All Photo Credits: Michael Vialpando

Things handled by the dozen always seem to breed friendship. Be it donuts, bagels, beer, or in this specific case tamales. It seems right that these pre-wrapped treats are treated as gifts, and they always have friends and family asking you to gift them some. These presents are extra special though because they are filled with venison.


My mom always had the hookup with tamales, and yearly she goes over to my great grandmothers and makes dozens upon dozens with my nana and aunt. While I never had the appreciation for them that I now have, it was always something that I surely loved when the occasion arose. I have had the pleasure of tasting a few different tamales, from different families and it seems everyone has their own take them. Some savory, some sweet, or even some with veggies and potatoes in them. Beef, pork, chicken, and even hearing rumors of someone who had been making them with rabbit. They can seemingly be filled with anything and are a perfect party food to have, and the extra hands are always a huge help with the task.



This recipe is made a bit more time efficient with the help of an instant type pressure cooker, though a regular stove-top pressure cooker would be great. If you don’t have one available one could braise the meat in an oven till it is fork tender, so long as proper time is accounted for. Usually, the meat is cooked one day, and the husks filled the next and steamed. Though with the use of a pressure cooker, this process can be started in the afternoon and have tamales ready for dinner.

It is recommended to make as many as possible, as they freeze very well and it is a bit of a process. Feel free to have fun with this and switch up proteins as well, as it would be good with braised goose or turkey legs. I do recommend utilizing cuts of venison from the neck, shoulder, or shank as they lend themselves to braising/pressure cooking better. This recipe is for appx a dozen tamales.

Ingredients for Filling

  •  3 lbs of venison neck ( cut in large chunks )
  •  2 Oz of dried ancho chilis
  •  1 C beef or chicken stock (plus an extra 1/2c of water)
  •  3 Cloves Garlic
  •  Salt
  •  Pepper
  •  1 Bay leaf
  •  1 Star Anise
  •  Pinch of clover

Ingredients for Masa

  •  4 C Masa (corn flour)
  •  3 1/2 C water
  •  1/2 Lb of lard
  • 2 t Baking Powder
  •  1 T Salt

Step 1


Remove stem and seeds from dried ancho chilis and tear into small pieces. Put the saute/brown setting on the instant pressure cooker, or into an oven-safe pot on the stove on medium setting. Oil the pot and toast the dried chilis and garlic cloves, toast until the chili aroma starts to get strong. DSC09129

Step 2

When the chilis are toasted remove them and place in a blender with the stock and blend on high for 1-2 minutes. DSC09139

Step 3

Season the meat with salt and pepper and brown in the pot. DSC09132

Step 4

When the meat is browned pour the chili sauce and extra water on it and set to pressure cook for 1 hour.


Step 5

While the meat is cooking place the husks in a bath of warm water to soak for 1 hour. Weigh them down to keep them submerged.

Step 6

When the meat has cooked for 1 hour carefully bleed the pressure off and pull the meat to shred it.


Step 7

Set the cooker back to sauté and simmer the remaining liquid until slightly thickened. Then incorporate the shredded meat into the chili sauce. Then pull from the heat and set aside. Be sure to pull the bay leaf and anise star out and discardDSC09154-2DSC09164

Step 8

Place corn flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. Mix in water until fully incorporated, it should be paste-like in texture. DSC09168

Step 9

Place lard into a stand mixer and beat on high until light and fluffy.


Step 10

One spoonful at a time, add the flour mixture to the lard. Mixing on medium/high to make a light and fluffy masa. DSC09170

Step 11

The masa should be very spreadable and a touch of water can be added if needed. Pull the husks and gently wring dry. Spread the husks with a good layer masa about 1/4 inch. Keep on the top half and about one inch from the side edges.DSC09179-2

Step 12

Place 2-3 oz of the meat onto the center section of the tamale. Pull the ends together and pinch the section of masa that meet, cleanly wrap and tuck the tail under it. DSC09182DSC09177

Step 13

Place the tamales tail down in a pot with a steam basket. With enough water to run just under the basket. Boil on high for an hour.

Step 14

Enjoy hot! Serve with breakfast, or reheat for a quick lunch in the microwave. They are awesome covered in mole, and make for a great meal, anytime anywhere.DSC09192

For more recipe ideas check out my blog here.

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