Tamales Colorados with Achiote Pork and Ancho Peppers

Tamales Colorados with Achiote Pork and Ancho Peppers
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About This Recipe

In the heart of wine country, where the rolling hills of Napa and Sonoma stretch beyond the horizon, food isn't just sustenance; it's an experience. Imagine the vibrant tapestry of California's culinary heritage, with hints of its Mexican roots, melded with the artistry of Napa’s wine culture. That's precisely the essence of the Tamales Colorados with Achiote Pork and Ancho Peppers, a dish that tells a tale of history, passion, and flavor.

Many have heard of the chili colorado recipe, a robust stew dripping in spices and rich red chilies. But transform those flavors, weave them into the intricacy of tamales guatemaltecos, and you have a recipe that is both traditional and innovative. The warmth of the ancho peppers, married to the unique taste of achiote-marinated pork, is wrapped tenderly in corn masa before being steamed to perfection. The result? A taste explosion that would make any food lover's heart sing.

What elevates this dish from wonderful to transcendent is pairing it with the right wine. From the endless vineyards that dot the Napa and Sonoma landscapes, two wines, in particular, have the depth and character to stand beside this flavorful tamale. First, the Zinfandel - a wine that mirrors the peppery notes of the dish while adding a touch of ripe red fruit. The Turley Wine Cellars in Napa Valley crafts a Zinfandel that offers both the richness and the subtlety needed. On the other hand, the robust Syrahs from Donelan Family Wines in Sonoma possess the dark fruit flavors and the slight smokiness that resonate with the earthy tones of the ancho peppers.

As a local, every time I prepare this dish, it transports me to memories of the bustling farmers markets in downtown Napa, where fresh tomatillos and chili peppers paint a vibrant picture against the backdrop of California's blue skies. It reminds me of the bustling Oxbow Public Market, where a tapestry of flavors, from gourmet cheeses to artisan chocolates, awaits the discerning palate. If you ever find yourself in Napa or Sonoma, these local hubs of flavor are a must-visit. They epitomize the blend of California’s diverse culinary influences.

Creating the Tamales Colorados with Achiote Pork and Ancho Peppers isn't just about cooking; it's about embracing the rich tapestry of flavors, cultures, and history that California offers. This isn't merely a chile colorado recipe; it's a celebration of tradition, innovation, and the unbreakable bond between food and wine.

For visitors to Napa and Sonoma, the pairing of this dish with local wines offers an authentic taste of what California wine country is all about. It's not just the soil, the grape, or the chef's skill. It's the stories, the passion, and the love for food and wine that permeates every vineyard, every kitchen, and every bottle and plate. So, the next time you're savoring a tamale, think of the golden vineyards, the sun-drenched hills, and the symphony of flavors that is quintessentially Napa. And remember, whether it's a rustic chili colorado recipe or a gourmet meal, in wine country, it's always about the journey of taste. Cheers!

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Achiote Paste

Unraveling the Magic of Achiote

Achiote, often recognized as Annatto, has roots in the rainforests of South and Central America. This vibrant red spice not only lends a warm, earthy flavor but also a unique hue to dishes. At the heart of our Tamales Colorados recipe, the Achiote Paste marries the savory pork with an almost nutty, peppery undertone. High in antioxidants, achiote is not just a flavoring agent but also has historical significance in traditional medicine.

How to: Perfectly Spread Masa on Corn Husks

Crafting the Perfect Tamale Base

  1. Start with Soft Masa: Ensure your masa is soft and has a consistency akin to peanut butter. If it's too thick, you can add a bit more chicken broth.
  2. Use a Spoon or Spatula: A spoon or spatula gives you better control. Scoop up about 2 tablespoons of masa.
  3. Spread Evenly: Begin in the center of the soaked corn husk. Spread the masa out in a rectangle or oval shape, leaving a border around the edges of the husk.
  4. Watch the Thickness: Aim for a uniform thickness across the husk. Too thick, and it may not cook evenly; too thin, and it might break when filled.


  1. Can I use a different meat than pork shoulder? Absolutely. Chicken or beef can be substituted for pork. However, the cooking time might vary depending on the meat's cut and type.
  2. I'm allergic to lard. Is there a replacement? Yes, you can use vegetable shortening as mentioned or even substitute with butter for a richer flavor. The key is to maintain the fat content for a moist tamale.
  3. How do I store leftover tamales? Tamales can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. For longer storage, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and freeze. They can last up to 3 months in the freezer.
  4. I can't find dried ancho peppers. Any alternatives? Guajillo or pasilla peppers are suitable substitutes. However, they might slightly alter the flavor profile of the dish.
  5. What's the best way to reheat my tamales? For the best texture, steam them until they're heated through. Alternatively, you can microwave them covered in a damp paper towel for a quick reheating method.

Tips for Success: Navigating the Tamale Terrain

  1. Corn Husk Prep: Soaking the corn husks is crucial. It makes them pliable and easier to wrap. Make sure they're fully submerged in warm water, placing a weight on top if necessary.
  2. Check for Doneness: After steaming, the masa should pull away cleanly from the husk. If it sticks, they might need a bit more time.
  3. Pairing Wine: As mentioned, the deep flavors of a Zinfandel or a Syrah are impeccable with this dish. But if you're feeling adventurous, a full-bodied Grenache might also be a delightful pairing. Remember, the goal is to complement the robust flavors of the tamales.

Cooking is an art, and every dish tells a story. As you embark on your journey with Tamales Colorados with Achiote Pork and Ancho Peppers, let it be a canvas for your culinary tales. Cheers to delightful flavors and heartwarming memories!

Recipe Overview

Tamales Colorados with Achiote Pork and Ancho Peppers
Lily Anderson
20 tamales
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List


  • 2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cubed
  • 3 dried ancho peppers, seeded and stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons achiote paste
  • 2 cups masa harina
  • 1 cup chicken broth, warmed
  • 1/2 cup lard or vegetable shortening, softened
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 cups red chili sauce (store-bought or homemade)
  • 20 dried corn husks, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes and drained
  • Fresh cilantro and lime wedges, for garnish

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. In a large pot, simmer the pork with enough water to cover until tender, about 2 hours. Once cooked, shred the meat and set aside.
  2. Toast the ancho peppers in a dry skillet until aromatic, then transfer to a bowl of hot water and soak for 15 minutes.
  3. Blend the soaked ancho peppers, achiote paste, and a cup of pork broth in a blender until smooth. Pour over the shredded pork and mix to coat thoroughly.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine masa harina, chicken broth, lard, baking powder, and salt. Mix until you have a soft and spreadable dough.
  5. Lay a soaked corn husk flat, spread about 2 tablespoons of the masa mixture in the center, and top with a tablespoon of the achiote pork mixture.
  6. Fold the sides of the husk over the filling, then fold the bottom up.
  7. Steam the tamales in a steamer for about 1 hour.
  8. Serve hot with red chili sauce, garnished with fresh cilantro and lime wedges.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

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