Can You Freeze Tamales? A Quick Guide for Preservation

Tamales are a traditional Mexican cuisine loved by many for their delicious combination of flavors and textures. Made from a corn-based dough called masa, they are usually filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, or vegetables and then wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves before being steamed. As a result, tamales make a perfect meal or snack option that can be enjoyed at any time of the day.

You might be wondering if you can freeze tamales to have them ready for a future meal. The answer is yes, you can freeze tamales, and it is easier than you might think. Freezing tamales allows you to enjoy this delicious dish whenever you crave it, without the need for making a fresh batch every time. Proper freezing, thawing, and reheating techniques ensure that the taste and quality of frozen tamales remain intact.

How to reheat frozen tamales: the best way

Key Takeaways

  • Freezing tamales is a practical way to preserve and enjoy them later
  • Proper thawing and reheating techniques are crucial for maintaining quality
  • Frozen tamales can be a convenient option for celebrating festivities and events

What are Tamales

Tamales are a delicious and versatile dish originating from Mexico. They consist of a dough called masa made from cornmeal that is traditionally wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf. Inside the masa, you’ll find a variety of fillings such as meat, cheese, vegetables, and even fruit. Tamales come in a wide range of flavors, which makes them perfect for any occasion.

The masa is the foundation of the tamale and offers a slight corn flavor along with a soft, cake-like texture. To make the masa, you will usually combine cornmeal with water, lard or butter, and some seasoning for taste. Once the dough is made, you can move on to preparing the husk or leaf.

The corn husk or banana leaf that wraps the tamale is not only for presentation purposes but also helps to hold in moisture and steam as they cook. Before using, you’ll need to soak them in hot water to make them pliable. Remember, these wrappings are not meant to be eaten, so you’ll need to remove them before enjoying your tamale.

When it comes to the filling, the possibilities are endless. Here are some popular options:

  • Meat: Shredded pork, beef, or chicken cooked in a flavorful sauce.
  • Cheese: Melted cheese, often combined with roasted chiles or vegetables.
  • Vegetables: Mixtures of onion, bell peppers, zucchini, and more, sautéed together.
  • Fruit: Sweet tamales can include fillings like pineapple, mango, or other native fruits.

Once your masa, wrappings, and fillings are prepared, you can proceed to assemble your tamales. Spread a layer of masa onto the husk or leaf, and then add your choice of filling in the center. Fold the wrapper around the filling, enclosing it completely in the masa, and then steam your tamales until they are cooked through. You will certainly appreciate the unique flavors and textures once you have a taste of your homemade tamales!

The Freezing Process

Freezing Cooked Tamales

You can easily freeze cooked tamales for enjoying them later on. First, let them cool down at room temperature after cooking. Once completely cooled, wrap each tamale in a layer of cling film or aluminum foil to protect them from freezer burn and any flavors from the freezer. Place the wrapped tamales inside a freezer bag or an airtight container. Make sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing the bag or container.

Label the packages with the date of freezing, and place them in the freezer. When stored properly, cooked tamales can last up to 6 months in the freezer. To reheat, simply steam or microwave them until heated through.

Freezing Uncooked Tamales

If you want to freeze uncooked tamales, it’s also quite a straightforward process. Start by assembling your uncooked tamales with the masa dough and desired filling. Place the uncooked tamales on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer, ensuring they don’t stick together. Put the baking sheet in the freezer for about an hour or until the tamales are firm.

Once frozen, transfer each tamale into individual sheets of aluminum foil or cling film. Wrap them tightly, making sure no air is trapped inside. Then, place the wrapped tamales in a freezer-safe container or a ziplock freezer bag. Label the package with the freezing date, and store them in the freezer.

Uncooked tamales can last up to 4 months in the freezer. When you’re ready to cook them, there’s no need to thaw; you can simply steam or cook them straight from the freezer, adding some extra time to the cooking process compared to fresh tamales.

Thawing and Reheating

Thawing Tamales

To thaw frozen tamales, you have a few options. The easiest method is to simply place them in the refrigerator and let them defrost overnight. If you’re in a hurry, you can speed up the process by placing the tamales in a sealed plastic bag and submerging them in a bowl of cold water. Make sure to change the water every 30 minutes until they’re fully thawed.

Note: Avoid using the microwave for thawing, as it may cause the tamales to cook unevenly and become soggy.

Reheating Tamales

Once your tamales are thawed, there are several ways to reheat them:

  • Microwave: Place the tamales on a microwave-safe plate, cover them with a damp paper towel, and microwave for 1-2 minutes. Check if they’re heated through, and if not, continue to microwave in 30-second intervals until fully warmed.
  • Steam: To steam your tamales, first set up a steamer basket in a pot with boiling water. Make sure the water level is low enough that it doesn’t touch the tamales. Place the tamales in the steamer, keeping them upright, and cover with the lid. Steam for 15-20 minutes, or until they’re heated through.
  • Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Wrap each tamale individually in aluminum foil, then place them on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through.
  • Stovetop: To reheat the tamales on the stovetop, first heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the tamales, still wrapped in their husks, and cook for 5 minutes on each side, or until they’re heated through.
  • Crockpot: Place the tamales in a slow cooker, standing them upright. Cover and cook on low for 1.5-2 hours, or until heated through. This method is great when you’re reheating a large batch.

Remember to always check that your tamales are heated through before serving, and enjoy the deliciousness!

Maintaining the Quality of Frozen Tamales

When freezing tamales, it’s essential to maintain their quality, which involves preserving the texture, flavor, and filling of these delicious treats. Here’s how you can do so:

To begin, ensure the tamales are cooled completely before freezing. This helps prevent condensation from forming, which can cause ice crystals to develop and lead to freezer burn. Freezer burn deteriorates the texture and flavor of the tamales.

When preparing to freeze tamales, choose an appropriate container or bag to store them in. To avoid squishing the filling, it’s a good idea to arrange the tamales in a single layer, side-by-side, instead of stacking them. Also, use freezer-safe bags or containers that can be sealed airtight. This way, you can minimize the risk of ice crystals, condensation, and freezer burn.

Whether you’re freezing raw or leftover tamales, taking some extra steps can ensure they taste as good as the day you made them. If you’re freezing raw tamales, it’s essential to wrap them individually in plastic wrap or aluminum foil before placing them into a container. This will protect them from ice crystals and maintain their texture, filling, and flavor.

For leftover tamales, seal the container properly before placing it in the freezer. If you don’t plan on eating them within a month, consider using a vacuum-sealer to remove all air from the container. This can help preserve the quality of your tamales and reduce the chances of freezer burn.

After following these steps, don’t forget to label your container of tamales correctly. Include the date and a brief description of the tamales’ contents so you can easily identify them later. This is especially helpful when organizing your freezer and keeping track of how long your tamales have been frozen.

With proper storage and freezing techniques, you can maintain the original texture, filling, and flavor of your tamales. Remember, taking these few extra steps can make all the difference in preserving the quality of your frozen tamales, ensuring they taste great when you’re ready to enjoy them.

Cooking Tamales

When you’re ready to cook your tamales, whether they’re freshly made or frozen, there are several methods to choose from. Each method can bring out unique flavors and textures for your tasty treat.

Steaming: This is the traditional method for cooking tamales. Place your tamales, either fresh or frozen, in a steamer basket. Make sure you don’t overcrowd the basket, as it’s crucial for the steam to circulate properly. Fill the bottom of the steamer with water, and let it come to a boil. Once boiling, place the basket on top, cover it, and let the tamales cook for about 90 minutes (up to 2 hours if they were frozen). The tamales are ready when the masa is firm and no longer sticks to the corn husk.

Baking: Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C). Wrap each tamale individually in aluminum foil, ensuring it’s tightly sealed. Place your wrapped tamales on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes. They’re ready when the masa is firm to the touch.

Frying: You can pan-fry or deep-fry your tamales for a crispy exterior. For pan-frying, heat a thin layer of oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook each side of the tamale until golden brown. For deep-frying, heat your oil to 350°F (175°C), and carefully submerge your tamales, turning occasionally, until they have a crispy golden-brown exterior.

Now, let’s talk about fillings. Tamales can contain various fillings, ranging from meats like pork and chicken to veggies and chilies. Feel free to get creative and experiment with your favorite ingredients. Just remember to always use cooked meats and prepped veggies prior to filling the masa.

Whether you’re enjoying your freshly cooked tamales or reheating frozen ones, these versatile and delicious treats can be served with an array of toppings or served solo. Enjoy your perfectly cooked tamales, and remember to share them with friends and family.

Tamales and Festivities

Tamales are a traditional dish enjoyed during family gatherings and holidays, especially in Latin American cultures. They are made of a delightful combination of flavors that symbolize togetherness and celebration. When you bring tamales to the table, you are not just sharing a delicious meal, but also creating lasting memories with your loved ones.

In the spirit of festivities, tamales often come with various fillings to cater to different preferences. Fruit-based fillings like guava, pineapple, or strawberry give a sweet twist, while savory options like chicken, pork, or beef are equally as popular. Dairy fillings, such as cheese or cream, cater to those who prefer a slightly mild taste. The variety of options makes tamales a versatile dish that everyone can enjoy.

If you are planning to host a gathering, preparing tamales ahead of time and freezing them can be a great idea. This allows you to save time and ensure that your tamales are ready-to-serve when the festivities begin. It is also an excellent way to preserve any leftover tamales after your holiday celebrations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to store frozen tamales properly?

To store your frozen tamales, first, let them cool completely. Then, wrap them individually in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Place the wrapped tamales in airtight containers or resealable plastic bags, and label them with the date. Store them in your freezer, ideally at 0°F or colder.

Best way to reheat frozen tamales

When you want to enjoy your frozen tamales, start by removing them from the freezer and thawing them overnight in the refrigerator. To reheat, you can either steam or microwave them. To steam, place the tamales in a steamer basket and steam for 15-20 minutes until fully heated. To microwave, put them on a microwave-safe plate, cover with a damp paper towel, and heat for 2-3 minutes.

Can cooked tamales be frozen?

Yes, cooked tamales can be frozen. Follow the storage instructions mentioned above regarding proper wrapping and placement in airtight containers or bags. This will help preserve their flavor and texture when you reheat them later.

How long do frozen tamales last?

Frozen tamales can last for up to six months if stored properly. It’s crucial to wrap them individually and store them in airtight containers to maintain their quality. Don’t forget to label the containers with the date, so you can easily keep track of their freshness.

Freezing uncooked tamales: yes or no?

You can freeze uncooked tamales, and in fact, many people prefer to do so. Freezing them uncooked helps maintain their texture and flavor. The reheating process is the same as for cooked tamales. Steam or microwave them to enjoy delicious, freshly cooked tamales any time.

Storing leftover tamales in the fridge

If you have leftovers but don’t want to freeze them, you can store tamales in the refrigerator. Place them in airtight containers or wrap each tamale in plastic wrap, and store them in the fridge. They will keep fresh for about three to four days. Just remember to reheat them properly before serving.

How to reheat frozen tamales

How to Freeze Tamales

The best ways to freeze tamales
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Freezing Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 4
Calories 244 kcal


  • Tamales


  • Allow the tamales to cool down to room temperature.
  • Wrap each tamale tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  • Place the wrapped tamales in a freezer-safe container or a resealable plastic freezer bag.
  • Label the container or bag with the date and contents.
  • Place the container or bag in the freezer.


When you're ready to reheat the tamales, simply remove them from the freezer and let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, you can reheat them in the microwave, steamer, or oven. Enjoy your delicious tamales!


Calories: 244kcal
Keyword How to freeze tamales
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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