Tamale Bowls

Tamale Bowls


These deconstructed Tamale Bowls have become one of our favorite meals. We eat some sort of Mexican inspired dish 4-5 times a week. It is my husbands favorite and my kids love it too. My husband also loves tamales, but I am quite intimidated by them. Eventually I will try making them, but so far I’ve been avoiding it. I’m not super happy with store bought versions either, so this was my attempt at replicating some of the flavors but simplifying it so it’s doable for me.

I often make a big batch of pork in the instant pot that I make carnitas with, or enchiladas, and in this case Tamale Bowls. I love using instant pot when I am food prepping, especially if my stove or oven are already busy with roasting and cooking other things. This particular recipe I also use in my Pork and Bean Enchiladas, including the same sauce. For the sauce I use the New Mexico dried chilies, I never used to make my own sauces like this but once you do it, there’s no going back.

To these bowls I also add some grilled red bell peppers and corn, and homemade tortilla chips and serve it all over cheesy polenta. It is not even remotely traditional, I don’t even know if I should call them tamale Bowls, but I promise you it is incredible! 


Tamale Bowls


Tamale Bowls

Deconstructed Tamale Bowls with pork in chili pepper sauce served over cheesy polenta with grilled peppers, corn and homemade tortilla chips
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 20 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican, Tex-Mex


  • instant pot


For the Pork:

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder
  • olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 orange, juiced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • salt and pepper

For the Sauce:

  • 5 dry chile New Mexico pods
  • reserved pork broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour

For the Polenta:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper

To assemble to bowls:

  • 1 cup cheesy polenta
  • 3/4 cup pork in sauce
  • grilled bell pepper and corn
  • tortilla chips
  • cilantro


For the Pork:

  • Brown the pork shoulder in your instant pot with some olive oil on saute setting, then add diced onions, juiced orange and limes, minced garlic, bay leaves, oregano, cumin and salt and pepper. Close the lid and seal the went. Cook on high pressure for one and a half hour.
  • Once the pork is cooked, carefully release pressure and take out the pork, reserving its liquid. Shred the pork and set it aside while you finish the sauce.

For the sauce:

  • Toast the chile pods for a few minutes in a pan then transfer into a sauce pot together with reserved pork broth, cumin, chili powder and garlic and onion powder. Cook for 20 minutes then blend well in a blender or a food processor. In a small bowl mix the flour with few spoons of the sauce and add it to the pot. Cook while stirring for another ten minutes and then add the butter. Mix with shredded pork.

To make the Polenta:

  • Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, season with salt and add the polenta. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly then turn off the heat and mix in the cheese and then the butter. Season with black pepper and set aside.
  • Cut the bell pepper in strips and clean the corn. On a grill or grill pan grill the pepper and corn until slightly charred. I grilled my pepper outside so I just sliced my pepper in 4 larger pieces to make it easy to turn, if I was using the grill pan I would have cut it into strips.
    Cut the corn off the cob.
    If making your own tortilla chips (highly recommend) heat up about and inch of canola oil in a large wide pan or pot. Cut the corn tortillas into desired shape, you can do triangles or thinner or wider strips. Fry until lightly browned then transfer onto a plate lined with paper towels and season with salt.
  • To assemble the bowls add about a cup of polenta in a bowl and top with about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of shredded pork with sauce. Add some peppers and corn and top with tortilla chips and fresh cilantro. Enjoy!
Keyword cheesy polenta, deconstructed tamale, pulled pork, tamale bowls, tamales


Tamale Bowls

 Tamale Bowls

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