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How Long To Steam Delicious Tamales – 4 Ways

Quick Answer: How Long Do You Steam Tamales?

Tamales are best prepared when steamed and can be cooked 3 different ways. The best way is to use a steamer basket and this method takes between 60-90 minutes. You can also prepare your tamales in a pot on the stove without a steamer basket. This approach takes a little DIY prep work, but requires essentially the same amount of cooking time. Tamales can also be steamed in an instant pot or pressure cooker. This method is faster and takes approximately 30 minutes. If your tamales are frozen, they will take between 45-60 minutes in the steamer.

When you want to spice things up in the kitchen, you can never go wrong with delicious tamales

Expanding your cooking palette by exploring what other cultures have to offer is one of the most rewarding things in life. Not to mention, it helps us to better understand different populations and their roots. 

Tamales are a dish consumed in several Latin American countries but are predominantly eaten in Mexico. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this food, tamales are essentially corn dough (called “masa”) wrapped in leaves (usually corn leaves/husks) and, if desired, stuffed with a filling.

The filling can consist of anything from veggies to meat or even fruit if you’re looking for something sweet. 

When it comes to preparing tamales, the best method to cook them is steaming. Steaming will provide you with the most authentic taste and texture that the whole crowd will love. 

In this article, we are going to discuss 4 ways you can steam tamales: in an instant pot, steamer, on the stovetop and how to prepare your tamales when they are frozen. 

Contrary to what many think, steaming tamales is actually quite easy and can be mastered by anyone. 

So whether you’re planning a Mexican fiesta or simply wanting to try foreign cuisine, the following step-by-step instructions and insider tips and tricks will provide you with everything you need to know to make the perfect steamed tamale. 

How Long To Steam Tamales With A Steamer Basket? 

Of all the methods, steaming your tamales using a steamer basket is the most preferable. 

This approach is super easy and will ensure that you achieve a firm skin without making the tamales too soft or soggy. 

This method does require over an hour, so make sure you reserve enough time to complete them. 

how long do you steam tamales

 Pro Tips

  • You may be wondering why the tamales in the recipe stand vertically rather than lying horizontally. This is because it is believed that tamales are less prone to drying out when they are horizontal. 
  • It’s also important to remember to put the open end of the tamales facing upwards to avoid any water from entering them. 
  • It’s essential that a gentle simmer is always maintained throughout the cooking process, so you can change the heat setting at any time to ensure this. 
  • The length of time it takes your tamales to cook will vary, depending on how large they are and the type of stove you have. 
  • A good benchmark to work from is the 60-90 minute timeframe, but if you want another way of identifying when your tamales are done, you can check the texture. When you touch your tamale and it feels firm (be careful with this, it will be hot!), it’s done. 
  • Another approach that works well is seeing whether or not the corn husks pull away from the dough. If they do, your tamales are ready to be eaten. 
  • If you remove the tamales and notice they aren’t done, simply place them back in the steamer basket and cook for an additional few more minutes. 
  • Don’t skip the resting stage after the tamales are done cooking. This will allow them to cool off a bit and will also allow the flavors to really settle. 

RELATED: Make Your Own Restaurant-Worthy Mexican Rice With This Recipe

How Long To Steam Tamales In An Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker?

Steaming tamales in an instant pot or pressure cooker takes significantly less time than in a steamer basket and is also very easy to execute. 

Instant pots and pressure cookers essentially do all the work for you, so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time relaxing. 

how long do you steam tamales

Pro Tips: 

  • You may be wondering why the tamales in the recipe stand vertically rather than lying horizontally. This is because it is believed that tamales are less prone to drying out when they are horizontal. 
  • It’s also important to remember to put the open end of the tamales facing upwards to avoid any water from entering them. 
  • The 30-minute cooking time is a benchmark and can vary depending on how large your tamales are and what kind of instant pot or pressure cooker you have.
  • Your tamales will be done when they are firm to the touch and the corn husks easily pull away. 

RELATED: 15 Stunning Mexican Ground Beef Recipes

How Long To Steam Tamales On The Stove? 

If you don’t have a steamer basket at home, do not fear! If you don’t mind a little creative DIY project, tamales can still be prepared on the stove without this appliance. 

The length of time it takes to actually cook the tamales is the same as when you use the steamer basket, the only difference is that you need to spend a little more time with prep work. 

how long do you steam tamales

Pro Tips

  • The aluminum balls are essential, as they provide a base for the plate to sit on. 
  • You want to make sure the plate is slightly smaller than the pot so that there is sufficient space for the steam to move around it. 
  • It’s always best to set your tamales in the pot vertically, but if this isn’t possible, you can also lay them horizontally on the plate. 
  • The length of time it takes your tamales to cook will vary, depending on how large they are and the type of stove you have. 
  • A good benchmark to work from is the 60-90 minute timeframe, but if you want another way of identifying when your tamales are done, you can check the texture. When you touch your tamale and it feels firm (be careful with this, it will be hot!), it’s done. 
  • Another approach that works well is seeing whether or not the corn husks pull away from the dough. If they do, your tamales are ready to be eaten. 
  • If you remove the tamales and notice they aren’t done, simply place them back in the steamer basket and cook for an additional few more minutes. 
  • Don’t skip the resting stage after the tamales are done cooking. This will allow them to cool off a bit and will also allow the flavors to really settle. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Do You Steam Frozen Tamales?

If you’ve got frozen tamales on hand that you would like to cook, you can also prepare these in a steamer. Here’s what you should do:

  • Fill the steamer with water until it reaches the halfway point.
  • Turn the heat on high and allow the water to come to a boil.
  • Place your tamales in the insert of the steamer (ensure they are not at all touching the water).
  • Cook for 45-60 minutes, or until done

Remember to check on them periodically, as it’s essential that the water doesn’t run out to avoid burning (add more water as necessary).

How Do You Know When Tamales Are done?

Because all kitchen appliances are different depending on the brand, the cooking times can vary slightly. The size of your tamales and how many you are cooking at once can also have an impact on this. 

To know when your tamales are done, aside from checking the time frames provided, you can also examine the texture. When you touch your tamale and it feels firm (be careful with this, it will be hot!), it’s done. 

Another approach that works well is seeing whether or not the corn husks pull away from the dough. If they do so easily, your tamales are ready to be eaten. 

How Do You Reheat Tamales?

Reheating tamales can be executed using any of the methods provided in this article. 

In terms of time, if your tamales are being taken directly out of the fridge, it should only take between 15-20 minutes to be heated all the way through. 

If you don’t wish to steam your tamales, you can also reheat them by putting them in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, ensuring to flip them halfway through. 

Do You Need To Steam Tamales With The Lid On? 

Yes, it is important to use a lid while steaming tamales for 2 reasons.

Firstly, using a lid will cause more steam to accumulate, which will inevitably help the tamales to cook more gently. 

In addition, more steam aids in maintaining water levels. 

Nevertheless, if you do notice the water evaporating, make sure to add more to avoid burning. 

How Long To Steam Tamales With A Steamer Basket?

How Long To Steam Tamales With A Steamer Basket?

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Active Time: 1 hour
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Tamales are placed into a steamer basket, standing vertically, and cooked for 60-90 minutes, or until they are firm to the touch and the corn husks begin pulling away.

Materials

  • Tamales
  • Water

Tools

  • Large pot
  • Steamer basket
  • Tongs

Instructions

  • Retrieve a large pot and place the steamer basket inside 
  • Pour enough water into the pot so that it reaches just below the steamer basket
  • Begin adding in your tamales so that they are standing vertically, with the open end facing upwards 
  • Set the temperature to high heat and allow the water to boil
  • Once the water boils, turn the heat down to medium so that it comes to a simmer 
  • If necessary, add more water so that the steam is always present
  • Allow the tamale to cook for 60-90 minutes, or until finished (check pro tips below)
  • Once done, remove the tamales from the steamer and allow them to rest for 2 minutes before eating
How Long To Steam Tamales In An Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker?

How Long To Steam Tamales In An Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker?

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 25 minutes
Additional Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 33 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Tamales are put into the pressure cooker or instant pot with water and steam for 20 minutes on low before turning off the heat and releasing the pressure for 10 minutes.

Materials

  • Tamales
  • Water

Tools

  • Instant pot/pressure cooker
  • Tongs

Instructions

  • Retrieve your instant pot or slow cooker and ensure the steamer basket is inside 
  • Pour enough water into the instant pot or slow cooker so that it reaches just below the steamer basket
  • Begin adding in your tamales, so that they are standing vertically, with the open end facing upwards 
  • Set the temperature to high heat and close the lid
  • Allow the pressure to reach its maximum
  • Once it is at its maximum, reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes
  • After 20 minutes have passed, turn the instant pot or pressure cooker off 
  • Release the pressure for 10 minutes
  • Remove the tamales and check if they are done
  • If yes, allow to rest for 2 minutes and then serve
  • If no, put them back into the instant pot or pressure cooker and allow to cook for an additional 5-10 minutes
How Long To Steam Tamales On The Stove?

How Long To Steam Tamales On The Stove?

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Active Time: 1 hour
Additional Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Tamales are placed into a steamer basket standing vertically and cooked for 60-90 minutes, or until they are firm to the touch and the corn husks begin pulling away.

Materials

  • Tamales
  • Water

Tools

  • Large pot
  • Aluminum foil
  • Heat-resistant plate
  • Tongs

Instructions

  • Retrieve a large pot, aluminum foil and a heat-resistant plate 
  • Begin making large balls out of the foil and place them in the base of the pot
  • Set the plate on top of the balls (ensure there is space around the outside of the plate)
  • Pour enough water into the pot so that it reaches just below the plate
  • Begin adding in your tamales, so that they are standing vertically, with the open end facing upwards 
  • Set the temperature to high heat and allow the water to boil
  • Once the water boils, turn the heat down to medium so that it comes to a simmer 
  • If necessary, add more water so that the steam is always present
  • Allow the tamale to cook for 60-90 minutes, or until finished (check pro tips below)
  • Once done, remove the tamales from the steamer and allow them to rest for 2 minutes before eating
Jess Smith
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