Odilias Pork Tamale Filling

I’ve been eating tamales all my life, however, I’ve only made them twice.  I’ve sat with all the women in my grandmothers neighborhood and made hundreds of these masa wrapped pork delicacies.  My task was to boil the lard and pour it into the enormous pile of fresh masa on the kitchen table.  The neighborhood ladies added spices and mixed the masa until it was no longer tacky and it perfectly pulled away from their hands. 

On another occasion, I’ve had my aunt Odilia show me how to soak the maize and grind my very own labor-intensive masa in addition to preparing the meat filling.  Each time I've prepared tamales, I realized that authentic Tex-Mex tamales are a labor of love.  There is an art to the fresh masa component, and every family has their method for making the pork filling.  I’ve come to love the ease of my family’s boiling approach to preparing the meat filling.  I know what you’re thinking. "Boiled meat sounds pretty bland." My family’s tamale filling is well seasoned, and finished off with a quick bake in the oven making it hard to believe that this flavorful filling began by boiling a roast.  Just do it this way, because my aunt Odilia said so.  Trust me, you don’t want to deal with my aunt Odilia. 

Now here’s my added twist.  I prepare the filling, but I don’t actually make tamales.  If you have a great desire to make tamales and want to use this filling…enjoy!  If you’re like me, and are intimidated by the tedious process of making tamales, just enjoy the filling in a variety of ways such as in lettuce wraps, soft tacos, a nacho bar or empanadas. This recipe makes a large batch which I divide into releasable freezer bags and freeze.  Defrost and serve this well spiced pork in your favorite dishes.  I look forward to sharing more recipes in the future for serving this versatile meat filling. 


Odilias Pork Tamale Filling

Servings: 8 cups


5-51/2 lb. Boston Butt Pork Roast

1 onion, halved

6 cloves garlic


2 Tablespoon Gebhardt chili powder

2 Tablespoons ground cumin

1 Tablespoon fresh minced garlic

1 Tablespoon black pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt


1. Set the roast, onion and garlic cloves in a large stock pot.  Add enough water to cover the roast by about 2 inches.  Bring to a boil and adjust the heat to maintain a boil without overflowing the pot. 

2. Boil until meat is tender and it very easily pulls away from the bone, 3 ½ -4 hours.  Add water as needed during the boiling process to keep the roast covered.

3. Using a large slotted spoon, Remove the roast, onion, garlic bits, any bits of the fat cap and set aside to cool. 

4. Skim and reserve 1 cup of the fat/broth off the top of the flavored water that remains in the pot.                                           


1. Preheat oven to 350°F

2. When the meat is cool enough to handle use two forks to shred the roast. 

3. Using a large knife, finely chop the shredded meat, leaving a few bite size pieces throughout. Chop the onion, garlic bits and as much of the fat cap as you choose.  I usually add about ¼ cup of chopped fat cap. 

4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped meat, chili powder, cumin, garlic, black pepper, salt and chopped fat cap until well combined. 

5. Add the reserved cup of fat/ broth and stir until combined. 

6. Spread the meat in a 9”x13” baking dish, and bake until fragrant and the top begins to brown, 20-25 minutes. 

Allow the meat to cool before using as a filling for tamales. 


Make Ahead: The roast can be boiled and set in the refrigerator overnight.  The following day the roast can be chopped and prepared with the seasonings for the tamale filling. 

The prepared filling can be stored in re-sealable freezer bags and frozen up to one month.  Thaw overnight in refrigerator, reheat and serve.