How to Store Tamales

Learn how to store tamales. This guide will show you how to store both uncooked tamales and cooked tamales. Follow the simple instructions to learn the best ways to help store tamales after cooking, after steaming, in the fridge, overnight or store in the freezer.

How to Store Tamales | Uncooked and Cooked
How to Store Tamales

How to Store Tamales

When it comes to making tamales none of us are making batches so small that they get eaten in just a few hours. Nope, we’re all making large batches of tamales, large enough to feed small armies.

Just as I did, surely many of your families had their annual tamalada parties.

Tamales are a labor of love so we need to prep wisely, cook, steam and store tamales as best and safely as possible. This way they’ll last as long as possible.

Check out all of my tamales recipes and tips and tricks for make tamales. Go to the archives here.

Today I’m going to be sharing the best way, the best option for storing each particular situation for your homemade tamales.

If you want more information on how long can tamales last then read my article for those tips.

Ways to Store Tamales

Storing your tamales is very important. This of course will depend if you’re storing them raw or cooked, in the fridge or frozen. But no worries, below you’ll find all of the information to help make sure that no tamal goes to waste.

How to Make Vegan Birria Tamales
Wrapping Birria Tamales

Storing Uncooked Tamales Overnight

Sometimes after you have made the masa dough, prepared the fillings and corn husks, and have wrapped tamales, you don’t want to or have time to cook the tamales the same day.

It’s ok, don’t worry your uncooked tamales can be stored in the fridge overnight. In fact many people do all the prep work one day then steam the next. Some other people will freeze uncooked tamales too, more on that below.

But rest assured that with these careful storing techniques the tamales won’t spoil.

Jalapeno and Chihuahua Cheese Tamales
Uncooked Cheese and Jalapeño Tamales

How to Store Uncooked Tamales Overnight in The Fridge

It’s quite simple really. Place the wrapped uncooked tamales standing up and angled either on a large baking sheet or standing up in a container. Try not to crowd them or flatten them, this will cause the masa or corn dough and fillings to spill out.

Cover them with a good large layer of plastic wrap or cling wrap. If you don’t have that then some aluminum foil will also do. You want the tamales sealed but again don’t squeeze them.

Next place the whole container in the fridge overnight. That’s it, and the next day they’re ready to go directly into the tamalera or steamer basket or your Instant Pot.

For banana leaf tamales, they can be stacked — just not too high and also not squeezed in together. Cover them just the same.

You want to steam the tamales within the next day or two. Don’t wait too long otherwise the masa can start going off.

Please note that you don’t want to do this for the uchepos or sweet corn tamales, those you need to prepare and steam all in the same day due to their thinner consistency.

Tamales Recipes to Try

Check out our archives for these delicious tamales recipes to try.

How to Store Tamales in Containers
How to Store Tamales in Containers

Uncooked Tamales Safety Tip

Uncooked tamales with vegan fillings will last longer than ones with vegetarian or cheese fillings. Of course meat-based ones you have to be extra careful because they carry more dangerous bacteria that causes not only spoiling of the tamales but also dangerous foodborne illness to people.

How to Store Tamales in The Fridge
How to Store Tamales in The Fridge

How to Store Cooked Tamales in The Fridge

After steaming you can take any leftover tamales and safely store them for later consumption.

Once cooked tamales last unrefrigerated for a short amount of time. You don’t want to leave them out longer than a couple of hours — particularly so for ones with cheese or meats.

Cooked tamales need to be to allowed to cool down to room temperature. Easily test this by touching them to feel their temperature. Pay close attention to the tamale dough and center where the fillings are. Additionally the corn husk will peel away from the cooked tamales much easier.

Next and once cooled, you can place them in an airtight container, or wrap them in aluminum foil or just place them inside large resealable plastic bag, then store them in the fridge. 

Consume the cooked refrigerated tamales within 3 to 4 days. 

You can reheat on a comal, frying pan with a little cooking oil, an air fryer, or with warm water in a tamalera or pressure cooker. Follow the in depth reheating instructions on my article here.

How to use aluminum foil to store tamales.
Wrapped Tamales in Aluminum Foil

Storing Tamales in The Freezer

These freezer tips apply to both uncooked and cooked tamales.

You will need any of the following: large freezer bag or Ziploc bags, freezer-safe container or layers of aluminum foil.

Some people will spread out the tamales on a baking sheet then set in the freezer to harden before storing in the Ziplock bag or container. I think this is a bit too much work load to add to everything you already did. Instead I like to use the more common method of just freezing.

As with the fridge method you want the tamales to be at room temperature before freezing.

Arrange as many tamales as you can inside the container or freezer bags. Make sure you don’t squeeze them in too tightly, specially the uncooked tamales. Additionally if you don’t crowd them they won’t freeze into one solid piece together. If they are frozen more loosely then you can take out a few or as many as you need without having to defrost the whole frozen block of tamales first.

Try to squeeze out as much air as possible from the bags.

To use aluminum foil layer the tamales and wrap them as tightly as possible with layers of the foil. Make sure there aren’t any exposed parts so you can prevent freezer burn and preserve the flavor of the tamales as best as possible.

How to Freeze Tamales
How to Freeze Tamales

Should You Leave The Corn Husks On The Tamales

My mom, sisters and myself, always leave the corn husks on the cooked tamales for storing. I suggest you do the same. This will act as an insulator to keep the flavor of the tamales from mixing with other foods in your refrigerator or freezer. Additionally this helps them maintain their moistness.

When frozen the tamales will form ice crystals on the corn husks, this is perfectly fine. So because of that it’s really a great way to further protect the masa of the tamales.

Unsoaked Corn Husks for Mexican Tamales
Unsoaked Corn Husks

Should You Freeze Tamales

Of course tamales are going to be at their very best when they’re warm right out of the steamer.

But special occasions or during the Christmas season we all tend to make a lot of tamales. Instead of letting them go to waste, it’s best to just freeze them for consumption at a later time.

Just follow the tips here for the best results and that magical aroma of masa steaming in your kitchen can be enjoyed not only during the holidays.

Can you freeze tamales
Ice Crystals on Frozen Tamales

How Long Can You Freeze Tamales

Frozen tamales will keep fresh in the freezer for a couple of months but no longer than up to 6 months. I would suggest using them up as soon as possible for the best taste and texture.

Mexican Tamales Cookbook

Did you know I wrote a cookbook all about tamales? Go on and check it out. It’s loaded with tips, tricks, photos, and delicious vegan tamales and vegetarian tamales recipes.

Click here to preview it and buy it!

Mexican Tamales Made Meatless
Mexican Tamales Cookbook

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