How Long Does It Take to Cook Tamales on the Stove?

Have you ever wondered how long to cook tamales for on the stove? Tamales seem like a daunting thing to make if you’ve never tried before, but they can actually be surprisingly simple sometimes.

How Long to Cook Tamales.
How Long Does It Take to Cook Tamales on the Stove?

How Long to Cook Tamales

How long tamales take to cook will depend on the situation, but if you’re making tamales from scratch, they will often need to steam for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours before they are ready to eat. If you are cooking frozen tamales, it should take about 30 minutes to steam four of them. Thawed tamales can be cooked in about 20 minutes.

How Long Does It Take to Cook Tamales on the Stove?

If you are making tamales from scratch, you are going to need to cook them for about 11/2 to 2 hours on the stove, so be aware of that before you start. The long cooking time ensures that the dough is fully cooked through, specially the center, so it’s important to make sure that they steam long enough.

To steam tamales on the stove, you will first need to fill your steamer or tamalera pot with water to the indicated line on the pot. Then place the steamer tray that comes with the pot.

Mexican tamalera or tamale steamer pot.
Tamalera or Tamales Steamer Pot

Arrange the tamales on the steamer tray, make sure to stand them in an upright. Make sure you place the folded side against the metal, so they don’t unfold. You want to pack the pan firmly but not so tightly that the dough can’t expand.

Also, make sure that the tamales do not touch the water!

Cover the steamer with the lid and bring the pot to a boil. Make sure the lid seals tightly and if not you can cover the pot with aluminum, make a small hole in the center then place the lid on the steamer pot. Alternatively you could also use extra hydrated corn husks to cover the tamales then place the lid to steam.

Once the water is boiling you can then turn the heat down to medium low. Keep it boiling lightly and top up the water whenever the pot starts to dry out, so that it never boils dry.

Continue to steam the tamales for a minimum of 1 hour, and then lift one out of the pan and let it stand for a few minutes. See if the husk will easily peel away from the dough, and check that the dough stays smooth; this indicates it is done.

If the tamales don’t peel away then steam for another 30 minutes then check again. But hardly ever will you need to steam longer than 2 hours. The amount of tamales steaming, of course, plays a roll in the steaming time. Small batches sometimes are ready in 45 minutes.

Cutting into one cheese and jalapeno tamales.
Cheese and Jalapeno Tamales

Next, slice the tamal open and check that the filling is also well cooked and firm throughout. If the insides are squishy or sticky, the tamales need longer.

When they are done, remove them from the pan and allow them to sit on the counter and cool for a few minutes before serving.

Can You Overcook Tamales?

You can overcook tamales, yes. They will turn soggy and fall to pieces if they spend too long in the steamer, so keep a close eye on them and get them out as soon as you think they are ready.

If you are cooking a large batch of tamales, they will take longer to steam than if you do a small batch. For small batches, make sure you are keeping an eye on them, and check on them frequently. As soon as the dough separates neatly from the husks, it’s time to check the filling and see whether they are ready to come out.

Overcooked tamales are not pleasant, so make sure you are watching the pan closely and get them out as soon as you think they are ready.

Tamales Steamer Pot with Raw Tamales to Cook
Tamales Steamer Pot with Raw Tamales to Cook

How Long Do Pre-Cooked Tamales Take to Steam?

If you’re reheating tamales, you don’t need to steam them for nearly as long; you are only trying to ensure that they are heated through. In most cases, this will take about 15 minutes of steaming, although you should cook large batches longer.

That might seem like a long time for something that is already cooked, but because tamales have an outer corn husk, it can take some time for heat to penetrate through to the center. Again, be careful not to overcook the tamales, or they will fall apart when you try to cut into them.

Steamed Cooked Tamales on The Stove and In a Steamer Pot.
Steamed Cooked Tamales on The Stove and In a Steamer Pot

How Long Does It Take to Cook Frozen Tamales on the Stove?

Frozen tamales, that is already cooked then frozen, will usually only take about 30 minutes on the stove, but if you’re making a big batch, you should give them up to 40 minutes. This ensures that the heat can penetrate them fully and they can steam evenly.

If you don’t want to wait this long for the tamales to cook, you may wish to thaw the tamales first. To do this, place the frozen tamales in the fridge 24 hours before you wish to cook them, and then take them out and place them in the steamer.

This should cut down on the cooking time, as they will not need to defrost before they can heat through.

How Long to Cook Tamales.

How Long Does It Take to Cook Tamales on the Stove?

Nancy Lopez & MexicanMadeMeatless.com
Have you ever wondered how long it takes to cook tamales on the stove? Tamales seem like a daunting thing to make if you’ve never tried before, but they can actually be surprisingly simple sometimes.
5 from 5 votes
Save Recipe
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Course Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Calories

Equipment

  • 1 Steamer Pot tamalera

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Fill the tamalera steamer pot to the indicated line, then place the steamer rack on it. Make sure the water doesn't leak through the steamer rack holes.
    Mexican tamalera or tamale steamer pot.
  • Arrange the tamales upright on the steamer tray. Make sure you place the folded side against the metal, so they don’t unfold. You want to pack the pan firmly but not so tightly that the dough can’t expand.
    Jalapeno and Chihuahua Cheese Tamales by @MexicanMadeMeatless | #vegetariantamales #tamales #vegetarian #mexicanmademeatless
  • Cover the steamer with the lid and bring the pot to a boil. Make sure the lid seals tightly and if not you can cover the pot with aluminum, make a small hole in the center then place the lid on the steamer pot. Alternatively you could also use extra hydrated corn husks to cover the tamales then place the lid to steam.
    How to Steam Birria Tamales
  • Bring the water to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 1 hour. After this time carefully remove one tamal from the pot and let it rest for 5 minutes before testing for doneness. Peel away the corn husk and if it easily peels away from the tamal then it's ready, if not continue to steam for another half our, check again and repeat if necessary.
    Once steamed or cooked through, turn the heat off and allow the tamales to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
    Cutting into one cheese and jalapeno tamales.

Video

Notes

Calorie and nutrition amount will depend on the type of tamales you make. 

Nutrition

Serving: 20servings
Keyword tamales, tamales cooking time, tamales steaming time
Tried this recipe?Mention @MexicanMadeMeatless or tag #mexicamademeatless!

Can You Eat Cold Tamales?

If you cut open a tamale and find that it is still cool in the center, you should not eat it. This is specially the case for people who make meat tamales, the meat has not been heated to a safe temperature, and it will not be pleasant. For vegan and vegetarian tamales it’s a matter of them just not tasting good cold.

So put them back in the steamer and allow it to finish heating until the center is piping hot.

How to Steam Tamales in The Microwave

If you don’t want to use the tamalera steamer, you can instead put the tamales in the microwave and heat them. However, this does tend to dry the dough out and can make it chewy and unpleasant.

How to Cook Frozen Tamales in The Oven

Alternatively, wrap the tamales in a layer of aluminum foil and put them in the oven at 425 degrees F. Heat them for 10 minutes, and then flip them over and heat them for a further 10 minutes.

Check that they are hot throughout before serving.

How to Keep Tamales Warm

Cooked Tamales in a Tamalera Steamer Pot.
Cooked Tamales in a Tamalera Steamer Pot

You can keep tamales warm by leaving them in the steamer with the lid on to keep the steam in. Turn the heat off, and they should retain their heat for some time. This can also help to soften the dough and enhance the flavors and will allow them to cook a little more.

Final Thoughts

If you are cooking tamales from scratch, it will take almost 2 hours for them to fully steam. Test them to see whether the dough is fully cooked, and the filling has reached the correct temperature, and then allow them to stand for a few minutes before serving to let the flavors develop.

Tamales Recipes to Try

Here are some delicious vegan tamales and vegetarian tamales recipes for you to try.

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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was so interesting. It’s not something I’ve ever tried to make on the stove so I’m really grateful for the tips and info here!

  2. 5 stars
    Honestly I was always so afraid to make tamales before, great article to make tamales so easily! Thank you!

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