Photo by Sonia Mendez Garcia

Chile Colorado Pork Tamales

Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 48 tamales
Every family has its own version of tamales for the holidays and special parties. Chile colorado pork tamales are my family's very own version.

Chile colorado pork tamales is truly the one tamales recipe I remember most from my childhood. This recipe has been handed down for generations in my family. Of course, every family has their own version of tamales for the holidays and special parties. I learned this one from my mom, and since she couldn't ship them to me, I was forced to learn how to prepare them on my own. Now, after years of practice, I actually find the whole tamale-making process quite enjoyable! Here is my best recollection of my mom’s recipe for chile colorado pork tamales.

I love making dishes with chile colorado because of the bright red color and bold flavor of the sauce. In addition to tamales, I've used it to make pozole and sopes, and both turned out delicious!


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  1. Start by cooking the pork in a big pot with enough water to cover it and add the whole garlic bulb. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt to the water; cover, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook for 3 to 4 hours or until pork becomes tender.
  2. In another pot, add the chile ancho and fill with water, cover with lid and bring to a boil then reduce the heat and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  3. When the chile ancho has cooled, drain the peppers and transfer them to a blender, add 2 cups of pork stock, 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1/2 tablespoon cumin, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons black pepper. Blend in two batches if you don’t think you can fit it in one batch. Blend until smooth; set aside 1/2 cup to add into the masa dough.
  4. Once the pork is cooked, remove from the broth and let it cool for a little while. Once cool enough, shred the pork or cut into bite-size pieces. Heat 3 tablespoons of 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. Transfer the corn husks to a large pot and cover with very hot water; soak for a an hour to soften.
  5. To make the masa dough: Combine masa harina, baking powder and salt in a large bowl, gradually add warm chicken broth and 1/2 cup of reserved chile ancho sauce. Using your hands, work into a soft dough. In another glass bowl, melt the shortening or pork lard and add it to the masa. Work the dough with your hands until it acquires has a spongy texture. If the dough seems too thick, add a little more chicken broth. Keep the dough covered with a damp paper towel until ready to use.
  6. To assemble the 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 and lay tamale seam-side down until ready to cook.
  7. Prepare a large pot to steam tamales; take a metal steamer that expands out, place in the center of pot. Add about 5 to 6 cups of water to the bottom of pot, just so it comes up to the level of 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/low for the next hour. Set your timer for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, I add a little more hot water to the steamer and continue cooking until the hour is up.
  8. Remove from heat and let stand for 25 to 30 minutes before serving.

Chef Notes

Let the tamales cool completely before storing. I like to freeze mine placing 6 tamales per bundle so they are easier to defrost.  

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