Linda's Traditional Tamales

This is my own personal recipe, developed over the years. This makes a huge batch, enough to eat and plenty for freezing for another day.

Traditional Tamales


Chile Paste

  • 1 pound dried whole red chiles*, mild or hot

* The chiles are the large dried ones that you see hanging outside doors or under ramadas in the Southwest and can be purchased at any grocery store by the bagful (usually in the Mexican spice section) in the Southwest or packaged in the ethnic foods section of many grocery stores elsewhere.


  • 6 pounds beef rump roast
  • 6 pounds pork roast
  • 6 to 12 garlic cloves
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons salt

Meat Sauce

  • 2/3 cup lard or Crisco®
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon cumin (comino)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chile Paste, to taste, 1 cup at a time


  • 12 pounds masa**
  • 1 1/4 cups lard or Crisco®
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 cup chile paste
  • 3 cups meat broth, divided

** Masa can be purchased at any tortilla factory or grocery store in the Southwest or in the refrigerated section of the grocery store in many other areas of the country.


  • 1 pound dried corn husks
  • Stuffed green olives (optional)


To prepare chile paste

  1. Break caps off all red chiles and shake seeds out. Soak red chiles in hot water until soft.
  2. Blend or process chiles into a paste using a small amount of water in which they were soaked to help it move in the food processor or blender.
  3. Put paste through a sieve to remove the skins. Throw skins away.
  4. This may be made way ahead of time and refrigerated until you make the tamales.

To prepare meat

  1. Use the cheapest roasts you can find!
  2. Try to cook the meat the day before assembling tamales, keeping it in the refrigerator until tamale-making time.
  3. Cut meat into large chunks. Cover meat with water in a very large pot.
  4. Add 6 to 12 garlic cloves and 2 or 3 tablespoons salt.
  5. Cook meat, covered, for 3 hours or until meat is tender and falling apart.
  6. Remove meat from juice and shred. SAVE THE MEAT BROTH.

To prepare meat sauce

  1. Melt 2/3 cup lard or Crisco® and add 2/3 cup flour. Boil for 2 minutes.
  2. Pour over shredded meat and mix.
  3. Add chili paste, one cup at a time, to taste.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of cumin.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Mix meat sauce with the meat.

To mix masa

  1. Place 12 pounds masa (room temperature) in a very large pan and mix with 1 1/4 cups lard or Crisco®, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1 cup chile paste and 2 cups meat broth. Mix with hands.
  2. Add more meat broth (about 1 cup).
  3. Add more chile paste for color if desired. Work all together with hands for about 10 minutes. The dough is ready when a small lump floats slowly to the bottom of a glass of water.

To assemble tamales

  1. Soak corn husks in hot water until soft. Using the larger husks, place each husk waxy side up (ribbed side down).
  2. Spread masa onto each husk out to the wide edge.
  3. Place a small portion of meat in the center of masa. (You may place a stuffed green olive on the meat if you care to.)
  4. Roll husks and fold back, wide sides to center, then tapered flap up.

To steam tamales

  1. Set a wire rack or vegetable steamer in the bottom of a large kettle. Put water in kettle just up to the bottom of the rack or steamer.
  2. Set tamales in kettle standing on end. Pack them in, allowing room for expansion of masa as they cook.
  3. Steam for about 20 to 40 minutes, or until masa pulls away from corn husk easily.

Recipe property of Linda Jolly - Arizona.