Christmas Tamale Recipe

A christmas tamale recipe

A Christmas Tamale Recipe from Don Jose Mexican Food

It’s Christmastime in Arizona… and that means “TAMALES!”

While shoppers from Washington to Maine swarm the malls beginning the day after Thanksgiving, here in Arizona many of us are busy with making Christmas tamales. The corn masa-and-meat bundles — individually wrapped in corn husks and then steamed — are part of the traditional Mexican celebration of “Las Posadas”, which commemorates Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter before the birth of Jesus.

Tamales have been traditional Christmas Eve fare for centuries because they’re portable, easy to store and inexpensive to make for large gatherings.

Through the years, the preparation of tamales at Christmastime has become a social event – called a “tamalada” – as womenfolk from Mexico to the American Southwest gather together to prepare the Christmas Eve feast.

To help you with your personal tamalada, here is a great tamale recipe – just in time for the holidays!

Pork Tamales
Prep time: 6 Hours
Cook time: 2 Hours
Servings: 30 Tamales


2 1/2 lbs pork shoulder trimmed of fat and diced
8 Cups water
1 medium onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup lard
1/3 – ½ cup chili powder and ½ tablespoon for the dough (depending on your spice tolerance)
4 cups masa harina (this is the dough you will be using.)
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
30 corn husks dried, about 8 inches long

Cooking Directions

1. Making the filling
Place the pork in a deep saucepan along with the cold water. Add onion, chili powder, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 hours, until the pork is very tender.
Remove the meat from the broth. Strain the broth and reserve (allow the broth to cool if you want to remove the fat; if that’s not important to you, keep it warm for tastier tamales).
Allow the meat to cool and shred using two forks.

2. Prep the corn husks
Soak the corn husks in a bowl of hot water, using a plate to keep them submerged, until pliable, for approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Rinse to remove any corn silk and drain well.

3. Working the masa
Mix the lard (room temperature) with the baking powder, the ½ tablespoon chili powder and two teaspoons of salt. Slowly, alternate mixing in the masa harina, with 2 cups of the reserved broth. The result should be a thick, creamy paste.

Next, we will be putting all of the pieces together for great Christmas tamales!

Starting 1/2 inch from the wide end, spread about 3 tablespoons of the dough down each husk. Leave a 1-inch border on the sides. If the husks are small, use two – so the tamales do not fall apart.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of the pork filling down the center of the dough, then fold in the sides of the husk, wrapping the dough around the filling.

Fold up the narrow end of the husk.
Repeat to create the rest of the tamales.

Set the steamer in a large pot filled with 2 inches of water. Arrange the tamales standing up in the steamer, folded-side down. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and steam until the dough is firm, 45 to 50 minutes. Add water when necessary.

Remove from the steamer and let cool slightly.

Now, unwrap one or more of those tasty tamales and enjoy a Happy Holiday Meal!

Thanks to for this awesome recipe!

Don Jose Mexican Food is a family-owned-and-operated authentic Mexican restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona. Don Jose is a Phoenix tradition – at our location on Thomas Rd and 38th Street since it was founded in 1966.

Don Jose offers freshly cooked Mexican food and fast, friendly customer service. We take pride in preparing our meals from the freshest ingredients with authentic recipes. We also provide an outstanding catering service for events such as birthday parties, graduations, or other special occasions.

You can learn more about our Food Wagon from here!