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.
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.
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.
Dried Red Chiles
For homemade tamale sauce, I really do like these dried red chiles, California Chiles from El Molcajete. There aren’t any Mexican markets near us so mom orders these online. They are wonderfully flavorful but mild. We all know that I’m a lightweight, right?
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.
Fortunately, this sauce is spread out to about 45 tamales. Spreading it out with some meat and masa did the trick. I could have probably added a couple more arbol chiles and it would have been fine.
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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.
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.
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. Give it a try with this Vegan Pumpkin and Jalapeño Tamale Recipe.
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.
Homemade Red Tamale Sauce Recipe
- Stand up blender or immersion blender
- 8 Red Anaheim Peppers, dried
- 2 Arbol peppers, dried
- 2 medium Tomatoes, quartered
- 4 Garlic Cloves
- 3 cups Chicken Stock, divided
- 1 tablespoon Ground Cumin
- 1 tablespoon Salt
- 1 tablespoon Onion Powder
- Using a firm bristle brush, wash peppers.
- 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.
- Place peppers, tomatoes and garlic in pan with 2 cups chicken stock. Heat on medium and bring to boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth. Return to pan.
- Stir in remaining 1 cup chicken stock, cumin, salt and onion powder. Simmer for 30 minutes more.
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