Instant Pot Pork Tamales Recipe

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This Instant Pot Tamales recipe is the easiest way to achieve fluffy and savory homemade pork tamales. This pressure cooker recipe is fun to make, packed with tender steamed masa and moist shredded pork shoulder.  

Homemade Pork Tamales wrapped in corn husks on a grey plate garnished with lime wedges, fresh salsa, cilantro, and cheese with half an avocado on the side.

This fantastic recipe for Instant Pot Tamales is a must-try! Tanette, a long-time reader, shared her family’s classic recipe for pork-stuffed tamales a few years ago, and I instantly fell in love with the dish. 

I tweaked Tanette’s recipe to create my Green Chile Pork Tamale recipe, and then made it even easier in the Instant Pot to share with you here. 

Update: This soft pork tamales recipe has a few more steps than our usual recipes, so I’ve updated the post and provided a video so you can see how to wrap the tamales. Trust me, they’re worth the time!

An overhead shot of Instant Pot tamales on a plate with lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream.

About Tamales

Did you know that tamales are an ancient food from Mexico and Guatemala? They were traditionally one of the first packed lunches. Because tamales come in their own neat little pouches, they’re the ideal pack-and-go meal. 

Today, tamales are eaten throughout Central and South America, and the flavoring possibilities are truly endless!

How to Make Pork Tamales in an Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker 

This Pork Tamale recipe will work in any brand of electric pressure cooker, including the Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or Power Pressure Cooker XL.

Using an electric pressure cooker makes homemade tamales much easier to cook at home! The filling itself is an easy dump-and-go recipe. And once assembled, the pressure cooker is the perfect way to steam them—since the steam is locked in, your tamales cook faster and more evenly than they would on the stovetop. 

💡 Note: I prefer to make this recipe over two days. However, you can do it a single one day if you start the pork first thing in the morning. 

Overhead shot of Instant Pot Pork Tamales, featuring a large serving platter with tamales, two tamales plated up, and a bowl full of servings, with cilantro and avocado on the page

Instant Pot Pork Tamales Day 1

On the first day, I soak the corn husks and pressure cook the pork shoulder filling. Letting the shredded meat rest overnight in the fridge soaks up extra flavor and allows you to easily remove the fat.

How to Soak Corn Husks for Tamales  

I like to start the recipe by soaking the corn husks (so I don’t forget to do it!). 

Simply fill up a large pot of cool water and place the corn husks inside. Place a plate or a weight on top of the corn husks to keep them fully submerged. Let soak for several hours or overnight.

You can find corn husks for tamales at specialty markets, as well as online (affiliate link). 

Overhead of boneless pork shoulder in an electric pressure cooker / Instant pot with seasonings to make shredded pork to fill homemade pork tamales.

Make the Filling for Pork Tamales

Next, it’s time to cook that pork shoulder. This is the easy, set-it-and-forget it step to Instant Pot Pork Tamales. Just like you would for pressure cooker pulled pork, start with a flavorful cooking liquid. 

We flavor the filling with onion, garlic, two kinds of chili powder, and cumin. (But feel free to use your favorite spices!)

🚫🌶️ Don’t be alarmed by the two kinds of chili powder! They give this dish a great flavor without making the meat too spicy! These pork tamales are fully kid-approved. Especially when the filling is encased with fluffy masa dough!

Set the pork shoulder on top of the cooking liquid and seal the pressure cooker. The meat cooks on High Pressure for 75 minutes. This long cooking time results in tender, fall-apart pork shoulder that shreds beautifully. 

When it’s finished, transfer the meat to a bowl and shred. 

In a separate bowl, reserve the cooking liquid, which will flavor your masa! 

After cooling, store the meat and cooking liquid in the fridge overnight. 

Overhead of a glass baking dish filled with pressure cooked pork shoulder being shredded with two silver forks to make filling for homemade pork tamales.

Instant Pot Pork Tamales Day 2

On the second day, I make the masa, fill and wrap the tamales, and steam them in the pressure cooker. 

Finish the Pork

Refrigerating the pork makes it easy to skim the fat—the fat will have solidified into a layer on the top of the cooking liquid. Simply use a spoon to scrape off that layer and discard. 

Add a splash to the meat to loosen it up. Be careful to not add too much—the meat should be moist but not runny. 

💡 Tip: At this point, I like to taste the pork filling again in case I want to add more seasoning. (Usually just a dash of chili powder or a pinch more salt.)

How to Make Masa

Our masa dough recipe is quick and easy, with just five ingredients!

Simply toss masa, shortening, corn oil, salt and baking powder together in the stand mixer. (You can also do this by hand if you don’t have an electric mixer.) 

Then add in the cooking liquid and mix until the masa dough is light, fluffy and flavorful. 

Overhead of many homemade pork tamales standing up inside an Instant Pot before being cooked.

How to Fill and Wrap Tamales 

Now that your masa dough and pork filling are finished, it’s time to fill your tamales. 

Start by removing two corn husks from the soaking liquid. Lay them flat on a work surface and spread 1/4 cup of masa down the center of the husks. Press the masa into a 4-inch square with a 2 to 3-inch border on the bottom. 

Add a heaping tablespoon of pork filling on top of the masa. Lay it in a line down the center of the masa square. 

To close the tamale, fold in the sides of the corn husks until they overlap and wrap the husk tightly around the dough. Fold in the bottom of the husk to seal your tamale closed. 

💡 If you’re new to making tamales, this Tamales cookbook has super helpful step-by-step reference photos for filling and wrapping your tamales.

Overhead close up of several pork tamales, laying on a bed of lettuce, topped with tomatoes and sour cream, with an avocado in the bottom left corner

How to Steam Tamales in an Instant Pot

Add 1 cup of water to the bottom of the pressure cooking pot and place a steamer basket (affiliate link) inside. Gently place the folded tamales standing up in the steamer basket. 

Seal the lid and cook the tamales on High Pressure for 20 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then finish with a quick pressure release.

🌡️ To check your tamales for doneness, remove one tamale from the cooking pot and let it cool for a few minutes. Carefully unwrap to check the masa—if it’s ready, the masa will be set and will pull away easily from the corn husk wrapping. If not, return to the Instant Pot and cook a few minutes more. 

What Can I Substitute For Dry Corn Husks to Make Tamales?

Tamales are traditionally wrapped in dried corn husks for a few reasons: 

  • The husks won’t wilt under the steam in the pressure cooker. 
  • Husks keep the masa dough moist and spongy. 
  • Corn husks add a nice corn flavor to your homemade tamales. 

If you can’t find dried corn husks near you, you can also use fresh corn husks if it’s the right time of year. 

You can also use parchment paper, if you use a piece of kitchen twine to keep them closed. 

However you wrap your tamales, be sure they’re tightly closed before steaming. 

🛑 Remember to peel the husks away before eating! They’re not edible. 

Overhead of a large serving platter and a smaller plate filled with homemade pork tamales served with fresh salsa in a small bowl, sour cream, cilantro, lime slices and crunchy lettuce on a light grey background.

How Many Servings Does This Recipe for Pork Tamales Make?

The recipe makes about 24 tamales. My family of five ate all but five the first night. They loved them!

You can easily half this recipe. If you’re making this in a much larger pressure cooker like the Duo Nova, you can 1.5 or 2 times it as well.

Can I Freeze Pork Tamales?

If you’re not making the tamales right away, the filling can be made up to this point in advance and frozen. Simply defrost the meat before continuing with the recipe. 

You can also freeze the tamales after they’re fully cooled. 

I recommend laying the tamales (still wrapped in corn husks) flat on a baking sheet in the freezer first. Then, when the tamales are fully frozen, transfer them to Ziploc bags. 

To reheat, place the frozen tamales on the steamer basket in your pressure cooker with a cup of water. Set to High Pressure and 5 minutes cook time. If the tamales are not fully hot when you remove the lid, cook them under pressure for another minute or two. 

Wooden serving plate of four Instant Pot pork tamales made with masa and wrapped in corn husks with sour cream, fresh salsa, lettuce, tortilla chips and limes with an electric pressure cooker in the background.

More Flavorful Mexican Recipes

Missing your favorite Mexican restaurant right now? Here are some other great options to bring these classic Mexican flavors to your week:


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Overhead close up of several pork tamales, laying on a bed of lettuce, topped with tomatoes and sour cream, with an avocado in the bottom left corner
Yield: 2 dozen

Instant Pot Pork Tamales

Doughy masa surrounds a pocket of spiced pork filling in these easy homemade pressure cooker pork tamales. 

Ingredients

Tamale Filling

  • 1 package (8 ounces) dried corn husks
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder

Masa

  • 4 cups masa
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup corn oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Instructions

Prepare the Corn Husks

  1. Place the dried corn husks in a large pot (not the pressure cooking pot) and cover with water. Place a heavy plate or a smaller pot full of water on top of husks to keep them submerged. Let soak for 3 hours or up to 1 day, flipping occasionally until husks are softened.

Cook the Pork

  1. Add the water, onion, garlic, both chili powders, salt, pepper and cumin to the pressure cooking pot and stir to combine. Add pork and lock the lid in place.
  2. Select High Pressure and 75 minutes cook time. When the cook time ends, allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then finish with a quick pressure release. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid. Transfer the meat from the pressure cooker to a bowl and shred with two forks. Discard any excess fat as you shred.
  3. Strain the cooking liquid and reserve to make the masa. At this point, you can chill the cooking liquid in the fridge for several hours or overnight to easily skim the fat off the top. 
  4. Taste and season the shredded pork with additional chili powder, salt and cumin. As you season the meat, add a small amount of cooking liquid to moisten. Take care not to add too much—you don’t want it to be runny.

Prepare the Masa

  1. In a stand mixer, mix masa, shortening, oil, salt, and baking powder. Add the reserved cooking liquid with more hot water as needed and beat at medium speed or higher until fluffy. The dough should resemble a loose cookie dough.

Wrap and Cook the Tamales

  1. Place a steamer basket in the pressure cooking pot and add 2 cups water.
  2. Unfold 2 corn husks onto a work surface. Take ¼ cup of masa and, starting near the top of the husk and using damp fingers, press the masa into a 4-inch square, leaving a 2-3 inch border on the bottom of the husk. Place a heaping tablespoon of the pork filling in a line down the center of the masa.
  3. Fold in the sides until they just overlap, and wrap the husk tightly around the dough. Fold up the bottom part of the husk to seal.
  4. Stand the tamales up in the steamer inside the pressure cooking pot.
  5. Seal the lid and select High Pressure and 20 minutes cook time. When the cook time ends, turn off the pressure cooker and allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then finish with a quick pressure release. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid and remove the tamales from the pressure cooker.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 569Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 104mgSodium: 708mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 4gSugar: 2gProtein: 30g

Nutrition information is calculated by Nutritionix and may not always be accurate.

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Picture collage including an Instant Pot, and cooked Instant Pot tamles on a plate with sour cream, tomatoes, and a lime wedge.
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