How to Cook Frozen Tamales: Unlock Flavorful Delights


Have you ever found yourself craving the delicious taste of tamales but only have frozen ones?

Don’t worry, because in this article, we will uncover the secrets of cooking frozen tamales to perfection.

From traditional steaming to innovative techniques like grilling and smoking, get ready to unleash your culinary skills and enjoy an authentically mouthwatering experience.

how to cook frozen tamales

To cook frozen tamales, there are several methods you can use.

One option is steaming them on the stovetop.

Another method is using an Instant Pot for steaming.

Baking the tamales in the oven is also a possibility.

Microwaving them is another quick and convenient option.

Lastly, you can even grill or smoke the tamales for a unique and flavorful twist.

Choose the method that suits you best and follow the cooking instructions accordingly.

Key Points:

  • Cooking frozen tamales can be done using various methods.
  • Steam them on the stovetop.
  • Steam them using an Instant Pot.
  • Bake the tamales in the oven.
  • Microwave the tamales for a quick option.
  • Grill or smoke the tamales for a unique twist.
  • Select the method that suits you and follow the instructions.

how to cook frozen tamales – Watch Video


Pro Tips:

1. The word “tamale” originates from the ancient Aztec word “tamalli,” meaning “wrapped food.”

2. Tamales are believed to have been consumed by different indigenous cultures in Mesoamerica for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans.

3. To cook frozen tamales quickly, you can use a steamer instead of thawing them first. The steam will thaw and cook them simultaneously, saving you time.

4. Did you know that tamales can be sweet too? Sweet tamales, often filled with ingredients like cinnamon, raisins, or chocolate, are popular in some Latin American countries for breakfast or dessert.

5. Tamales have played a significant role in Mexican and Latino cultures. They are not only a delicious meal but also a symbol of community and togetherness. In many families, making tamales is a tradition, where everyone gathers to help prepare and cook them, fostering a sense of unity and shared heritage.

Steaming on the Stovetop

When it comes to cooking frozen tamales, steaming on the stovetop is a tried and true method that delivers excellent results. To start, fill a pot with water, making sure it’s about halfway full. Place a steamer rack or a mesh colander in the pot, making sure it’s above the water level. Arrange the frozen tamales on the rack, making sure they aren’t overcrowded. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot. Allow the tamales to steam for around 30 to 40 minutes, or until they are heated through and the masa dough is cooked. Be sure to check the water level periodically and add more if necessary. Once cooked, carefully remove the tamales from the pot using tongs, making sure to let them cool slightly before serving. Steaming on the stovetop is a versatile method that allows for steaming larger batches of tamales at once.

Steaming in the Instant Pot

If you own an Instant Pot, you’ll be delighted to know that it’s an efficient way to cook frozen tamales. To begin, place the metal trivet that came with your Instant Pot in the bottom of the pot and add one cup of water. Arrange the frozen tamales upright on the trivet, being careful not to stack them. Close the Instant Pot lid and set the valve to the sealing position. Cook on high pressure for around 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the tamales. Once the cooking time is up, allow for a natural pressure release for about 10 minutes before carefully releasing any remaining pressure manually. Open the lid and use tongs to remove the tamales. The Instant Pot method is perfect for those who want a quick and hands-off cooking experience.


To bake frozen tamales with a slightly crispy exterior, follow these steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Arrange the frozen tamales on a baking sheet, making sure they are evenly spaced.
  3. Optional: For an extra layer of flavor, you can brush the tamales with a little bit of oil or melted butter before placing them in the oven.
  4. Bake the tamales for approximately 40 to 45 minutes, or until they are heated through and the masa dough is cooked.
  5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the tamales cool slightly before serving.

Baking tamales not only ensures they are properly heated, but also adds a delightful texture and a slightly toasted flavor that complements the filling perfectly.


Microwaving frozen tamales is a convenient and time-saving method. However, it’s important to note that the texture may not be as ideal as other cooking methods. Begin by arranging the frozen tamales on a microwave-safe plate, making sure there is space in between each tamale. Cover the plate loosely with a microwave-safe plastic wrap or microwave-safe lid. Cook on high power for about 4 to 6 minutes, rotating the plate halfway through the cooking time. After microwaving, let the tamales stand for a couple of minutes before checking their temperature. It’s recommended to use a food thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature of the tamales reaches 165°F (74°C) to guarantee they are thoroughly cooked. While microwaving is the quickest method, the tamales may not have the same tender and moist texture as steaming or baking.

Grilling or Smoking

For those who love a smoky flavor, grilling or smoking frozen tamales is a perfect choice.

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Preheat your grill or smoker to medium heat.
  2. If using a grill, you can either cook the tamales directly on the grates or use foil packets to prevent them from sticking.
  3. If smoking, place the tamales on a wire rack or use a grill basket to keep them from falling apart.
  4. Grill or smoke the frozen tamales for about 20 to 30 minutes, turning them occasionally, until they are heated through and have a slightly charred exterior.
  5. The grilling or smoking method infuses the tamales with a delightful smoky flavor that enhances their overall taste.
  6. Serve the tamales hot off the grill or smoker and enjoy a unique spin on this traditional dish.

Remember to experiment with different cooking times and techniques to achieve the perfect smoky flavor.

  • Enjoy!

Steaming in a Rice Cooker

If you have a rice cooker with a steaming function, you can use it to cook delicious frozen tamales with ease. Begin by adding water to the rice cooker’s pot according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Place the tamales on the steaming tray or a heatproof dish that fits inside the rice cooker. Close the lid and select the steaming function or set the timer according to the rice cooker’s instructions. Cook for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, or until the tamales are heated through and the masa dough is cooked. Once done, carefully remove the tamales from the rice cooker and allow them to cool slightly before serving. Utilizing a rice cooker for steaming tamales is a convenient option if you already have one on hand.

Air Frying

Air frying is a relatively new cooking method that has gained popularity for its ability to achieve crispy results without excessive oil. To cook frozen tamales in an air fryer, follow these steps:

  • Preheat the air fryer to 370°F (190°C).
  • Arrange the tamales in a single layer in the air fryer basket, leaving space between each tamale for air circulation.
  • Cook for about 12 to 15 minutes, flipping the tamales halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning.
  • Air frying tamales gives them a crispy exterior while retaining their moist and flavorful filling.
  • Let them cool slightly before serving.

Remember to enjoy your deliciously air-fried tamales!

Deep Frying

To achieve a truly indulgent and crispy treat, deep-frying frozen tamales is an excellent option. Here’s how to do it:

  • Preheat a pot or deep fryer with enough oil to completely submerge the tamales.
  • Heat the oil to 350°F (175°C).
  • Carefully lower the frozen tamales into the hot oil using tongs or a slotted spoon.
  • Fry them for approximately 4 to 5 minutes, until they develop a golden-brown crust.
  • Remove the tamales from the oil and place them on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.
  • Allow the tamales to cool slightly before serving.

The result? Deep-fried tamales that are wonderfully crispy on the outside and irresistibly tender on the inside. Enjoy!


Boiling frozen tamales is a straightforward cooking method that is especially useful when you’re short on time. Here’s how to do it:

  • Fill a pot with enough water to fully submerge the tamales.
  • Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
  • Once boiling, carefully lower the tamales into the pot using tongs or a slotted spoon.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-high and let the tamales simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are heated through and the masa dough is cooked.
  • Once cooked, remove the tamales from the pot and let them cool slightly before serving.

Boiling tamales is a simple and efficient way to enjoy this beloved dish.

Sous Vide Cooking

Sous vide cooking is a method that involves vacuum-sealing food in a bag and cooking it in a temperature-controlled water bath. Although sous vide cooking for tamales may not be the most common approach, it can produce outstanding results.
* Preheat a sous vide water bath to 160°F (71°C).
* Place the frozen tamales in a vacuum-sealed bag, ensuring they are evenly spread out.
* Submerge the bag into the water bath and cook for approximately 1 to 2 hours.
* Sous vide cooking ensures that the tamales are cooked evenly throughout and allows the flavors to meld together.
* Once done, remove the bag from the water bath and carefully open it.
* Let the tamales cool slightly before serving.

Sous vide cooking is a unique way to achieve perfectly cooked and intensely flavorful tamales.

In conclusion, there are multiple methods for cooking frozen tamales that can unlock the delicious flavors of this traditional dish. Whether you choose to steam, bake, microwave, grill, air fry, deep fry, boil, use a rice cooker, or even employ sous vide cooking, each method brings its own unique qualities to the table. Experiment with these different cooking techniques to find the one that suits your preferences and enjoy the mouthwatering delights of frozen tamales cooked to perfection.


You may need to know these questions about how to cook frozen tamales

Should you thaw frozen tamales before cooking?

It is recommended to thaw frozen tamales before cooking them. Thawing the tamales in the refrigerator for a day helps to ensure even cooking and allows the flavors to meld together. Once thawed, the tamales can be easily steamed by placing them inside a steamer, resulting in a delicious and perfectly cooked dish.

How long does it take for frozen tamales to cook?

The cooking time for frozen tamales varies depending on the quantity. When steaming 1-4 frozen tamales, it typically takes around 25-30 minutes. However, if you have 5 or more, you should steam them for about 35-40 minutes. If you choose to steam thawed tamales instead of frozen ones, they generally require approximately 20 minutes to cook thoroughly.

How do you cook frozen tamales without a steamer?

If you don’t have a steamer, you can still cook frozen tamales by using a simple alternative method. Fill a pot with water, ensuring it doesn’t reach the bottom of the pie pan with holes. Place the tamales in the pan and steam them as if you were using a traditional steamer. The steam generated by the water in the pot will cook the tamales to perfection, allowing you to enjoy their delicious flavor even without a steamer.

What is the best way to cook tamales?

To achieve the best taste and texture, the ideal method to cook tamales is through steaming. Start by preparing a pot with a steamer insert or a makeshift steamer, ensuring that it is large enough to fit all the tamales without overcrowding. Place the tamales upright, with the open end facing up, in the steamer. Steam them until the dough separates easily from the husks, which could be determined by lifting one tamale and gently peeling back the husk to check for doneness. Throughout the process, remember to add 1/2 cup (120 ml) of hot water to the pot every 15 to 20 minutes to maintain a steady steam flow. Mastering the art of steaming will result in perfectly cooked tamales, ready to indulge in.

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