Preserving the Flavor: Can You Freeze Tamales?

Can you freeze tamales?

Tamales: A staple of Mexican cuisine
Tamales are a popular and traditional dish in Mexican cuisine. These delicious corn-based treats are filled with a variety of ingredients, such as cheese, meat, vegetables or fruit, and are typically wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves. Due to the time and effort required to make tamales, many people wonder if it is possible to freeze them for later consumption. In this article, we will explore the topic of freezing tamales, discussing the best practices for freezing both cooked and uncooked tamales, as well as the recommended methods for thawing and reheating. So, if you’re curious about how to preserve and enjoy tamales for an extended period of time, let’s dive in!

Freezing Cooked Tamales

When it comes to freezing tamales, the most common approach is to freeze them after they are cooked. Freezing cooked tamales allows you to have a ready-to-eat meal that only needs to be reheated. However, it is important to properly package cooked tamales to preserve their flavor and texture during freezing. The original corn husk packaging is too fragile to withstand the intense cold of the freezer, necessitating alternative methods.

How to Freeze Cooked Tamales

Here is a step-by-step guide to freezing cooked tamales:

  1. Cool the tamales: Allow cooked tamales to cool completely to room temperature. Placing hot tamales directly in the freezer can cause condensation, which can affect their quality. It is recommended that they cool on a wire rack for approximately one hour.
  2. Packaging Options: There are several ways to package cooked tamales for freezing. You can either place them in a large, airtight container or wrap each tamale individually in plastic wrap and then place them in a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag. The latter option allows you to easily remove individual tamales without defrosting the entire batch.
  3. Label: Seal the container or bag tightly and label it with the name of the contents and the date of freezing. Proper labeling ensures that you can keep track of the tamales’ shelf life and consume them before their quality begins to deteriorate.

Freezing Uncooked Tamales

While freezing cooked tamales is the preferred method, it is possible to freeze uncooked tamales. However, it is important to note that the soft dough, known as masa, used to make tamales is highly perishable and may not hold up well during the freezing process. However, with proper technique and preparation, you can successfully freeze uncooked tamales for future cooking.

How to Freeze Raw Tamales

If you decide to freeze raw tamales, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare the filling: Prepare the tamale filling as you normally would.
  2. Wrapping Options: You have two options for wrapping the uncooked tamales before freezing. You can either wrap the filling in the corn husk wrap or freeze the filling separately without the husk. Whichever method you choose, place the tamales in a freezer-safe container to prevent damage from ice crystals and frost.

Cooking Frozen Raw Tamales

When it’s time to cook the frozen uncooked tamales, there are two options:

  1. Thaw before cooking: Thaw the tamales overnight in the refrigerator. This is the safest method to ensure even thawing and prevent bacterial growth. Once thawed, proceed with the cooking process.
  2. Cooking from frozen: If you’re short on time, you can cook the frozen, uncooked tamales directly without thawing. Steaming is the recommended cooking method for frozen tamales. Cooking time may vary depending on the size and quantity of tamales you are making.

Shelf life for frozen tamales

Tamales can be stored in the freezer for up to six months if properly packaged in an airtight container or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag. While they may still be safe to eat after this time, their quality and flavor will begin to deteriorate. It is important to label the container with the date of freezing to ensure that you consume the tamales before their quality deteriorates significantly.

Effect of fillings on freezing

While most tamales freeze well, it’s important to consider the fillings you use. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Meat and shrimp fillings: These fillings tend to freeze well and retain their flavor and texture after thawing and reheating.
  2. Vegetable fillings: Vegetables are generally safe to freeze, but may become slightly softer after thawing. If you prefer a crunchier texture, it’s best to consume vegetable-filled tamales within a few weeks of freezing.
  3. Cheese fillings: Cheese can sometimes change texture when it is frozen and thawed. It may become slightly grainy or crumbly. However, many people still find the taste acceptable, so it comes down to personal preference.
  4. Fruit Fillings: Freezing fruit-filled tamales can be a little trickier. Some fruits, such as berries, tend to become mushy after thawing. If you plan to freeze tamales with fruit fillings, it’s best to consume them within a few weeks for optimal texture and flavor.

Reheating Frozen Tamales

When reheating frozen tamales, it’s important to ensure that they are thoroughly heated to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) to eliminate any potential bacteria. Here are some methods for reheating frozen tamales:

  1. Steaming: Steaming is the preferred method of reheating tamales. Simply place frozen tamales in a steamer basket and steam for 15-20 minutes or until heated through.
  2. Microwave: If you’re short on time, you can use a microwave to reheat frozen tamales. Wrap each tamale in a damp paper towel and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Be sure to rotate and flip them halfway through to heat them evenly.
  3. Oven: Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Wrap each frozen tamale in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until heated through.

Tips for Freezing and Enjoying Tamales

Here are some additional tips for freezing and enjoying tamales:

  1. Use quality ingredients: Start with fresh, high-quality ingredients to ensure the best flavor and texture after freezing and reheating.
  2. Properly Label and Date: Always label your frozen tamales with the date they were frozen. This will help you keep track of their shelf life and consume them before their quality deteriorates.
  3. Portion control: If you plan to freeze a large batch of tamales, consider portioning them before freezing. This will allow you to thaw and enjoy only what you need without having to defrost the entire batch.
  4. Consume within the recommended timeframe: While frozen tamales are safe to eat beyond the recommended shelf life, it’s best to consume them within the suggested timeframe for optimal flavor and quality.

Bottom line

In conclusion, tamales, whether cooked or uncooked, can be successfully frozen for later consumption. By following proper freezing and reheating techniques, you can enjoy these delicious Mexican delicacies even when they are not freshly made. Remember to wrap them properly, date them, and pay attention to the fillings used for the best results. So go ahead and freeze some tamales to have a convenient and tasty meal waiting for you whenever the craving strikes!


Can I freeze cooked tamales?

Yes, you can freeze cooked tamales. Allow them to cool completely, wrap them properly, and place them in the freezer for later consumption.

How long can I keep frozen tamales?

Frozen tamales will keep for up to six months. However, for the best quality, it is recommended to consume them within this time frame.

Can I freeze uncooked tamales?

Yes, you can freeze uncooked tamales. Prepare the filling, wrap properly, and freeze. Thaw before cooking or cook directly from frozen.

What’s the best way to reheat frozen tamales?

The preferred method for reheating frozen tamales is by steaming. You can also use a microwave or oven to reheat, making sure they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Can I freeze vegetable-filled tamales?

Yes, you can freeze vegetable tamales. However, the vegetables may become slightly softer after thawing. It is recommended to consume them within a few weeks for optimal texture.

How do I defrost frozen, uncooked tamales?

To thaw frozen uncooked tamales, place them in the refrigerator overnight. This allows for safe and even thawing before cooking.