A Tamale Tradition: Make your own this Christmas

Along with the Christmas season comes beloved family traditions. For many of us, those include festivities like decorating a Christmas tree, baking homemade cookies, or hanging pretty lights outside our homes. For those of us that come from a Hispanic family, there’s another highly anticipated holiday tradition: fresh, melt-in-your-mouth tamales. Often times the recipe has been handed down from generation to generation, and it’s the kind of comfort food that just tastes like home. Tamales are one of those special meals that a lot of love and labor goes into, so it’s common for everyone in the family to have a part in the preparation. From making the masa to shredding the meat to wrapping the finished tamales, it’s a lot of work, but the finished meal is well worth the effort!

Arroyo’s Pork Tamale Recipe

Stockton’s beloved Arroyo’s Cafe has been serving up delicious Mexican food for many years. They’ve been kind enough to share their famous Pork Tamale recipe with us for anyone who would like to take part in this tasty holiday tradition.

Corn Husks

For easier wrapping of the tamale, use concha or shell-shaped husks. You’ll want to soak the husks by submerging them in hot water for up to two hours, or until soft.

Pork Meat

Place around ten pounds of pork butt in a large pan and cover with cold water. Season the meat with onion, garlic cloves, and four to six tablespoons of salt. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce to medium heat and cook until pork is tender (about 2 hours).  Remove meat and shred in a shallow pan. Strain and keep the cooking liquid.


In a blender, add about seven chili California pods, seven guaijjo pods, one pasilla pod, five garlic cloves, a large onion, ¼-cup chicken bouillon, salt, and about half of the saved cooking liquid. Blend until smooth. Then add to shredded pork and let simmer until liquid is absorbed. 


Mix about 16 cups of corn masa, six teaspoons salt, ¼-cup baking powder, two cups lard, and the rest of the cooking liquid. Slowly add enough warm water to the mixture to make the dough spreadable.

Assemble the Tamales

Drain the husks and then spread about three to four tablespoons of masa in the center and around the husk, leaving the edges open. Add the pork filling down the middle and fold in the sides of the husks. Fold up the narrow end of the husk.

Steam the Assembled Tamales

Place Tamales in a large steamer, standing with the open side up. Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and steam until dough is firm (approximately 90 to 120 minutes). Be sure the steamer does not go dry. Remove tamales from steamer, let cool, and enjoy!

Pick Up a Batch:
Arroyo’s Cafe
2381 W March Ln, Stockton
(209) 472-1661

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