How to make Mexican Pork Tamales in half the time with the Instant Pot! This authentic recipe uses a mildly spicy red chili sauce and fluffy masa to make the best, most delicious tamales that are near to perfection!
Rinse the corn husks to remove any dirt, hairs, or dust (and sometimes bugs, yuk!).
Place in the sink or a large pot and cover with warm water. Lay something heavy on top of the corn husks to keep them submerged. (I use a large pan.)
Soak corn husks overnight or for at least 2 hours, until they are soft and pliable.
Pat them dry or lay on a towel to air dry for 30 minutes before using. (Don't air dry for longer than 30 minutes or they will start to dry out.)
Cook the Meat
Give your pork a good rinse in the sink. Trim the fat off and discard. Cut into large chunks.
Place the pork chunks into the Instant Pot along with water and seasonings (cumin, salt, minced garlic, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, and a crushed chicken bouillon cube). Add 3 bay leaves on top (that way you can easily find and remove them when the meat is done cooking).
Close the lid on the Instant Pot and lock into place. Move the steam release handle to the "Sealing" position. Set to cook on the manual high setting for 90 minutes. Once down, allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, and then do a quick release by moving the steam release handle to the "Venting" position.
Carefully open the lid after all pressure has been released. Remove the bay leaves and discard.
Using a slotted spoon, remove pork (reserving the broth) and place in a heat-proof bowl. Shred with 2 forks. Stir in ½ cup of reserved pork broth and salt to taste, if needed. Cover and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to assemble the tamales.
Lay a mesh strainer on top of a heat-proof bowl. Pour the remaining (reserved) pork broth from the Instant Pot liner through the strainer and into the bowl. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to make the masa.
Make the Red Chili Sauce
Using scissors, cut the stems off the ancho and quajillo chilies. Cut down the side and remove all seeds. Rinse the chilies to remove dirt and dust.
Fill a medium-sized (2.5 quart) pot half-full of water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.
Add chilies, onion (cut into 4 chunks), and garlic cloves.
Cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes.
Once cooked, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Using a slotted spoon, remove chilies, onion, and garlic and place in a blender along with ½ cup of liquid from the pot. Puree until smooth and then pour through a fine mesh strainer using the back of your spoon to push it through. (This will strain out any pieces of chili skin remaining in your puree.)
Add 1 cup of the chili puree into the shredded pork and stir. Place remaining chili sauce and pork into the refrigerator to save for later.
Make the Masa (dough)
Masa is easiest to spread when fresh, so try to make it right before you're ready to assemble the tamales.
Add lard to the mixing bowl of a stand mixer and, using a paddle attachment, beat on speed level "4" for 5 minutes. Lard should look creamy and fluffy when done.
Turn mixer off and scrape the sides of the mixing bowl down with a spatula. Add pork broth, red chili sauce, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup of Maseca Tamal. Turn mixer on speed level "2" and mix until incorporated. Slowly add 4 ½ more cups of Maseca Tamal, 1 cup at a time, until completely incorporated (scrape sides down with a spatula as needed). Masa should have the consistency of smooth peanut butter.
Test to make sure the masa is ready by dropping a dallop of dough into a glass of water. If it floats, your masa is ready. If it sinks, add ¼ cup more broth or water, mix for 2 more minutes, and then retest. Repeat until dough floats.
Sort corn husks into 2 separate piles: a "usable pile" and an "unusable pile". Place husks that have large tears, holes, or are too narrow (less than 5 inches wide) into the "unusable pile". These will be used for tearing into narrow strips for ties. Place all other husks that are at least 5-6 inches wide into the "usable pile". These will be used for assembling your tamales. You will need at least 36 of these. Very wide husks can be tore in half or trimmed to about 5-6 inches wide (if you're slightly OCD like me).
From your "unusable" pile, tear corn husks into 36 strips that are ¼ inch wide. These will be used to tie up tamales to prevent them from opening while cooking.
Take one corn husk from your "usable pile". (One side will be smoother than the other. Make sure you spread your masa on the smooth side.)
On the wide end of the corn husk, spread a thin layer of masa (about ⅛ to ¼ inch thick) using the back of a spoon or a small icing spatula. Spread masa over half the length of the husk and ½ inch away from the long edges. Add 1 to 2 Tablespoons of pork in a line down the middle of the masa.
Trifold the long sides of the corn husk over the filling. (Fold one long side in over the meat filling and the other long side in over that.) Then, fold the corn husk in half so that both ends meet together (or close to it).
Optional: Lay one corn husk strip perpendicularly under the middle of the tamale and tie together to keep it from opening while cooking.
Repeat until all 3 dozen are made (or until you run out of stuff).
Place tamales inside vertically with open ends pointing up. Make sure they are tight enough in there to prevent them from falling over while cooking. (I sometimes use a ball of foil to help keep them upright.) Close the lid and lock into place.
Move the steam release handle to the "Sealing" position and pressure cook on manual high for 35 minutes. Once done, allow pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, and then do a quick release by moving the steam release handle to the "Venting" position.
Carefully open the lid at an angle to prevent moisture from dripping inside the tamales. Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
When ready to eat, simply slide the tie off and unfold the corn husk allowing the filling to slowly roll out onto a plate. Discard the corn husk.
Top with leftover red chili sauce, pico de gallo, salsa, sour cream, and cilantro. Serve with Mexican rice, refried beans, and chips and salsa. Now dig in! You've earned it!
How to store cooked tamales:
Place in a ziplock bag, press out all air, and seal. Will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator and 3 months in the freezer. (If freezing, allow to cool completely before placing them in the bag and then into the freezer.)
How to reheat in the Instant Pot:
Follow the recipe cooking instructions listed under "Cook Tamales" except only pressure cook on manual high for 15 minutes and then let pressure "naturally release".
How to reheat on the stove top:
Fill the bottom of a large steamer pot with water (about 2 cups) until it reaches the bottom of the steamer insert without going over it - you don't want your tamales to touch the water! (If you don't have a steamer pot you can use a large stockpot instead and insert a steamer basket inside.)
Place tamales inside the steamer basket vertically with open ends pointing up.
Lay leftover corn husks (soaked and moist) on top of the tamales and close the lid. (If you don't have leftover corn husks, you can lay a moist towel over the top of the pot before closing the lid. Be careful not to let the towel touch the burner!)
Allow the water to come to a boil and then turn heat down to medium-low and simmer until tamales are heated through, about 15-20 minutes. (Add an extra 10-20 minutes if reheating from frozen.)
How to reheat in the oven:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Tightly wrap each tamale individually in foil. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cook for about 20-25 minutes until they are hot in the middle.
How to reheat in the microwave:
Wrap each tamale in a damp paper towel and lay in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. (I usually add 2 Tablespoons of water to the bottom of the plate.) Microwave 1-2 minutes, until heated through. If frozen, microwave on 50% power for about 4 minutes, adding 1 minute at a time until desired temperature is reached.