Paleo Pork Tamales

Paleo Pork Tamales

COURSE: Entrée

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One of my favorite things to do on the weekends at home is experiment in the kitchen. Recently, I decided to try something brand new- tamales!

I have had tamales on a few occasions, and they were always delicious. I honestly don’t think I knew what was inside them on any of those occasions, so this experiment involved unraveling a bit of mystery as well as trying something new in the kitchen.

I decided to go with pork tamales, since I’m trying to cook with pork a little more often, but you could easily substitute the pork with a different type of tender, shredded meat. As you may or may not know, tamales are made with a traditional Mexican flour called masa harina. This flour is made from corn. According to Wikipedia, the hard corn grains are cooked in a dilute solution of slaked lime or wood ash, which breaks down the grains and loosens the kernels from their hulls. The corn is then ground, dried, and powdered. Since grains (and therefore, corn) are not paleo, I decided to use almond flour as a substitute for the traditional masa harina.

Surprisingly, even here in Houston, it was harder to find dried corn husks to wrap the tamales than I had expected. I went to both Kroger and HEB to no avail. However, the lady at the tortilla counter in HEB told me where to find a nearby Mexican meat and produce market. I was able to get the corn husks as well as some tasty Oaxaca cheese to snack on (one of my favorite non-paleo indulgences) and my cousin happily came out with a Mexican coke. Success, all around.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a quick recipe- the corn husks have to be soaked, and the meat takes a few hours to get tender enough to shred easily. Also, filling the tortillas and wrapping them takes a bit of time if you don’t know what you’re doing. So plan ahead!


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Paleo Pork Tamales

paleo pork tamale

By Published: July 31, 2013

  • Yield: 15 (5 Servings)
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 4 hrs 0 min
  • Ready In: 4 hrs 15 mins

This paleo pork tamale recipe takes a bit of time and potentially ingredient hunting, but the end result is well worth the investment!



  1. Fill a large bowl with hot water, and completely submerge the corn husks by weighing them down. Placing a plate, bowl or pot lid (as I have done here) on top of them works well. These will soak while the meat cooks. Check periodically to ensure that the water is still hot, and empty and refill as necessary.
    soaking corn husks
  2. Puree the Anaheim chili and seeded jalapeño in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of water.
  3. Add one tablespoon of the lard to a dutch oven, and heat over medium heat. Add the garlic and half of the chili puree, and heat until fragrant.
  4. Put the cubed pork and 2 cups of the chicken stock into the dutch oven. Mix in 1 teaspoon of the salt as well as the cumin. Turn heat to medium high and bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low to simmer for 3 hours, or until meat is tender enough to shred easily with a fork.
  5. While the meat is cooking, about an hour before it is done, prepare the green beans and potatoes. This way, they are ready and cool enough to handle when the meat is done. Steam or boil the green beans- steaming takes about 10 minutes over medium high heat, while boiling takes about five. Slice the potatoes into quarters lengthwise (for faster cooking) and boil until soft, usually at least 30 minutes.
  6. Drain green beans and potatoes and set aside to cool.
  7. When the potatoes have had a few minutes to cool, slice into at least 30 thin strips.
  8. In a mixing bowl, whisk the baking powder and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt into the almond flour until evenly mixed. Stir in the melted lard and 2 tablespoons of the remaining chili puree. Add the other 2 cups of chicken stock to the mixture a bit at a time while stirring until you have a thick (but still spreadable) dough.
  9. Take meat off of heat and set aside to cool. Stir the remaining chili puree in with the meat.
  10. At this point your corn husks should be nice and pliable. Remove them from the water and pat them dry. Use 5 of the husks to tear 30 long, thin strips. You will use these to tie off the ends of your tamales when they are filled.
    corn husks for paleo pork tamales
  11. Spread approximately a 1/4 inch thick layer of dough over each (15 total) of the whole corn husks, leaving about an inch of space at the short ends. You can spread to the edge of one long side, but leave an inch or more of space on the other side- this will be the side that overlaps the edge of the one with dough all the way to the edge.
  12. Onto each tamale, place about two tablespoons (or to your preference) of pork, two slices of potato, and two green beans. My tamales were pretty full- but I like them that way!
    filling paleo pork tamales
  13. Wrap up each tamale lengthwise, and tie off each end with one of the strips you made.
  14. Stack the finished tamales in a large pot with a steamer insert and a few inches of water (but low enough to not touch the bottom of the tamales), cover tamales with a wet towel, and steam for an hour. To check for doneness, the dough should not stick to the husk when unwrapped. If it sticks, steam for 10 minute increments until done. You may need to add additional water to the pot if it gets too low.
    steaming paleo pork tamales
  15. Serve warm, and enjoy!
    paleo pork tamale

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