Home » Cooking Information » How To Steam Tamales: No More Soggy Tamales!

How To Steam Tamales: No More Soggy Tamales!

Maria Foster
Last Updated on
by Maria Foster

Tamales are a classic Mexican dish that is packed with tasty flavors. 

They look like little rectangle shapes made with corn dough. These are then filled with cheese, meat, or vegetables. Some even fill theirs with fruit for a tasty breakfast option! 

How To Steam Tamales: No More Soggy Tamales!

Tamales can be prepared in several ways, but the most effective method involves steaming. When done right, you end up with pleasantly light and moist tamales. When done wrong, the dish turns soggy and mushy – which we want to avoid! 

If you’re wondering how to steam this delicious dish correctly, you’re in the right place! 

You’ll find the best methods to steam tamales below. We’ve also included some tips to help you avoid wet tamales while you cook them. 

Steaming Tamales Tips

Before we get into the steaming methods, here are some tips to help you along the way. 

An important tip to keep in mind is that tamales should be inside the steam, but not in the water. The moisture from the steam will cook and prevent the tamales from turning dry. However, if they come into contact with water, the dish will turn wet and sloppy.

Always position the tamales so their opening faces the sky. This ensures that boiling water won’t travel inside the tamales. 

The exception to this rule is if you want to steam the dish standing up. If this is the case, make sure their closed end faces the ground. 

The easiest way to steam tamales involves using a steamer. This is much easier and involves a lot less work. However, if you don’t own a steamer, we’ll get into alternative steaming methods further on in this post. 

Are My Tamales Done?

You should know how to tell if your tamales are fully done to avoid serving raw, underdone tamales. 

Begin by looking at the wrapping. If they are cooked, the corn husk will take on a yellow shade. You should then look at the masa dough’s consistency. When masa is cooked, it should have a firm texture, not soggy or doughy. 

See if the husk adheres to the masa. When tamales are cooked, their wrapping should peel off without much effort. 

Once you’re done steaming, remove one tamale to see if it’s done. Once you’ve removed it, wait for two minutes, then peel the husk off. If the dish is cooked completely, the wrapping should slide off easily. 

Methods To Steam Tamales

The best ways of steaming tamales involve using a steamer, a steamer basket, and an instant pot. 

Steamer Method

How To Steam Tamales: No More Soggy Tamales!

The steamer method is the easiest way to steam tamales, but you will need to purchase a steamer beforehand. 

Take the following steps to steam your tamales:

  1. Fill The Steamer

Begin by filling the steamer with water. Most steamers are designed to stop water from soaking your tamales, or other ingredients that you steam. 

Take care to avoid overpouring the water pot, as this can lead to a wet mess later on. 

  1. Add The Tamales

Position the tamales uniformly within the steamer. 

It’s best to steam them standing up. You can use a heat-proof cup in the middle to prevent them from falling over. 

  1. Steaming

Turn the heat on high to boil the water. Once the water has boiled, lower the heat to medium and allow the steam to cook the dish.

You can place some husks on top to keep the steam near the tamales. This will help the dish cook throughout. 

  1. Refilling

Keep an eye on the water as the tamales cook. If the appliance runs out of water, refill the steamer every half an hour. Don’t let the water touch the tamales. 

  1. Check For Doneness

Once 90 minutes have passed, check the tamales to see if they are done. If the dish is a little raw, cook them for another half an hour. 

Once you switch off the heat, an optional step is to leave the morsels in the steamer for half an hour. Leave the lid on to trap the steam. This will give the tamales more flavor and a tender texture.

Steaming Basket Method

How To Steam Tamales: No More Soggy Tamales!

If you don’t have a steamer on hand, you can steam your tamales with a steaming basket. The method is like using a steamer, so it isn’t that difficult. 

  1. Grab Your Pot

Steamers are built with a water pan, but as we don’t have one, we’re substituting it with a pot. Most kinds of pots are fine, but make sure you can fit enough tamales inside them before you start.

Fill the pot with enough water, but keep the level just under the steamer basket.  Avoid overfilling as the water will wet the morsels if it enters the basket.

  1. Add The Tamales

Now you’ll need to add the tamales vertically. Make sure the closed end faces the bottom. 

  1. Steaming

Once the tamales are in the basket, turn the heat on high to boil the water. After the water boils, lower the heat to a moderate level and turn your timer on. Always shut the pan’s lid during steaming.

You’ll need between 60 and 90 minutes to steam the tamales.

  1. Refilling

Keep checking the water level after every half an hour. Refill if necessary, taking care to avoid touching the tamales. 

  1. Check For Doneness

Once 60 minutes have passed, check to see if the tamales are done. If they need more time, cook them for a further half an hour. 

Pressure Cooker Method

How To Steam Tamales: No More Soggy Tamales!

A pressure cooker is another option to steam your tamales. If you don’t have enough time, a pressure cooker is a good choice, as it can cook the dish in less time. 

You’ll need a steamer basket for this method, so make sure you have this before you start. 

  1. Fill The Cooker

Pour around two cups of water into the cooker. This may vary depending on how large your cooker is. 

When you add the steamer basket in the next step, the water level should be under the basket, but it shouldn’t touch it.

  1. Add The Tamales

Next, place the steamer basket inside the cooker, then add the tamales. It’s best to have the morsels standing vertically, while their closed end faces the bottom. 

  1. Steaming

Now shut the appliance’s lid and increase the temperature to high. This increases the pressure inside the cooker.

After the appliance reaches full pressure, lower the pressure to the smallest level. Leave the tamales to cook, which should take between 20 and 30 minutes.

  1. Checking For Doneness

Once 20 minutes have gone by, switch your pressure cooker off. Leave it for ten further minutes to naturally release any pressure. 

Now, open the appliance and check if the tamales are done. If they are undercooked, cook them for an additional five to ten minutes. 

Rice Cooker Method

How To Steam Tamales: No More Soggy Tamales!

The rice cooker method is ideal if you don’t have a steamer on hand, but make sure that your device has a steaming feature. 

You’ll also need a steamer basket that fits inside your cooker.

  1. Grab The Rice Cooker

Gather your rice cooker and steamer basket, then pour water into the cooker. Add the steamer basket, but make sure there’s room between the water and the basket. 

  1. Add The Tamales

Add the tamales to the basket with their open end facing the sky. 

  1. Steaming

Steam the morsels for 60 to 90 minutes. Watch the water level and refill as you go, taking care to avoid soaking the tamales. 

  1. Checking For Doneness

Once 60 minutes have passed, check if the tamales have cooked. If you’re happy, leave the morsels to rest for 15 minutes, then transfer to a plate. 

Can You Steam Frozen Tamales?

You can steam frozen tamales, but keep in mind that this will take more time. 

Fresh tamales need around 90 minutes to cook fully. Frozen ones need an additional 60 minutes based on whether they were defrosted before steaming. 

If you do end up steaming frozen tamales, check every 20 minutes after an hour and a half passes. This will ensure you don’t overcook the morsels. 

It’s also best to stick with a steamer or steamer basket method to avoid any issues later. 

Final Thoughts

Those were our top ways of steaming tamales! 

The easiest way to cook tamales is with a steamer, but if you don’t have one, you can use a steamer basket, pressure cooker, or rice cooker to steam yours. Remember to prevent water from touching the tamales as they cook, as this will lead to a soggy, unpleasant dish. 

We hope that your tamales turn out golden, moist, and delicious!

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *