How do you make a chili sauce for tamales?


Quick Answer

Tamales typically come with a traditional red sauce made with garlic, chilies and cumin. It can be mild or spicy and has a smoky flavor.

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How do you make a chili sauce for tamales?
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Full Answer

Traditional Red Sauce

This sauce is typically used for pork tamales but works well for any meat-based tamale recipe.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ready In: 1 hour 5 minutes

Yield: 4 cups


  • 15 large, dried chilies. Anaheim, New Mexico, California or pasilla work best.
  • 4 to 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons melted shortening or olive oil


  1. Remove the stems and seeds from the chilies.
  2. Place the peppers in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 F oven for 2 to 5 minutes or until they begin to smell roasted.
  3. Remove from the oven and soak in hot water for 30 minutes or until cool. Save the soaking water.
  4. When the peppers are cool, place them and 2 1/2 cups of the soaking water in a blender. Add the garlic, salt and cumin and blend until smooth.
  5. In a small saucepan, stir the flour and oil or shortening together until lightly browned. Stir in the blended chili mixture.
  6. Simmer uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. If the sauce becomes too thick, stir in some of the remaining soaking water to thin.
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