; rewarm the dough in the microwave oven or on a plate in a steamer if it cools down.

Cook the tamales in a large steamer until heated through and firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Rewarm the remaining ancho sauce and serve with the tamales.

MAKE AHEAD: The uncooked tamales can be frozen for up to 1 week.

HELPFUL HINTS: Coarse-textured Arrowhead Mills grits are widely available at health-food and specialty-food stores. Dried corn husks are also available at specialty-food stores, or you can use fresh husks.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Food and Wine. All rights reserved.

RecID 2019

nutrition information per serving

147 calories; 8g total fat; 29mg cholesterol; 62mg sodium; 11g carbohydrates; 1g fiber; 9g protein

These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.

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