Red Chicken Tamales Recipe

The dazzling colors, delicious spices, and melt-in-your-mouth textures of Mexican cuisine are just a few of the countless reasons why people totally adore them. Of course, no one can forget the traditional red chicken tamales. There is no mystery why this meal is a classic of Mexican cooking.

Simple components like chicken, red chili sauce, lard, and masa flour are used to make red chicken tamales. But don’t be fooled by the apparent simplicity; these tamales are flavorful and little bit tricky to prepare. The best red chicken tamales recipes should bring out a light, fluffy texture of the masa flour, and the chicken and chili sauce must have the ideal ratio of heat to sweetness.

Don’t worry if you’ve never cooked tamales before; this recipe is simple to follow and will result in excellent tamales every time. So why are you still waiting? Let’s get cooking!

Red Chicken Tamales Recipe

Red Chicken Tamales Recipe

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Recipe by Lindsay G. Cabral Cuisine: MexicanDifficulty: Medium


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Tamales can be prepared in a conventional oven or microwave in addition to the traditional method of steaming them in a corn husk or banana leaf. But the best way to do it is the traditional way using corn husk. And we will be walking the way our fellow Mexican ancestors walked, the traditional way.


  • 20 pounds of shredded chicken

  • 4 medium size tomatoes

  • ½ Onion

  • 3-4 cloves of Garlic

  • 1 tablespoon of cumin

  • 1 tablespoon of oregano

  • 7-8 bay leaves

  • 20 whole black pepper

  • 12 California chilies

  • 12 guajillo chiles

  • 3 chile de Arbol

  • Gondola oil

  • Salt to taste

  • 4 tbsp of chicken bouillon

  • 15 pounds of Masa harina Tamales

  • Baking powder

  • Corn Husk

  • Lard

  • cilantro

  • Tools
  • 1 Large bowl

  • medium size frying pan

  • Measuring cups

  • Stirring spoon

  • Tongs

how to make Red Chicken Tamales

  • Cook the Chicken: Cut the chicken into large pieces or you can put the chicken in whole if you want. Add 4-5 bay leaves, 10 whole black peppers, 4 cloves of garlic, a whole onion, 3 tablespoon of salt, cilantro and water to cover the chicken. 
    Cook it for 30 to 40 minutes over a medium flame. After the chicken has cooled, remove it, separate the bones, and use your hands to shred the meat. You’ll need the chicken broth later on in the process, so keep it around.
  • Roast the Chilies: Now it’s time to show off your beloved crockery’s! Take out your beautiful frying pan and preheat it with 2 tablespoon of lard. If you don’t have any lard on hand you can use any cooking oil. But using lard will be the smartest move as lard will add so much flavor to this dish. 
    After heating up the lard add all your chilies into it. Don’t bother if your chilies have seeds in them you will get rid of them later in the process. Now, fry your chilies in medium heat. Keep stirring your spices so they don’t burn or get black. If they do, it will add a little bitter taste to your dish. The best timing would be 30 seconds for each side of the chilies. 
    Roast the Chilies
  • Submerge the Chilies into Hot Water: When the chilies start to spread its aroma remove them from the lard or oil and submerge them into a bowl of hot water. For your own convenience keep the hot water bowl near to your frying pan.
    Submerge the Chilies into Hot Water
  • Fry the Onion and Garlic: After removing the chilies from your pan use the same oil and pan to fry the onion and garlic you prepared. Do not overcook the garlic and onion just stir them gently for 30 to 40 seconds. 
  •  Fry the Tomatoes: Now it’s time to fry some tomatoes! And you guessed it right; we will be using the same pan and oil to fry the tomatoes too. Not a good day for showing off your crockery’s though. But hey! You will spend less time in the kitchen after cooking to wash dishes!  
    Fry the tomatoes equally by flipping them all the sides using your long tongs. After a minute or two take them out of the pan and submerge them into the hot water along with your chilies.
  •  Blend the Chilies and Tomatoes: Put the tomatoes and chilies in a mixing blender after soaking them for 10 to 15 minutes. Be careful when performing this step because the components can still be hot. If you’re not sure, wait until it’s cooled before proceeding. While shifting the tomatoes and chilies into the blender don’t add any water from the pot where they were soaked. Add the roasted onion, roasted garlic, 3 bay leaves, 10-15 black paper, 4 tbsp of chicken bouillon, two tablespoon of cumin and two tablespoon of oregano into the blender. 
    This is the time your chicken broth is going to come into the play. Fill the blender half way with the chicken broth you saved and blend out all the ingredients smoothly with it.Blend the Chilies and Tomatoes
  •  Strain the Mixture: This is a crucial step because you don’t want any seeds or skin to end up in your tasty sauce. To avoid any lumps getting in the way of you enjoying this delicacy, strain the mixture through a large strainer.
     Strain the Mixture
  • Add Salt: Add two tablespoons of salt to the mixture as a final but unavoidable step. However, you can change the number to suit your preferences.
    Add Salt
  •  Cook the Sauce: After blending the ingredients into a smooth consistency, it’s time to cook it. Take a large pan and add some oil into it. You can add the rest over lard or oil you had after frying the chilies. Don’t preheat the oil and put all the sauce mixture into the pan.
  • Reduce the Sauce to a Thick Consistency: Dilute the sauce to a thick consistency by simmering it for 10-15 minutes. For a quicker and more effective thickening, you can add mixed salt crackers to the mixture.Reduce-the-Sauce-to-a-Thick
  • Keep Aside for Masa: After simmering the sauce for 7-10 minutes when it reaches a moderately thick consistency, take out one cup of sauce to use it for your masa.Keep Aside for Masa
  • Add the Chicken: It’s time to give your chicken a saucy bath. Add all of the chicken that’s been shredded to the skillet that is cooking your delicious tamales sauce. Let the sauce simmer for another five minutes with the chicken. You will want the chicken to be moist and juicy, so avoid overcooking it and making it dry.Add-the-Chicken
  • Make the Masa Harina Dough: For the dough you will need all the masa harina, 2 tablespoon of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of salt, chicken broth and the sauce we had saved earlier. Mix all the ingredient together until they form into a smooth sticky dough. 
    If you feel doubted about the dough there is a simple way to test it out. Drop a tiny ball of masa dough into a chilled glass of water. If the ball floats, it’s done; if not, keep mixing the dough for a little bit longer.Make the Masa Harina Dough
  •  Spread the Masa onto the Corn Husk: It’s now time to spread the masa over the corn husk. Keep in mind that the corn husks must be cleaned and submerged in water for at least an hour before the masa dough is applied.
    The masa is spread similarly to regular tamales. With a large spoon, spread the dough into a medium-thick layer on the smooth side of the corn husk. Take a small amount of dough and place it in the center of the corn husk, spreading it outwards all the way around. Spread out evenly by moving the spoon in the opposite direction. Keep the lower half of the corn husk empty for folding the tamales.Put-Chicken-into-the-Masa
  •  Put Chicken into the Masa: When you’ve finished applying the dough to the husks, it’s time to stuff them with chicken. Place the desired amount of chicken in the center of the masa. Fold the corn husk over the chicken to cover it with the masa, and then fold the bottom part of the husk across to seal the ingredients.Put Chicken into the Masa
  • Steam the Tamales: It’s time to steam the tamales after folding them properly.
    Put a big pot on the stove and turn the heat to medium. Place a plate on the bottom of the pot after adding 2 cups of water. Cover the water with corn husks. Keep in mind that you don’t want the water to soak into your tamales. All you need is the steam flowing from it.
    Now place the tamales’ folds on the layer of corn husk, with the open end facing up. Put a lid on the saucepan after covering it with foil paper. Steam the tamales for 10-12 minutes.Take out the tamales once they have finished steaming, and then share this sizzling hot Mexican delicacy with your friends and family!
    Steam the Tamales

Recipe Video

Nutrition Facts Of Red Chicken Tamales Recipe


Health Benefits of Red Chicken Tamales

Tamales are a good source of iron, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, foliate, vitamin A, and other essential micronutrients. The dish is prepared using only organic ingredients according to this recipe. For example, instead of baking it in a microwave oven, steam it in the corn husk. So, if you are going to follow it step-by-step you will get the best of every nutrients.

Tamale recipes can be made spicier by adding chili peppers and the capsaicin in hot peppers are proven to support cardiac and metabolic health.

Tamales are a good source of saturated fat and carbohydrates. The fat and calorie content of your tamales may increase if you add toppings and sauces. Tamale dishes with meat inside also contain protein, making them a complete meal.

Apparently, if you are going to make tamale by following this awesome Red chicken tamales recipe you won’t have to cook any side dish with it. But as you have seen this dish requires a decent deal of time plan ahead if you are going to make it for your family or friends.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are red tamales made of?

Answer: Red tamales are a particular variety of tamale prepared with masa (corn) dough and red sauce prepared with tomatoes and chili peppers. The filling is usually made with pork or chicken but other meats can also be used. This exquisite dish is renowned for its vivid color and spicy flavor.

2. What are chicken tamales made of?

Answer: Shredded chicken, masa (corn flour), and seasonings are combined to make chicken tamales, which are then wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf. They are often steamed or boiled. You can add a variety of sauces, such as salsa, mole, or adobo with the dish.

3. How many calories are in a red chicken tamale?

Answer: The calories can vary because of the size of the tamales. But mostly the number goes between 130-320kcal. 

4. Do chicken tamales have carbs?

Answer: Yes. Chicken tamales have a very little amount of carbs in them.

5. What goes with chicken tamales?

Answer: There are several foods that pair well with chicken tamales. To begin, serve them with rice and beans on the side. This classic combination is always a crowd pleaser. You could also serve them with a salad. Both a simple green salad and more elaborate minced veggies would go excellently with this dish. Finally, serve chicken tamales with tortilla chips and salsa on the side. If you are planning something little lighter, this will be the best option.


In Mexico, red chicken tamales are quite a signature cuisine. This red chicken tamale recipe is simple to follow and makes a tasty, traditional dinner. If you’re craving Mexican food lately, give it a try! Don’t forget to leave a comment below about how your dish turned out.

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Lindsay G. Cabral is a recipe blogger who specializes in vegan and gluten-free recipes. Lindsay has been blogging since 2012, and her recipes have been featured on popular websites such as Huffington Post, Mind Body Green, and The Kitchn. In addition to her blog, Lindsay is also the author of two cookbooks, Vegan Yum Yum and Vegan Yum Yum for All Occasions. When she's not in the kitchen, Lindsay enjoys spending time with her husband and two young daughters.

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