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How Long Do You Steam Tamales?

How Long Do You Steam Tamales?

Last Updated on 22nd June 2023 by

Tamales are probably not as difficult to make as you might think. I know when I first tried them, I was surprised how easy they were to make, and of course I was so glad to have made them myself because they are so delicious.

If you’ve never made tamales before, you may find them intimidating, but they are not difficult to make at home on your own. It is so good when they come out freshly steamed when you make them at home. It will take some time to prepare and to steam- around 2 hours altogether- but the process for making them is fairly simple.

There are some shortcuts you can take, and you can buy some of the components for tamales at the grocery, or you can make everything completely on your own. It’s up to you, but just be aware that there are some shortcuts you can use to speed things up a bit, if you like.

Tamales can be made a few different ways, like in an instant pot or on the stovetop. You can steam them either of these ways, and it is important that you steam them to get that authentic taste and texture.

How long do you steam tamales for? I will answer this and all your other questions about preparing tamales so that they come out perfectly every time.

Preparing the Tamales

I am focusing more here on how long do you steam tamales rather than the whole process of making them, but I want to share a brief little overview about preparing left tamales. It is important to understand those basics before I get into how long it takes to steam them.

Making the Tamale shells from scratch takes time, and you’ll need to soak corn husks for about 30 minutes until they soften. You also need to mix up the masa dough, which you can do in a hand mixer or in a stand mixer.

If you have lots of time, you can make them by hand. You also need your fillings, like your meat and veggies that go in the tamales. Once you have made up the shells and put all your fillings in to make what is basically a small burrito, you can fold the ends down and tie everything together.

Then, closing everything in the corn husks. From there, you just have to steam the tamales until they are done.

How Long Do You Steam Tamales?

This steaming process is key to making sure these come out perfect. You want to make sure you don’t steam them for too long and that you don’t undercook them. Over-steaming your tamales can resolved in tamales that are too soggy and too soft, and they can fall apart as soon as you try to cut into them.

Of course, if you don’t steam them long enough, they may not be cooked all the way through and may be too tough.

How long do you steam tamales to cook? You have to strike that balance between too much and too little steaming. You’re looking at about 30 to 40 minutes for steaming them on the stovetop. Keep in mind, however, that the length of time it takes to steam them will depend on how many you’re trying to steam at once.

You can look for signs that they are fully cooked and that they have been steamed enough before taking them off the stove top. What you’re looking for is separation from the masa and the husks. In other words, the dough should have separated from the corn husk, and that tells you that they have been steamed enough.

You can also see tamales in the instant pot or some other kind of pressure cooker. If you’re following a recipe for steaming tamales on the stovetop and want to steam in the instant pot instead, simply halve the amount of water you would be using. So, if you use 2 cups of water to steam on the stove top, you would just use 1 cup of water for steaming in the instant pot.

How long do you steam tamales in the instant pot? You should steam them for about 20 minutes while cooking on high pressure. This is the fastest way to steam your tamales, and once again you’re looking for the masa and corn husks to separate.

How Long Do You Steam Frozen Tamales?

If you are using frozen tamales, that can affect the amount of time you need to steam them. How long to steam tamales that have been frozen? If you’re steaming about four tamales or less, you can steam them for 25 to 30 minutes. If you’re steaming more than that, steam for about 35 to 40 minutes. It does take longer to steam them if they are frozen than if you are making them fresh.

How Long Do You Steam Tamales to Reheat?

You could also use the steaming process to reheat your tamales. How long should that take? If the tamales are thawed in the fridge, it should only take about 15 to 20 minutes to steam them this way. However, if you stored them frozen and they are already cooked, you’ll need to add another 10 minutes onto that.

You want your tamales to be warmed all the way through and to not still be cold in the centre. So, you have to steam them thoroughly and not take any shortcuts with this process. When reheating tamales, just turn the heat to medium make sure your steamer is filled completely with water.

There are a few different ways you can reheat tamales, if you don’t want to go through the process of using a steamer. You can reheat them in the oven for 20 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are reheating in the oven, be sure to flip the tamales over halfway through the cooking.

For best results, wrap the tamales in a couple layers of aluminium foil. You can also reheat them in the microwave, but the texture probably won’t be quite right. They will likely be somewhat dried out, and you can help prevent them from drying out a little bit by wrapping them each in damp paper towels.

Tamales always taste best when they come fresh from the steamer and are made fresh rather than reheated, but you have some options if you made too many and need to reheat them. Whenever heating tamales, whether cooking them initially or reheating them, be sure you leave some space between each one. This will ensure that they cook all the way through and that they get an even heating.

Wrapping UP

Steaming tamales might seem intimidating at first, but we hope this guide has shown you that with a little patience and know-how, anyone can master it.

You can enjoy tamales with a wide variety of toppings or accompaniments, including salsa, crema, guacamole, or a sprinkle of fresh cilantro. Pair them with your favorite Mexican sides for a feast that’s sure to impress.

The magic of tamales lies in their versatility. Feel free to experiment with different fillings, from traditional pork or chicken, to cheese, to sweet variations filled with fruits or chocolate. The world of tamales is yours to discover and savor.

Remember, practice makes perfect when it comes to steaming tamales. Don’t be disheartened if your first few attempts aren’t flawless. Keep trying, and soon you’ll be creating delectable, melt-in-your-mouth tamales with ease.

We’d love to hear from you if you have any queries, suggestions, or tips you’d like to share. Leave us a comment below, or if you prefer a one-on-one conversation, feel free to reach out to me directly.

Here’s to delicious tamales and fun times in the kitchen. ¡Buen provecho!


What’s the ideal steaming time for homemade tamales?

The ideal steaming time for homemade tamales is usually about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on their size. They should be steamed until the masa (dough) is firm and easily separates from the husk.

Can you steam frozen tamales, and does this affect the cooking time?

Yes, you can steam frozen tamales. You don’t even need to thaw them first. However, steaming tamales from frozen will generally take a bit longer than if they were fresh or thawed. Expect to add an additional 15-20 minutes to the steaming time.

How do I know when my steamed tamales are done?

You can tell when tamales are done by checking the masa. The masa should be firm and should pull away easily from the husk. The filling should also be piping hot. If you’re unsure, you can take one out of the steamer and let it rest for a few minutes. As it cools, it should become more firm.

What equipment do I need to steam tamales properly?

To steam tamales, you’ll need a steamer pot or a large pot with a steamer basket. The steamer allows the tamales to be cooked above boiling water. You’ll also need something to cover the pot, to keep the steam trapped inside.

Can I reheat my tamales by steaming, and how long does this take?

Yes, steaming is a great way to reheat tamales as it helps to keep them moist. It usually takes about 15-20 minutes to reheat tamales in a steamer. Make sure they’re heated all the way through before serving.

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I'm Pauline, a mother of four grown children, my passion for cooking stemmed from the joy i get cooking for my family. I love to try new dishes, especially when dining out but creating and sharing my own recipes is my favourite thing to do!