Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish that is enjoyed all over the world. However, many people don’t know how to steam tamales properly to achieve the perfect texture and flavor properly. In this article, I will instruct you on the process of steaming tamales. With these simple steps, you can create a batch of delicious tamales that will impress your family and friends.

How To Steam Tamales

1. FAQs When Steaming Tamales

1.1. What is the best method for steaming?

While all three methods (steaming tamales on stove, in an Instant Pot, or in a microwave) can work, the traditional pot steaming method is generally considered to be the best way to steam tamales. This is because it allows for the tamales to cook slowly and evenly, resulting in a better texture and flavor.

However, if you’re short on time or don’t have access to a large pot, the Instant Pot or microwave methods can be good alternatives

1.2. What happens if you steam tamales too long?

Have you ever wondered what happens if you steam tamales too long? You’re not alone—it’s a common question for people who love this delicious Mexican dish.

If you steam tamales for too long, they can become overcooked and dry, with a mealy texture. The masa (dough) can also become mushy or fall apart, and the filling can lose its flavor and texture.

In addition to the flavor being lost, overcooked tamales can also cause them to stick to the corn husks or banana leaves, making them difficult to unwrap without tearing.

If you do accidentally overcook your tamales, they may still be edible, but the texture and flavor may not be as good as if they were cooked properly.

So, the next time you make tamales, be sure to keep an eye on the clock and take them out of the steamer when they are done. This will help ensure that your tamales have the best flavor and texture possible.

1.3. How Much Water To Steam Tamales?

The amount of water you need to steam tamales will depend on the size of your steamer and the length of time you plan to steam the tamales.

As a general rule, you’ll need about 1-2 inches of water in the bottom of the steamer to create enough steam to cook the tamales. However, you should check the water level periodically and add more water as needed to maintain a steady steam.

1.4. How Do You Tell If a Tamale is Done?

Time: If you’re steaming tamales in a pot, you can check for doneness by setting a timer and checking them periodically 20 minutes once. If you’re using an Instant Pot or microwave, follow the cooking time in your recipe.

Look and feel: The corn husks or banana leaves that wrap the tamales should start to pull away from the masa (dough) when they’re done. The masa should be cooked through and firm, but still moist and tender. When you press on the masa with your finger, it should spring back slightly.

Internal temperature: You can also check the internal temperature of the tamales with a meat thermometer to make sure they’re fully cooked. The internal temperature should reach at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius).

2. How To Steam Tamales With a Steamer


  • 5 tamales
  • 1 large pot
  • 1 steamer basket


Fill the large pot with enough water to come up just below the bottom of the steamer basket.

Place the steamer basket in the pot and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.

When water boil. Place the tamales in the steamer basket, making sure to leave some space between them so they don’t stick together.

Place the lid on the pot and reduce the heat to low. Steam for about 35 – 40 minutes for raw tamales ( homemade ) and for 25 – 30 minutes for frozen tamales, check water periodically and add more water to the pot if necessary.

Serve the tamales warm with your favorite sauce or condiment. Enjoy!

3. How To Steam Tamales Without a Steamer

If you don’t have a steaming basket, there are several items you can use to steam tamales:

Colander or Mesh Strainer: Place a colander or mesh strainer over a pot of boiling water, making sure it doesn’t touch the water. Arrange the tamales vertically in the colander or mesh strainer, with the open end facing up. Cover the tamales and the pot with a lid or aluminum foil, and steam as usual.

Plate or bowl: You can place a heatproof plate or bowl in the bottom of a pot with a few inches of water, making sure it is elevated above the water. Then arrange the tamales vertically around the plate or bowl, with the open end facing up. Cover the pot and steam the tamales.

Aluminum foil: Wrap each tamale individually in aluminum foil, making sure the foil is tightly sealed. Then, place the wrapped tamales in a pot of boiling water and steam until they are cooked through.

Remember to add enough water to the pot so that it doesn’t boil dry and check the tamales periodically to make sure they don’t overcook or undercook.

4. How To Steam Tamales in Instant Pot


  • 12 tamales
  • 1 cup of water


Place the trivet in the Instant Pot. Then place the tamales on the trivet and pour in the water.

Secure the lid and set the valve to SEALING. Next, press the Pressure Cook and set the timer 15 minutes for frozen tamales and 20 minutes for raw tamales ( homemade )

When the timer is up, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes before manually releasing the remaining pressure.

Carefully remove the lid and transfer the tamales to a plate. Serve the tamales hot with your favorite accompaniments. Enjoy!

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