This recipe has been passed down through five generations of women from Don~a Anita to Don~a Esther to Gloria (Joe Guel’s beautiful wife) to her children and grandchildren.

  • 15 lbs pork butt/roast
  • 15 lbs prepared masa or use instant corn masa and prepare per instructions on the package
  • 4 bags of ojas (corn husks)
  • 1 lb dry chile pasilla (needs prep time) or 4 8-oz packages of powdered red chile
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt to taste
  • 1 package/container of cominos (cumin seeds)
  • Tamal pot or substitute a large pot with an upside down pie pan at the bottom

Start with boiling the meat in a large pot for 2 hours or until the meat falls apart.

Meanwhile, if you are preparing your own fresh chile, split open and discard seeds from pasilla chiles.  Boil until skins fall off.  Cool down.  Discard half of the water and pour the remainder with chiles into a blender and puree.  Set aside.

Open your packs of corn husks and unroll them, being sure to discard any hairs from the center if necessary and soak in hot water until they are needed.

Back to the meat!  After the meat falls apart, drain all the water.  In a large pot or frying pan, add oil, garlic and cominos to sauté.  Add chile mixture and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add meat and mix well (if using powdered chile instead, sprinkle it over the meat at this time) until completely coated. If the meat looks dry, add water.

Using prepared tamal masa, add a little powdered chile for color and flavor.

Next remove the ojas from the water and squeeze out the excess water.  Open and spread onto the smooth side starting from the wider edge to about 2-3 inches from the thinner side, allowing for a fold.  You can do about a dozen at a time or all at once.  Now get the meat mixture and one oja with masa spread onto it and add a small amount to the middle.  Roll it like a burrito and fold up the bare edge of the oja.

To cook, use a tamal pot (or substitute).  Beginning at the bottom of the pot, place the prepared tamales upright, leaning on each other to create a teepee with open ends at the top and pile around until they reach the top of the pot, leaving room for the lid to close.  Pour about a gallon of hot water around the edges.  Cover and cook on high to boil.  After ten minutes, lower to medium and steam for about 2 to 2-1/2 hours.  Make sure to check that it is continuously steaming and add hot water as needed.

Tamales are done when you can take one tamal out from the top and it rolls off the oja without sticking.  It will have a soft consistency but will firm when you let it air.  Let them cool 10-15 minutes and start taking them out.  Yields about 7 dozen tamales.

Gloria’s pro tips:

  • For a less spicy taste, you can use a California mild chile of your choice.
  • Be creative! If desired, include chicken or beef, beans, cheese, or chorizo.
  • May freeze for up to 6 months cooked or uncooked.
  • For that fresh just-made taste, freeze uncooked tamales and cook when you’re ready to eat them.
  • It’s a lot of work, but it can be fun if done in a large group (a great family activity for all the generations).
  • Make with lots of love.


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