Kathleen’s Traditions and Mexican Tamale Recipe

Contributing Writer: Kathleen Regalado | Images: Kathleen Regalado

As the year comes to an end, the Holiday Season brings us a little closer. Families and friends are embraced in the warm hug that the month of December gives. I personally celebrate Christmas Eve, or Nochebuena due to my Hispanic heritage. We have food prepared and gifts wrapped and under the Christmas tree by Christmas Eve. Our gifts are opened at midnight on the 25th. Baby Jesus is also placed in the manger in our family Nativity at this time to represent his birth.

My immediate family and I, which is already very close, had a joyous Christmas Eve as we witnessed each other open exciting gifts and listen to Holiday music in euphoria. It’s also a tradition to watch “A Christmas Story” every Christmas Day for me and my siblings.

In addition to having a decorated house, wrapped presents and a joyful mood, food is important to us for the Holiday season. The food that accompanies my family’s Christmas is the star of the show. Many Hispanic families can agree that tamales are a classic for Christmas time; they are another present to unwrap! My mother is Mexican so my family generally eats Mexican tamales every Nochebuena. Our tamales are made of cornmeal dough with shredded pork and red chile sauce that is then wrapped in cornhusks and are steamed to be eaten for dinner time.

To make this traditional Mexican Christmas dish you will need:

  • 3 lbs Pork shoulder or butt
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 10 lbs Masa (we use MASECA brand)
  • 2 cups of pork lard
  • 1 lb dried corn husks
  • ¼ lb Guajillo chile pods
  • ¼ lb Puya chile pods
  • Sesame seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp Cumin
  1. Soak corn husks in water til they moisten
  2. Mix masa with enough water and pork lard so there are no lumps and there it is thick yet spreadable. Salt as desired.
  3. Cut the pork meat into small chunks for boiling. Boil in salted water for approximately 90 minutes.
  4. Roast the sesame seeds and garlic cloves in a saucepan to release more flavor.
  5. Boil chile pods for until tender. Optionally remove seeds for a more tame flavor.
  6. Blend the chile, sesame seeds, garlic, cumin, black pepper, salt with added water in a blender. You now have your red chile!
  7. It’s now time to assemble the tamales. Take a corn husk and spread on masa with a spoon till it covers most of the husk. Put pieces of shredded pork with about 2 tablespoons of chile. Be moderate with your pork and chile sauce to not overfill! Fold in the top and bottom then fold over the flaps of the husks.
  8. Finally your tamales need to be steamed. Use a large pot and place tamales around the perimeter, stacking them higher as you go. Add enough water to keep it below the steamer but also add some extra corn husks to keep the tamales from getting wet. Steam for about an hour.
  9. Enjoy your hot tamales along with your favorite salsa like I did!

It is best to keep in mind that tamales are a filling meal, which is why my family only has them for special occasions. This tamale recipe is delicious any time of year and well worth a try! Hope everyone had a great Holiday celebration and is ready for the New Year! ¡Feliz Navidad, Prospero año y felicidad!

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