Home » Red chile beef tamale tutorial – Arizona style!

Red chile beef tamale tutorial – Arizona style!

Here is my family recipe for red chile beef tamales – Arizona style!

Okay, I don’t exactly what Arizona style means, but I’m an 3rd gen AZ chica, and those before me made them this way…

Tamales are a staple of not only Mexican food, but Latin-American food in general. Every culture has a delicious and unique version.

The highlight of my year – I finally learned how to make my dad’s nationally famous tamales, and I have a video to prove it! I know he is proud of me up in Heaven because at one point he intervened to help me make these correctly!

You will love this red chile beef tamales recipe because you can make a batch for your family or you can triple it and invite friends over for a little feast.

It’s not shown in the video, but a big part of making the masa just right is to whip the masa so fluffy that it floats in a glass of water.

And I made it happen on set for this video!

My motivation to make these tamales

I have Prime Publishing to thank for this opportunity, they asked me to visit their headquarters to shoot some videos.

My friend Simone, the project manager at the time, talked me into making these as part of the agenda. This is a pretty big deal, making tamales is not easy, it takes a lot of practice.

AND not to mention the critiques from fellow family chefs! I had a few sleepless nights due to my lack of confidence but decided to just go for it and plow through the fear of looking stupid.

Turns out, this red chile tamales recipe wasn’t as difficult as I imagined. I’m talking about the masa.

Everything else I could handle!

Red chile beef tamale recipe
The crew from Prime Publishing.


NOTE: I am not an experienced chef.

But I love to cook and I really love to carry on tradition. No matter what skill level you are in the kitchen, put this experience on your bucket list. 

They are so delicious and you will feel like a rockstar knowing you whipped them up from scratch!

Part One: Red Chili Sauce

Makes 1-1/2 dozen tamales


  • 1 bag New Mexico red chiles pods (dried; you can find this in the Mexican foods isle of your local grocer)

About the red chile pods. You will find they come in different heat levels. Medium is very safe and not hot at all. If you want to mix and match, you can buy one bag of very hot and mix it with the medium. There are lots of ways to customize your red chile beef tamales recipe!

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3/4 beef/ pork broth (optional; could be water or the remaining boiled liquid from the pot if you want to keep it vegetarian).
  • 1/8 cup flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon oil


 – Large pot

– Tongs

-Large bowl, medium bowl

-Food processor or blender


-Measuring cups


Directions to make the red chile sauce:

Wear gloves and de-seed all the dried chiles. This means to tear off the stem of the pod, carefully open the chile and empty the seeds into a bowl. Save them if you want to use them later for other recipes!

Red chile beef tamales recipe
Chile pods, deseeded


Place chiles in a pot of warm water to boil. Once it boils, reduce to medium and place a lid on top. Let cook for eight minutes.

Red chile beef tamales recipe

Remove chili pods with tongs and place in a food processor or blender.

Pour 1/4 cup of the chile broth into the blender with the chile pods. Make sure to use a strainer to catch any seeds.

Add the salt, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Add 1/4 cup each of the beef/pork broth.

Blend well in a food processor. If it is very thick add a bit more broth so it thins out into a sauce.

Separate sauce from chile skin pieces

I learned this step from my mother-in-law. You’ll need a strainer and a lot of patience! Add the blended chiles over the strainer, over a bowl and use something to grind the the leftover skins, I used a wood muddler.

Red chile beef tamales recipe

This is is CRUCIAL, otherwise your red chile will have all these little skin pieces. You want the sauce to be nice and smooth and creamy.

Red chile beef tamales recipe

See? Isn’t that much better?

Create the final red chile sauce

Create a flour paste in a pan to act as a thickener for the red chile sauce.

Red chile beef tamales recipe

Combine the flour and oil, cook on low and stir until it create a creamy gravy. 

Pour the sauce into the pan. Cook on medium heat, stir until mixed well. Let simmer for eight minutes.

Red chile beef tamales recipe

OMG, it’s so goooood. I doubled the recipe, that’s why it looks like so much!

It’s ready to use in other recipes, or you can let it cool, store in the fridge in an air-tight container for future use.


Part Two: Making the red chile beef tamales recipe


red chile tamales recipe


Makes about a dozen tamales

Cooking Time: 1 hr

red chile tamales recipe

  • For the Masa (for a short cut you can buy prepared masa at your local Mexican grocery store):
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup lard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups masa harina (corn tortilla flour; can be found in the Mexican food isle at your local grocer)
  • 1 cup beef broth

Items needed to assemble the tamales

corn husks

  • 18 dried corn husks (about 8 inches long and 6 inches wide at the top)
  • 18 medium pitted green or ripe olives, halved (optional)

Soak the corn husks in water before you begin this next process. They need to be very soft!

Red chile filling:

Decide what kind of tamales you want to make. For this recipe, I’m using beef combined with pork. I learned that back in the day, the pork was used as an “extender” to save money on buying all beef. And it adds more to the flavor profile. These days, that’s how I roll. 3-to-1 beef-to-pork ratio.

shredded beef

For this recipe, you’ll need 1 pound of beef (look for extra fat for extra flavor!), and a 1/2 pound of pork roast. 

Cook the pork roast and beef roast separately in a slow cooker or on a stovetop until soft and tender. Be sure to add an onion and a few garlic cloves, salt and paper for seasoning.

When fully cooked, remove the meat from the broths, but don’t throw out the broth! Combine the meats into a bowl and shred (remove any fat) and mix.

Fold the meat into the red chile, until thoroughly coated. 

Mix the masa!

masa for tamales
Masa or dough for making tamales.

Combine the lard, salt and shortening with a stand mixer or a hand mixer.

Slowly add in the masa harina, as well as the beef broth.

I go for the texture of creamy mashed potatoes! You want it nice and fluffy! The goal is to take a bit of the masa and drop it in a glass of water. If it floats, you know the masa is ready to be used to make the tamales!

Assemble the tamales

spreading masa on red chile beef tamales.

Open one corn husk. Pick up about two tablespoons of masa and spread it on the husk from side to side. Make it as even as possible.

Add the filling and the olive.

GOAL: Have a good ratio of masa to filling!

Carefully fold over the end and then roll it closed.

Steaming the tamales

steaming red chile beef tamales

You’ll need a large pot. Add water at the bottom to steam cook, and you can make a cone from foil so the tamales don’t touch the bottom of the pan.

Arrange the tamales standing upright in the pot, place the lid on and bring to a boil.

Cover and let steam cook on medium-low for 45-60 minutes.

Take one out and let cool for a bit. When the dough pulls away from the cornhusk, you know your tamales are cooked!

NOTE: My tamales in my video needed more masa!!

YouTube video

Here is Part Two – Making the red chili sauce!

YouTube video

Thank you for watching this red chile beef tamales recipe, let me know what you think! 

Watch me make my dad's famous tamales!

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2 thoughts on “Red chile beef tamale tutorial – Arizona style!”

  1. What I like about you, Kathy, is you’re so natural. I have always loved Tamales and have ordered them mostly privately. I am glad you did this tutorial. I may just try this with my kids.
    Thanks for all your wonderful ideas!
    Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2017 to you and your family.


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