Make It a Party: Pheasant and Roasted Poblano Tamales (and Don’t Forget the Tequila)

It wouldn’t be Cinco de Mayo without spending a few hours in the kitchen getting a crick in the neck making tamales. While this recipe can require a couple hours of prep work solo, tamale assembly is best enjoyed with a party–that means tequila, cervezas and friends and family. Tamales freeze easily and are readily available later for when hungry relatives arrive throughout the year.

Pheasant tamale filling makes for a delicious and succulent treat. Feel free to substitute your favorite red salsa, instead of ring-necked enchilada sauce. Many of these ingredients are easily located at any Mexican grocer.  

Makes approximately 10 tamales.


Tamale dough ingredients

1-1/3 cup lard

1 teaspoon cumin

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons guajillo powder

2 teaspoons ancho powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 cups masa flour

2 cups lukewarm water

8 to 12 ounces plantain or banana leaves

Tamale stuffing ingredients

12 to 16 ounces cooked, shredded pheasant meat

2 cups of favorite Mexican shredded cheese

4 roasted poblanos, peeled, seeded and sliced

1 medium yellow onion, finely sliced and sautéed

Ring-necked enchilada sauce

2  14.5-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes

3/4 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons Sambal chili paste

2 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon peanut butter

3 teaspoons salt

4 teaspoons lime juice

1/2 teaspoon pure sesame oil

2 teaspoons of the following:

Ground coriander

Chili powder


Black pepper

1 teaspoon of the following:


Garlic powder

Onion powder



Cook pheasant by preferred method or by baking on 450 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Whatever cut you bake, make certain internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Cool pheasant in refrigerator, hand shred and set aside.

Thaw plantain or banana leaves. Mix lard and spices in mixer until fluffy then add masa flour, mix briefly. Add water. Dough may require slightly more flour for less sticky texture. Cover a prep board with Saran Wrap to roll out dough. Place dough in baseball size balls on covered board, flatten and roll out with rolling pin.

Pat dry leaves. Cut leaves into 6-by-8 or 8-by-8-inch squares. Consider spraying leaf’s filling side with canola oil. Use a spatula to cut and lift approximately 4-by-4-inch flatten squares of dough onto leaf. Press and further thin dough. Add filling—a landing strip of cheese, 1 to 2 ounces of pheasant, a tablespoon each of onion and poblano. Use leaf side closest you to lift and fold dough over tamale, fold in sides—again using leaf. Roll together and paste any gaps with extra dough. In order to roll leaf and seal tamale, take side closet you and cover tamale, fold in sides and roll like a burrito. Set aside until all are finished.

Begin boiling water in steaming pot. In a separate sauce pan, add crushed tomatoes and chicken stock. Start simmering. Add remaining ingredients for enchilada sauce, simmer and stir often for 1 hour. Once water is boiling and steam rising in pot, place tamales on rack (vertically if possible) and place rack into steaming pot and cover. Check often to make certain boiling water doesn’t dry out. Steam for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Once dough is cooked, to serve remove leaf and set tamale(s) on plate, cover with sauce and garnish with grated cojita cheese, cilantro and sour cream. Enjoy!