Can You Freeze Masa for Tamales

One common tamales making question I get often is: can you freeze masa for tamales? Yes! Freezing tamale masa dough is a game-changer and I’m going to share everything you need to know.

A glass bowl filled with masa dough for tamales and a spatula sticking out of it.

Mexican Tamales

Tamales are a delicious and traditional Mexican dish with deep roots dating back to before colonialism.

They are made for special occasions, family gatherings, the holidays and even just because.

These are one of the most special and beloved dishes of Mexican cuisine – not only by Mexicans but by countless people around the World. 

Tamales are made with a corn dough called masa, which is spread on a corn husk or banana leaf and is then filled with a variety of savory or sweet fillings before being wrapped and steamed until cooked through.

💡Make sure to check out my Tamales Made Meatless cookbook as well as all of the tamales recipes and tips already on the blog. 

Masa dough for tamales made without lard inside a large glass bowl.
How to Make Tamales Masa without Lard

Masa for Tamales

One of the most important components of making tamales is the masa – you need to have a flavorful tamale dough with the correct texture in order to make authentic and delicious homemade tamales.

It doesn’t matter if you’re using fresh masa or masa harina that you buy from tortillerias or grocery stores. That masa needs to have lots of flavor – run away from recipes that tell you to use water instead of broth!

Additionally the masa dough flour needs to be properly made and have an airy, creamy consistency to make sure the texture of the tamales comes out perfectly. 

🌿Don’t worry I’ve got a great recipe with simple steps that you can follow to make the most delicious masa for tamales, check out my recipe Masa For Tamales (No Lard Recipe).

Types of Masa Flour

Before we get to the best methods for freezing masa for tamales, let me share some important information about the types of masa that can be used for making authentic Mexican tamales. 

Fresh corn masa to make tamales dough inside a white and orange bowl.
Fresh Masa from Tortilleria

Fresh Masa

This is a type of maize dough that is sold at tortillerias and Mexican grocery stores. It’s can be just regular masa or unprepared masa that’s used to make fresh tortillas but also for making tamales with a bit more preparation.

This type of masa doesn’t contain any fat, it’s just usually the corn flour made with nixtamalized corn and water and nothing else. 

​Masa preparada is prepared dough that is made with the corn, broth and a fat like lard or vegetable shortening or oil. The grocery store will label it but if unsure do ask one of the employees for clarification. 

Masa fresca can be stored in the bag it came in or an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It will develop a sour taste and smell when it goes off, so if you’re not going to use it right away make sure to freeze it. 

Fresh masa is typically considered superior to masa harina because it’s made with dried corn kernels and has a deeper corn taste and is the more traditional corn dough in Mexican food.

Two photos side by side showing bowls filled with dry masa harina, oil, broth, salt and vegetable shortening for making tamale dough.
Vegan Masa for Tamales with Oil and with Shortening

Masa Harina Flour

This is a type of instant corn flour that is rehydrated by mixing with water and a little salt and is used to make corn tortillas and other corn-based antojitos.

There is also a coarse-ground masa harina that’s specifically for making tamales. I use this type of masa harina for tamales when I make mine, but you could use the regular finer ground too.

Again, makes sure to read my article and recipe for making masa for tamales. 

You can store dry masa harina in your kitchen cabinets or refrigerator for a long time.

If you know that it’s going to take you a long time to use up the bag then place it in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator. It’ll keep fresh for up to 6 months but double check the shelf life on the package. 

Storing in your cabinets is another option but keep a close eye out for pantry weevils that can ruin your masa harina! So store it in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight and preferably in an airtight container.

Ziploc bag filled with leftover tamale masa dough ready to be frozen.

How to Freeze Masa Dough for Tamales: Everything You Need to Know

As I previously mentioned you can freeze masa for tamales. Let me share everything you need to know about freezing any remaining masa that you may have when making tamales – but of course you could also prep ahead for those impromptu fiestas or when the tamales craving strikes, and make an extra batch to use later. 

So, to freeze masa dough for tamales, simply follow these easy steps:

  • Make the masa dough according to your recipe. 
  • Gather the masa (or any leftover masa) and place in a freezer bag, resealable plastic bag or freezer safe container. 
  • If you’d like you can use smaller freezer bags to make smaller batches of tamales. 
  • To take up less space you can use a rolling pin to flatten out the soft dough inside the bag or bags.  Make sure to secure the bag correctly to avoid freezer burn.
  • Label the bag or container with the date and contents.
  • Place in the freezer and freeze for up to about 3-6 months. 
A Ziploc bag filled with frozen masa for tamales defrosting on a kitchen counter.

How to Defrost Frozen Masa for Tamales

To use the frozen masa dough you just need to take a couple of easy steps.

  • Place the frozen dough in the refrigerator at least one day before you plan on using it so it has plenty of time to thaw. 
  • You could also place the frozen masa on the counter early in the morning and allow it to defrost. Be warned that if you live in a cold place it will take a long time and maybe it’s best to defrost one day before.

Once thawed, the masa dough can be used to make tamales just like fresh masa dough.

Glass mixing bowl filled with masa for tamales being spread out with a rubber spatula.

​How to Use Defrosted Frozen Masa for Tamales

Once your tamale masa is defrosted you need to take a couple of simple steps so you can get it ready to use for making tamales. 

  • Place the defrosted masa for tamales in a large bowl.
  • Use a spatula to create and even layer. You’ll notice that the masa dough will feel drier and a bit dense, this is caused by the ice crystals that form when freezing but it’s ok because we’re going to fix it.
  • Use a handheld electric mixer to little by little pour in vegetable broth and beat until well combined.
  • Add some masa harina and mix until well combined and the dough comes together and feels light and airy. 
  • You can drop a little piece into a glass full of water to do the masa float test – optional but not necessary.
Mixing defrosted tamale dough in a large glass mixing bowl with a handheld mixer.

Now your ready to spread the masa on hydrated corn husks or prepared banana leaves and add your favorite vegan or vegetable fillings, steam and enjoy!

Uncooked tamales inside a Mexican bowl.
Raw Tamales Ready to Be Steamed

Can You Freeze Uncooked Tamales?

Absolutely! Freezing tamales is quite easy and similar to the process as freezing the masa dough. Wrap the uncooked tamales individually or stack them with parchment paper in between to prevent sticking.

  • You can wrap a few uncooked tamales together with aluminum foil – just don’t squeeze them in too tightly or the shape of the tamales will change. 
  • Place them in a a freezer-safe container or in Ziplock bag and place in the freezer. 
  • Another method is to lay the raw tamales on a baking sheet then place in the freezer for a couple of hours before you put them inside the container or freezer bags and freezing. This may make it easier to pull them out. 

Uncooked frozen tamales will keep fresh in the freezer for up to 3 to 6 months. Longer than that and they may develop freezer burn.

Frozen tamales with some ice crystals on them.

Can I Freeze Cooked Tamales?

Yes, you can also freeze cooked leftover tamales.

  • Allow the cooked tamales to come to room temperature first.
  • If you are freezing large batches and will constantly be going into the freezer to grab just a few or one single tamale then I suggest using resealable freezer bags to make it easier.
  • To help grab just a few tamales at a time you can place the cooled tamales in between layers of parchment paper (or plastic wrap) then place inside your freezer-safe bag. 
  • Place in the freezer. They’ll take several hours or so to fully freeze. 
  • Grab frozen cooked tamales as you need them and defrost in your refrigerator overnight before reheating. (Follow my guide for reheating tamales.)

Cooked frozen tamales will keep fresh in the freezer for up to 3 to 6 months. Longer than that and they may develop freezer burn.

Homemade birria tamales being dipped into a bowl of birria consome broth.
Birria Tamales

What are Some Tips for Making Delicious Tamales?

  • Get a copy of my cookbook and follow the easy and delicious authentic plant-based tamales recipes.
  • Use high-quality ingredients.
  • Make sure to cook the tamales long enough so that the filling is cooked through and the masa dough is soft and fluffy.
  • Experiment with different fillings to find your favorites.
Mexican Tamales Made Meatless
Mexican Tamales Made Meatless Cookbook

Can You Freeze Masa for Tamales

Freezing masa dough for tamales is a great way to save time and make it easier to prepare tamales when you are short on time. With a little planning, you can enjoy delicious tamales any day of the week.

A hydrated corn husk with masa dough spread on it and adding vegan mushroom filling.

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