DIY Tamales: Myrna’s secret recipe

Whew! Sorry folks–kind of got derailed on the blogging there for a second. With all of my writing classes starting (the one I go to plus the ones I teach) and Valentine’s Day fast approaching at Sucre, I didn’t have nearly as much time to blog as I had gotten used to having over Christmas break. Know what else I’ve been doing since Christmas break? Making tamales, thanks to my awesome friend Aubrey. When she told me at work that she was going to make tamales the next day, I jumped at the chance to come over and learn the recipe.

You see, Marc is kind of a tamale fiend. He’s obsessed and–unfortunately–very often disappointed, since many of the Mexican restaurants in New Orleans don’t carry tamales for whatever reason (my theory: too dang time consuming). Even our honeymoon cruise to Progresso and Cozumel turned into a full-scale tactical mission to find this man some tamales that ended ironically, damned near inconceivably, without success. Tackling homemade tamales had always loomed as a vaguely intimidating task in my mind, so I was thrilled to be able to shadow Aubrey as she made hers. The results? Deliciousness that wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

Fair warning though–they are time-consuming, albeit totally worth it. My best advice is to dedicate an afternoon to them and invite some friends over to help. You’ll be making enough for a crowd anyway.

Aubrey told me she learned the recipe from her “Mexican mama” back in Atlanta, a woman named Myrna, in much the same way that I then learned it from her–by hovering over her in the kitchen and furiously scribbling down notes. So, without further adieu, I give you Myrna’s tamale recipe. Don’t be scared. If these two gringas can do it, so can you!

Myrna’s Shredded Pork Tamales







Estimated time: 1/2 prep the night before, 3-4 hours the day of

Equipment needed:

crock pot

large stock pot or dutch oven

food processor or blender



4-5 lbs. pork – we used Boston butt (tee-hee-hee!), but any fatty part of the pig will do

2 packages corn husks

1 package Masa tamale cornmeal mix

–for the dry rub–

2 tbsp. salt

1 tbsp. coarse ground black pepper

1 tbsp. paprika

1 tbsp. cayenne

1/2 tbsp. ground mustard (optional)

olive oil

–for the chili sauce–

5-6 large dried red peppers

2 small dried red peppers

3 sorento peppers

2 large garlic cloves, pressed

1/2 tbsp. salt

2 capfuls white vinegar



1. Rub the salt, pepper, paprika, and cayenne all over the pork until evenly covered.

2. Drizzle just enough olive oil on the meat to coat it; wrap in plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.

3. Unwrap meat and place in crock pot; add 1 cup water and cook on low overnight. If cooking a different amount of meat, just use the ratio of 2 cups of water for every 1 pound of meat.


1. Soak the corn husks in water and set aside.

2. Put the peppers, garlic, white vinegar, and salt in the food processor or blender. Add 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup of broth from the crockpot. Process until smooth.

3. Use a colander to strain out any seeds and debris; pour the liquid into a saucepan and simmer for several minutes or until a layer of orange foam appears on top. Scrap off the foam and turn off heat.

4. Transfer pork from the crockpot to a large container (we used a really big tupperware dish). Shred pork with a fork. It should be very tender and easy to shred.

5. Make the masa cornmeal from the directions on the box, but substitute the broth from the crockpot for water. Set aside.

6. Add the chili sauce to the pork until juicy and orange-red. It should look like BBQ pork. Resist the temptation to eat it all on the spot.

7. Take corn husks out of water and set them on a plate lined with a wet paper towel. Cover with a wet paper towel on top to keep them moist as you go. Make the tamales by spreading the masa paste onto the middle of the corn husk, then spooning on some of the shredded pork. You can alter the proportions to your taste–heavy on the pork, heavy on the cornmeal, whatever.

8. Wrap the corn husk and tie it together with a strip of corn husk. Set aside and cover with more wet paper towels. Keep going until you run out of husks, meal, or pork!

9 Set the tamales vertically in the dutch oven. If you don’t have enough to cover the whole bottom of the pot so that they support themselves, you can put a small metal or ceramic bowl in the middle to create a doughnut shape. Pour in about 1 inch of water.

10. Cover the whole operation with flat corn husks, then put the pot lid on. Simmer for about an hour, then check to see if they’re done. If you open a husk and the tamale falls out solid, you’re good to go.

Voila! Scrumptious, spicy, hearty, Marc-satisfying tamales. Aubrey says that this same basic recipe can be applied to a lot of variations, such as beef, chicken, or veggie tamales. I think the next time I make them on my own I’m going to try a pork and mango combination.

If you try the recipe, comment and let me know how you liked it. Or if you’re already a pro tamale maker and have a different recipe you want to share, comment with that as well. The pay-off for these guys taking so long to make is that, if you make a big batch, you can freeze them and reheat them as leftovers later on.

your ethnic susie homemaker,


Thanks, Aubrey, for your secret to tamale nirvana.




Filed under DIY

2 responses to “DIY Tamales: Myrna’s secret recipe

  1. Ria Rakis / Justice Pirate

    I truly had no idea that you posted a recipe too!! These are things I’ve never tried at all!! sounds so interesting!!

    psst. just a quick question since I noticed that you don’t have your FB activated (unless you’ve since done so. . I checked yesterday). . .were you planning on sponsoring this month again? if so or not, let me know! You’re almost expired!

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