Red tamale sauce is an essential recipe for your authentic Mexican pork or beef tamales, made with real Mexican dried chiles.
When you’re ready to make a tamale commitment, be sure to use an outstanding homemade sauce like this one.
This is an authentic tamale sauce, made with dried red chiles. I’ve used mostly chiles that aren’t very spicy. My favorite dried chiles are California, New Mexico, Ancho and Pasilla.
For just a touch of heat, I’ve also used chile de arbol. They’re small but mighty!
How to Use This Tamale Sauce
Our first tamale recipe is for traditional pork roast tamales. Pork tamales are the most typical tamales you will find.
For traditional pork tamales, I’ve used a small amount of sauce in the masa to give it extra taste and color. The rest is mixed with the pulled pork roast filling.
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Dried Red Chiles
Feel free to mix and match your chiles! My favorite is California red chiles, but I could also use New Mexico, pasilla or guajillo chiles.
I like to add a touch of smoky flavor with some ancho chile, the dried version of poblano.
Choosing your chiles is where you can let your personality shine.
If you like chipotle, try adding it as well. The sauce is the beauty of Mexican cooking. Choosing your chiles is where you can let your individual personality shine.
To add a little bit of chile heat, I’ve used two arbol chiles as well. They are quite hot. Whew! I tasted the sauce and, wow! Yeah, it was plenty spicy.
Remember that your sauce is going to be spread out and mixed with other filling and then enveloped in corn masa. If you don’t have enough taste (and heat!) in your sauce, you could end up with bland tamales.
Eating this sauce with tortilla chips, for instance, might have been too spicy for me. But, mixed with everything else, it was perfect.
To learn more about how much spicy heat is in each chile pepper, view the Scoville Heat Scale which lists several different peppers used here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, I will frequently use this recipe, swapping out whatever dried chiles we have in the cupboard. The only difference is that I decrease the amount of salt and spices. For tamales, the quart of sauce will be spread out to up to four dozen pieces. For enchiladas, on the other hand, the sauce may be spread to only 18 pieces. I usually reduce the spices in this recipe to one teaspoon each instead of one tablespoon.
I like to use a red tamale sauce for beef and pork. It’s tomato based so tastes great combined with these meats. For chicken and vegetarian tamales, I prefer green tamale sauce which is tomatillo and green (verde) chile based. Try a Mexican Gravy recipe for a tasty pour over topping.
Tamales are almost always naturally gluten free. They are made with masa flour which is made from corn, not wheat. The only exceptions may be dessert tamales.
Easy to Make Recipe
You don’t even need to chop the vegetables. Just quarter the tomatoes and loosely chop the peppers after you’ve removed the seeds. Soften them up by simmering them in chicken stock.
Once you’ve mixed everything up in the blender, it will be smooth like tomato juice.
Always use care when you’re using the blender with hot ingredients. Start off slowly.
If you go all wild with your tamale sauce and run the blender on high, it will explode from the top and likely burn the hand you have sitting on top of the lid.
When you get finished, you will have a quart of incredibly delicious and fresh tamale sauce. If you’re going to make your tamales right away, set it aside until you’re ready. If you are making it ahead, refrigerate after it’s cool. Use within three to four days.
Mexican Red Sauce
Mexican “Red Sauce” can mean many different sauces. You can use it for tamales, enchiladas, tacos, pozole and more.
This tamale sauce recipe uses both chiles and tomatoes. It works really well for seasoning the tamale filling.
If you prefer a sauce made without tomatoes, try this Red Enchilada Sauce recipe instead. It makes a quart as well.
If you want to use it for tamales, you may want to increase some of the seasonings.
What is Mexican Gravy?
My idea of a great Mexican Gravy that you can serve on top of anything from tamales to nachos is my Red Enchilada Sauce. Once it finishes cooking and it’s still hot, stir in a cup of cheese. Yum!
How to Use Tamale Sauce
When we make pork tamales, we only need a quart of this homemade tamale sauce. It will make about 45 tamales or so. If you plan on making more tamales, you can double the recipe. But, don’t put the entire thing in the blender at once. Blend up only about two cups of the mixture at a time.
Making it Vegetarian
If you’re wanting to make homemade vegetarian tamales, use vegetable stock or water instead of chicken stock. It will be just as delicious.
Hosting a Tamale Making Party
If you’re interested in hosting a Tamalada (spanish for tamale making party), learn more about preparing for a Simple Tamale Party from Global Grub.
More Delicious Mexican Food
This is the sauce that we recently used for some really incredible Pork Tamales. Or try these other delicious Mexican recipes.
If you like tamales, be sure to try chicken tamales too! Pair it with this Homemade Verde Tamale Sauce recipe.
Red Tamale Sauce Recipe (+video)Tap to leave a star rating
For more information, be sure to check the recipe details in the attached 24Bite® post.
- Stand up blender or immersion blender
- 8 Red Anaheim Peppers, dried (see notes)
- 2 Arbol peppers, dried
- 2 medium Tomatoes, quartered
- 4 Garlic Cloves
- 3 cups Chicken Stock, divided (or up to 6 cups for desired consistency)
- 1 tablespoon Ground Cumin*
- 1 tablespoon Salt*
- 1 tablespoon Onion Powder*
- Carefully split the peppers and remove seeds and membranes. Cut peppers into 1-2 inch pieces. Arbol peppers are small so no need to cut those.
- Using a firm bristle brush, wash peppers.
- Place peppers, tomatoes and garlic in pan with 2 cups chicken stock (or enough to cover). Heat on medium and bring to boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes until soft.
- Remove all vegetables and remaining spices to blender and blend until smooth. Note: If water has turned too dark, you may want to strain the vegetables to the blender then discard the liquid and replace with fresh chicken stock. Return all to the same pan.
- Simmer for 15 minutes to thicken slightly. Add more spices or salt to taste, if desired.
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