Frida Kahlo’s Red Tamales with Pork

Frida Kahlo red tamales

These delicioso red pork tamales were served at a special Day of the Dead comida Frida Kahlo hosted at her home, La Casa Azul, in 1942. The beloved artista had worked for days, placing ofrendas on the freshly built Oaxacan-style altar and setting the table just so, with zempazuchitl flowers and sugar skulls, reports Guadalupe Rivera, daughter of Frida’s husband, Diego Rivera, the legendary Mexican muralist, in her cookbook Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Remembrances of Life With Frida Kahlo, co-written with Marie-Pierre Colle.

Frida cookbook

Attending the fiesta that Day of the Dead were Frida, Diego, Guadalupe, family, friends and even Frida’s painting students, who arrived with fresh, much-appreciated pulque. “The house was transformed into a place where death was an object of wonder and respect, but also something we lived with every day,” write Rivera and Colle. Much toasting and drinking was done that night: beyond the pulque, there was tequila and even whiskey and brandy, which Frida had recently taken to during her travels with Diego in the the States.

On the menu were these ancho chile-pork tamales rojos, a favorite dish of Frida’s deceased mother, Matilde, in hopes that her spirit would return, hungry, to La Casa Azul that memorable Day of Dead.

Let’s Cook Like Frida in Honor of Her Art

We are celebrating favorite traditional Mexican dishes loved by Frida, in honor of her many exhibitions this year. One of the most famous and recognizable artists of all time, Frida Kahlo is extra everywhere right now. Thanks to a seven-city Immersive Frida Kahlo show, the Mexican painter’s work and larger-than-life vida are being celebrated in light, sound and immersive visuals in: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto. For more information and tickets, visit

And if you happen to live or be in the Chicago area, catch more Frida at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Home to one of the largest Mexican art collection in the United States, the museum is hosting two shows about the artista this year. The first is Surrounding Kahlo: Works from the Permanent Collection, March 5, 2022 to January 15, 2023. The second is Frida Kahlo, Her Photos, a powerful exhibition of her own photography, open April 1 through August 6, 2022. We plan to go to all three shows here at Familia Kitchen. And then come home and cook like her!

If you want to go deeper, check out our go-deep history of tamales and corn in Mexico and across Latinx cultures, and our culinary intel on why so many Mexican families eat tamales every Candelaria feast on February 2!

¡A Cocinar! Let’s Make Frida’s Day of the Dead Red Pork Tamales

Frida Kahlo’s Red Tamales with Pork

Recipe by Guadalupe Rivera, Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo Cuisine: Mexican

8 to 10

Prep time


Cooking time




  • The Filling
  • 1 lb 1 boneless pork, cut in chunks

  • 4 cloves 4 garlic, peeled

  • 1 1 onion, peeled

  • 2 oz 2 ancho chiles, seeds removed

  • 2 cups 2 hot water

  • 1 Tbsp 1 lard

  • salt, or to taste

  • The Masa
  • 2 lb 2 masa harina

  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp 3/4 lard

  • 2 tsp 2 baking powder

  • salt, to taste

  • 40 40 corn husks, dried, soaked in cold water and drained well


  • The Filling
  • Place the meat in a saucepan with water, to cover. Add 2 of the garlic cloves and the onion.
  • Cook, covered, until tender: about 45 minutes.
  • Drain, reserving the broth.
  • Shred the meat and set aside.
  • Soak the chiles in the hot water for 10 minutes.
  • Puree with the remaining 2 garlic cloves.
  • Saute the puree in hot lard for 3 minutes. Add the shredded meat, season with salt to taste and cook for 3 minutes more, until thickened.
  • The Masa
  • To prepare the masa, beat the masa harina with a cup of the pork broth for 10 minutes.
  • In another bowl, beat the lard very thoroughly until spongy. Add to the beaten masa harina, add the baking powder and 1 Tbsp of salt. Beat well.
  • Spread 1 Tbsp of this mixture on each corn husk and top with a small amount of the pork filling.
  • Fold the long edges of the husk toward the center to enclose the filling, then fold up the ends to shape each tamale into a tightly wrapped package.
  • Pour water into a tamalera or large steamer. Place a layer of corn husks on the bottom, then stand the filled tamales upright around the edge of the steamer.
  • Cover and cook for 1 hour, until the tamales are cooked through.
  • To test, remove and open a tamale. The filling should separate easily from the husk.


  • Like most traditional Mexican recipes, this one calls for lard. If you prefer to substitute it with a more readily available or healthier alternative, one option is using butter (make sure it’s 100%). A good rule of thumb is to use 3 Tbsp of butter for 2 Tbsp of lard. You can also replace it with olive oil in a 1 to 1 ratio.
  • On the menu that Day of the Dead holiday, along with these red tamales, were: fried bread with syrup, dead man’s bread, chicken in pipián sauce, yellow mole, tamales in banana leaves, mixed tropical fruit in syrup, pumpkin in syrup and strawberry atole.

Photo: Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez

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