Beef For Tamales


When you’re looking for beef for tamales, it’s good to know who you can trust. You want to be sure that what you’re getting is top quality and delicious. Luckily, you don’t have to search far. Beef is a very important part of a good tamale. It’s the juicy, flavorful, and tender part that really completes in what makes a great tamale. But, actually finding beef for your tamales must not be an easy task if you have no idea where to start.

Beef Tamales

  • Total: 5 hr 30 min
  • Prep: 1 hr
  • Cook: 4 hr 30 min
  • Yield: 3 dozen


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2 pounds beef shoulder roast

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 onions, peeled and sliced

1 garlic bulb, cloves removed and peeled

4 ounces dried New Mexico chilies

2 ounces ancho chiles

2 ounces pasilla chiles

2 tablespoons cumin seed, toasted

1 tablespoons salt

2 bags dried corn husks, about 3 dozen

4 cups masa mix

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

4 cups reserved beef broth, warm

1 cup vegetable shorteningAdd to Shopping List


  1. Season the beef shoulder all over with salt and pepper then brown in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Once browned on all sides, add enough water to cover the roast along with the 1 sliced onion and about 6 cloves of garlic. Cook until the meat is fork tender and comes apart with no resistance, about 2 hours. When done, remove the roast to a platter to cool, reserve the beef broth. Hand shred the meat and set aside.
  2. To prepare the sauce, remove the tops of the dried chilies and shake out most of the seeds. Place the chilies in a large stockpot and cover them with water. Add the cumin, remaining sliced onion and garlic. Boil for 20 minutes until the chiles are very soft. Transfer the chiles to a blender using tongs and add a ladle full of the chile water (it is best to do this in batches.) Puree the chiles until smooth. Pass the pureed chiles through a strainer to remove the remaining seeds and skins. Pour the chili sauce into a large bowl and add salt, stir to incorporate. Taste to check seasonings, add more if necessary. Add the shredded beef to the bowl of chili sauce, and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Go through the dried cornhusks, separate them and discard the silk, be careful since the husks are fragile when dry. Soak them in a sink filled with warm water for 30 minutes to soften. In a deep bowl, combine the masa, baking powder, and salt. Pour the broth into the masa a little at a time, working it in with your fingers. In a small bowl, beat the vegetable shortening until fluffy. Add it to the masa and beat until the dough has a spongy texture.
  4. Rinse, drain, and dry the corn husks. Set them out on a sheet pan covered by a damp towel along with the bowls of masa dough and beef in chili sauce. Start with the largest husks because they are easier to roll. Lay the husk flat on a plate or in your hand with the smooth side up and the narrow end facing you. Spread a thin, even layer of masa over the surface of the husk with a tablespoon dipped in water. Do not use too much! Add about a tablespoon of the meat filling in the center of the masa. Fold the narrow end up to the center then fold both sides together to enclose the filling. The sticky masa will form a seal. Pinch the wide top closed.
  5. Stand the tamales up in a large steamer or colander with the pinched end up. Load the steamer into a large pot filled with 2-inches of water. The water should not touch the tamales. Lay a damp cloth over the tamales and cover with lid. Keep the water at a low boil, checking periodically to make sure the water doesn’t boil away. Steam the tamales for 2 hours.
  6. The tamales are done when the inside pulls away from the husk. The tamale should be soft, firm and not mushy. To serve, unfold the husk and spoon about a tablespoon of remaining beef filling on top.

How To Make Authentic Tamales

Authentic Red Tamales with an extra delicious, shredded meat filling, that taste better than anything you can get at a restaurant. Tamales are an ultimate dish craved around the world!

A plate with one tamales with beans on the side.
Learn to make Mexican tamales with this easy recipe!

This is THE BEST Tamales recipe that’s wildly popular every December! But they’re irresistible all year long.

I’m going to show you how to make them like a pro! It’s easier than you think when when you use a stand mixer and you prepare a few things ahead of time. But I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a bit time consuming but the results are sooo worth it!

Read my step by step tutorial, time saving tricks, tips and more. Don’t forget to check out the “Make Ahead” section.

You got this!

Kneading the masa the traditional way: the heavy work is kneading the masa just right since it’s done by hand. Mixing the lard and the masa to the right consistency takes a lot of time and lots of elbow grease! But in this recipe, we’ll use a stand mixer to cut a lot of that intense labor.

Tamales Ingredients

Here’s what goes in my Red Tamales with a few notes:

  • Shredded Meat – for these tamales I’m using shredded beef but it can be substituted with pork, chicken or turkey. You can also make a vegan tamale using jackfruit!
  • The Red Sauce – I use this red sauce but even this guajillo salsa would work wonderfully.
  • The Masa – I’m using pre-made bought at the store but you can also make the masa using Maseca. Here is a recipe on how to make masa for tamales with maseca
  • Broth – If you cook meat for your tamales, use that broth. Otherwise use from a box.
  • Vegetable Shortening – normally tamales are made with pork lard but I prefer to use a vegetable shortening such as Morrell Snow Cap Lard. You can also use a mild flavor oil but I find that the tamales texture won’t come out the same.
  • The Salt – for this recipe we’ll use table salt (vs kosher salt) as it integrates better in the masa since it’s finer.

How to make Tamales

This recipe is for a small batch of tamales. It makes about 24 large ones but you can easily half the recipe to make 12. It can also be doubled or tripled to make as many as you want!

For this method, we’re using a stand mixer but you could also use a high power hand mixer.

Cook the Meat the day before: See recipe card for exact instructions and ingredients but basically you’ll be boiling the beef (or your preferred meat) with onions, garlic and celery plus some spices. Then it’ll be shredded.

Corn husks placed inside a bucket with water and a lid on top.

Soak The Husks: Place the corn husks in a large container or bowl and cover with warm water. Place something heavy on top of the husks in order to keep them submerged. Soak for at least 20 minutes to soften them up.

  • In a mixing cup, add the broth and red sauce and combine.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the shortening, salt, and baking powder.
  • Mix on medium/low power until it’s light and fluffy. About 8 to 10 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula to mix the ingredients on the sides.

Alternate wet and dry ingredients:

  • With the mixer still running, add some of the masa (the size of a tennis ball) and mix.
  • Then add some of the sauce and mix.
A hand holding a bowl of masa.
  • Repeat until all the masa and sauce are fully incorporated and have a smooth & silky batter.
  • To test when the masa is ready, add a dollop of it in a glass with cold water: if it floats, then it’s ready!!! This is the old traditional way of knowing when the masa is ready 😉

Note: What if the masa doesn’t float? Just continue kneading the masa for a few more minutes. This will make it more fluffy and eventually will float.

A large bowl with prepared masa.

To assemble

Get all of your ingredients lined up and ready for assembly.

Tip: If you have a group of people helping out, create an assembly line. Each person can do a specific task!

All ingredients on a counter to start making the tamales.

Scoop about a 1/4 cup masa into one large or two overlapping smaller husks and smear it with a small spatula or back of a spoon. Add about 2 to 3 tablespoons of shredded meat, 1 potato slice & olives (optional).

Filling a tamal with shredded beef.

Fold one side of the husk to enclose then the other side on top of it.

Wrapping a tamal in husk.

How to tie

  1. Fold up the bottom to the top (the narrow end), leaving the top open. Then tie with a string made from the husk.
  2. Option 2 is to fill the tamal in the middle and tie both ends with husk string. This is a little more time consuming but they look so cute!
A tamal tied on one ends.
Option 1

Steaming Tamales

Use a large steamer for the tamales pot or a “tamalera” – these are very large pots made specifically for tamales and pozole.

  • Add water to the bottom of the steamer making sure it will not overflow into the steaming tray. The tamales should not touch the water.
  • Place the tamales standing up and do not over pack the pot since it may affect how they cook.
A steamer on a gray counter.
Large steamer to cook tamales
  • Cover and steam on medium heat for one hour.
A plate with a tamal half unwrapped from the husk.

To test whether tamales are done, remove one from the pot and gently unfold one of the sides. The dough should pull away from the husk easily not leaving any wet masa on the husk, and the tamal should hold together.

The texture of a fully cooked tamal is bread like but very fine-grained and moist.

Make Ahead

You can make preparations a few days ahead to save time. This is an important step for success especially if you’re a beginner. Things can get wild if you try to cook everything the same day!

  • Up to 4 days before: cook the red sauce and keep in refrigerator. It can also be made weeks in advance and freeze!
  • The day before: cook the meat, shred and mix with the red sauce. Save the broth where you cook your meat as it will be used for the masa. Side note: leftover broth makes a delicious Mexican Sopa!
  • The day before: Slice the olives if using any.
  • Make your side dishes!

Authentic Beef Tamales

Authentic Beef Tamales







Beef Filling

  • 6 lb brisket
  • 1 onion
  • 6 cloves garlic peeled
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 8 dried ancho chiles
  • 1 Tbsp comino cumin seeds
  • Water to cover
  • lb lard Healthier option 1 cup canola oil


  • 6 lbs masa from tamale factory OR
  • 4 lbs masa harina
  • lbs lard Healthier option 2 cups canola oil
  • 6 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups of broth from beef filling

Corn Husks/Hojas

  • 3 pounds corn husks/hojas
  • Hot water to cover



  1. Step 1Hojas are corn husks that are dry and papery but usually clean of silks, trimmed, flattened and ready for use. To soften them, pour plenty of very hot water over them and leave to soak for several hours or overnight. Shake well to get rid of excess water and pat them dry with a towel.


  1. Step 1Cut the brisket into large squares and put into a large pot with the onion, garlic, salt, and peppercorns.  Cover the beef with water and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and simmer until tender – about 3 hours.
  2. Step 2Set the beef aside to cool off in the broth.  Strain, reserving the broth, and chop beef with garlic roughly.
  3. Step 3Cover chiles and comino seeds with water and bring to a boil. Let them stand until chiles are soft and water cools.  When they are cool enough to handle, slit  them open and remove seeds and veins. Using a molcajete or a blender to grind/blend them along with the comino into a paste. 
  4. Step 4Melt lard, add chile paste and sautée for about 3 minutes stirring all the time.  Add beef and garlic, continuing to cook for the flavors to meld. Add ½ cup of the broth and let the mixture cook for about 10 minutes over a medium flame.  Filling should not be watery. Add salt as necessary.


  1. Step 1If you get your masa from a tamale or tortilla factory, ask for masa for tamales or masa quebradita. If you use masa harina, get the one for tamales and follow the directions. 
  2. Step 2Melt the lard. Use a large mixer to mix masa, salt, baking soda, broth, and the lard (one cup at a time). Continue beating for 10 minutes or so, until a ½ tsp. of the masa floats in a cup of cold water. If it floats you can be sure the tamales will be tender and light. If it doesn’t float, beat more melted lard into the mixture. Beat until fluffy and semi-shiny. Masa should be of a stiff consistency but spreadable.


  1. Step 1Using a Tbsp. or a knife spread a thin coating of the masa over the broadest part of the corn husk, allowing for turning down about 2 inches at the pointed top. Spread the masa approximately 3 inches wide and 3 ½ inches long.
  2. Step 2Spoon some beef filling down the middle of the dough (about 1 Tbsp.).  Fold the sides of the corn husks together firmly. Fold up the empty 2 inch section of the husk, forming a tightly closed “bottom” and leaving the top open.


  1. Step 1Fill the bottom of large soup pot or a tamale steamer with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil.
  2. Step 2If using a pot, either put a molcajete, bowl or ball of aluminum foil at the bottom of the pot and fill in with leftover corn husks. Stack the tamales upright, with the folded part down at the bottom. Pack firmly but not tightly. Cover the tamales with more corn shucks. Cover the top of the steamer with a dishcloth or thick cloth, or cover the pot with a tightly fitting lid.
  3. Step 3Cook tamales for about 1 ½-2 ½ hours over a medium flame.  Keep water in a teapot simmering so that you can refill the pot when necessary. If you use a tamale steamer you should not have to add any more water.
  4. Step 4To test the tamales for doneness, remove one from the center, and one from the side of the pot. Tamales are done when you open the corn husk, and the masa peels away easily from the shucks and the tamale is completely smooth.


Nutrition information per serving: Calories 230; Total Fat 13 g (Sat. Fat 1.5 g; Trans Fat 0 g); Cholest. 25 mg; Sodium 350 mg; Total Carb. 19 g; Fiber 2 g;Total Sugars 0g; Protein 37g; Vit. D (2%DV); Calcium (30%DV); Iron (25%DV); Potas. (15%DV)

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