A Christmas Recipe Tradition: Homemade Tamales

While making tamales is a process (made very fun with a few family members to help stuff and wrap them!), it’s really simple and they're customizable!

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made with a corn based dough mixture that is filled with various meats or beans and cheese.  Tamales are wrapped and cooked in corn husks or banana leaves, but they are removed from the husks before eating.

During the Holiday Season, Tamales are great to make together as a family because it does take some time stuffing and wrapping them. Here is Visit Concord's favorite recipe and instructions for the best Tamales:


  • 1 6-ounce package dried corn husks
  • 1½ pounds pork loin
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves Garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • ½ cup ground dried, Red Chiles (not chili powder)
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ tsp Mexican Oregano

*Tamales are easy to customize: chicken, beef, pork and vegetarian filling are great options


  • 6 cups masa harina (corn flour for tamales)
  • 1 ²/³ cups Snowcap Lard
  • 5 cups water, or more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons salt



1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Place pork and onion in a medium-size baking dish and cover with water. Bake for approximately 1½ hours, or until pork is cooked through and pulls apart easily.

2. Remove pork from liquid, reserving both. When pork is cool enough to handle, pull it into fine shreds. When liquid has cooled, strain and skim fat from surface. If liquid doesn’t measure 2 cups, add enough water to equal 2 cups.

3. Warm oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and pork. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir for 1 minute as flour begins to brown.

4. Add chile, cooking liquid, salt and oregano. Continue cooking for 20 to 25 minutes, until most of liquid has evaporated but pork remains moist. Watch carefully and stir in last few minutes to avoid burning.


Mix masa harina, oil, water and salt with an electric mixer. Mix till well-blended and smooth, like a very soft cookie dough. Add more water if needed for correct consistency. (Fresh ground tamale dough, or masa, is often available around the holidays in communities with a Latino population. You may need to order it in advance. About 3 pounds can be used in place of the dough.)

Corn husks

Place corn husks in a deep bowl and cover with hot water. Let soak until softened and pliable, about 30 minutes. Separate husks, and if there is any grit or brown silk, rinse them under water. Husks can stay in water once softened while you form the tamales.


1. Each tamale will require about 2 tablespoons of filling and dough and 1 large corn husk. Hold a corn husk flat, smooth side up. With a large spoon, spread a thin layer of dough across the husk, not quite to the edges.

2. Top with filling spread more thickly through dough’s center, stopping short of dough’s edges. Fold one-half over the other, enclosing the filling within the dough. Fold up the bottom third of the corn husk, so that the tamale becomes something of a package. Repeat procedure until all dough and filling are used.


1. Arrange a vegetable steamer in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill with hot water. Place tamales in steamer, standing them on the folded ends. Leave enough space among them for steam to rise effectively.

2. Cover pot and cook over simmering water for about 1 hour, until the masa is firm and no longer sticks to husks. Check one tamale for consistency. If still doughy, rewrap and return to the pot, and continue steaming for a few more minutes. Tamales should be eaten warm. The husks are usually removed by each guest before eating but can be removed ahead of time, if you prefer.

Makes 2 Dozen tamales

Don't have the time to make them? Here are a few local Concord Restaurants that you can order and pick up from:

Be sure to order early as restaurants are known to run out or have cut off dates

  1. Mercado del Sol: 1450 Monument Blvd, Concord, CA 94520, (925) 676-8837
  2. Las Montanas Supermarket, Monument Location: 2691 Monument Blvd., Concord, CA 94520, (925) 686-5123
  3. Las Montanas Supermarket, Willow Pass Location: 1725 Willow Pass Rd., Concord, CA 94520, (925) 687-7417
  4. Tortillas El Molino: 1500 Monument Blvd # F-1, Concord, CA 94520, (925) 687-7066

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