How Long Does It Take To Cook Tamales

How Long Does It Take To Cook Tamales

When it comes to cooking tamales, the time it takes can vary depending on the recipe and the cooking method. Typically, tamales are steamed to ensure they remain tender, and this process can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes in total. The cooking time is influenced by factors such as the size and thickness of the tamales, as well as the quantity of filling used.

Steaming Tamales

Steaming tamales is a traditional and effective method that ensures they are cooked through and retain their moisture. Here’s how to steam tamales using different cooking appliances:

Stovetop Method

If you prefer not to use a countertop appliance, you can steam tamales on the stovetop using a large pot or Dutch oven with a steamer basket and a lid. Follow these steps:

  • Fill a large pot with 1-2 inches of water and place a steamer basket at the bottom.
  • Arrange the tamales upright in the pot, ensuring they are not overcrowded.
  • Cover the pot with a tightly fitting lid and bring the water to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low and let the tamales steam until the masa dough has firmed and cooked through, typically taking 45 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes for thicker tamales.
  • Check periodically to ensure there is enough water in the pot and add more if necessary.
  • To test if the tamales are completely done, remove one from the pot and let it cool for a few minutes before unwrapping and checking the texture.

Instant Pot Method

If you’re looking to expedite the cooking process, using an Instant Pot can significantly reduce the cooking time for tamales. Here’s how to steam tamales using an Instant Pot:

  • Place 2 cups of water in the bottom of the Instant Pot with the trivet.
  • Lay a few corn husks flat over the trivet to create a solid base for the tamales.
  • Position the tamales in the Instant Pot on the rack with the open end of each facing up, ensuring they are stable and not overcrowded.
  • Cover the Instant Pot with the lid, seal the steam release valve, and pressure cook on high for 30 minutes.
  • Allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes, then open the steam release valve to release any remaining pressure.
  • Transfer the tamales to a serving platter and let them cool for 10-15 minutes before unwrapping and serving.

Reheating Tamales

If you have leftover tamales, reheating them can be done effectively using various methods:

  • Steamer: Reheat tamales in a steamer for 15-20 minutes until heated through.
  • Oven: Preheat the oven to 325°F, wrap the tamales in foil, and heat for 20-25 minutes.
  • Microwave: Place the tamales on a microwave-safe plate, cover with a damp paper towel, and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes.

Can You Freeze Tamales?

Yes, tamales freeze well and can be stored for up to six months. When ready to enjoy, thaw the tamales in the refrigerator overnight before reheating using your preferred method.


1. How long do tamales take to cook?

The cooking time for tamales can range from 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes, depending on factors such as size, thickness, and filling quantity.

2. What is the best method for reheating tamales?

Reheating tamales can be effectively done using a steamer, oven, or microwave, depending on your preference and available equipment.

3. Can tamales be frozen?

Yes, tamales freeze well and can be stored for up to six months, making them a convenient make-ahead option.

4. What is the traditional method for cooking tamales?

The traditional method for cooking tamales involves steaming them in a large pot or Dutch oven with a steamer basket and a tightly fitting lid.

5. How should tamales be stored in the refrigerator?

Allow tamales to cool completely, then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week to maintain their freshness.

6. What are some popular fillings for tamales?

Popular fillings for tamales include seasoned pork, chicken, beef, and a variety of vegetarian options, offering a diverse range of flavors to suit different preferences.

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