how long do tamales take to cook?

how long do tamales take to cook?
Prep. time:
240 min
25 dishes

How to prepare tamales recipe - the ingredients

  • · 1 kg of masa harina (corn flour)
  • · 750 ml of warm water or broth
  • · 250 g of lard or vegetable shortening
  • · 1 tsp of baking powder
  • · 1 tsp of salt
  • · 500 g of filling (e.g., shredded meat, cheese, vegetables)
  • · 20-30 corn husks or banana leaves, soaked in water until pliable

How to prepare tamales recipe - the steps

  1. In a large bowl, mix the masa harina, warm water or broth, lard or vegetable shortening, baking powder, and salt until a smooth, spreadable dough forms.
  2. Lay a corn husk or banana leaf flat on a work surface, and spread about 2-3 tablespoons of the masa dough in the center, leaving a border around the edges.
  3. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the desired filling in the center of the masa dough.
  4. Fold the sides of the corn husk or banana leaf over the filling, then fold the bottom up, creating a sealed package.
  5. Repeat with the remaining masa dough, filling, and corn husks or banana leaves.
  6. Arrange the tamales in a steamer basket, standing them upright with the open end facing up.
  7. Steam the tamales over medium heat for 1-2 hours, or until the masa dough is firm and pulls away easily from the corn husk or banana leaf.
  8. Remove the tamales from the steamer and let them cool slightly before unwrapping and serving.

For a vegan version of tamales, replace the lard with vegetable shortening and choose plant-based fillings such as seasoned vegetables, beans, or jackfruit. Tamales are naturally gluten-free as they are made with corn-based masa harina, but be sure to check the ingredients of any premade fillings or sauces to ensure they are gluten-free.

Tamales can be a nutritious and satisfying meal, depending on the ingredients used. Masa harina is a good source of fiber, which can aid in digestion and promote feelings of fullness. By choosing lean meats, vegetables, and moderate amounts of cheese as fillings, you can create a balanced meal that provides protein, vitamins, and minerals. Steaming the tamales also helps retain nutrients and reduces the need for added oils or fats in the cooking process.

To add variety and flavor to your tamales, experiment with different fillings and sauces. Try combinations like shredded chicken with green salsa, roasted vegetables with mole sauce, or sweet tamales filled with fruit and cinnamon. You can also serve tamales with a variety of toppings, such as fresh salsa, guacamole, sour cream, or cotija cheese, to customize each serving to your liking.


  1. Can I make tamales ahead of time? Yes, tamales can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months. To reheat, steam the tamales until heated through or wrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Can I use a different type of flour instead of masa harina? No, masa harina is a specific type of corn flour treated with lime that gives tamales their unique texture and flavor. Regular corn flour or wheat flour will not produce the same results.
  3. How can I tell when the tamales are done cooking? Tamales are done when the masa dough is firm and pulls away easily from the corn husk or banana leaf. You can also remove one tamale and unwrap it to check if the dough is cooked through and not mushy.
  4. What can I do with leftover tamale filling? Leftover tamale filling can be used in a variety of dishes, such as burritos, enchiladas, or quesadillas. You can also freeze the filling for later use in future batches of tamales.
  5. Can I cook tamales in the oven instead of steaming them? While steaming is the traditional method for cooking tamales, you can also bake them in the oven. Wrap the tamales tightly in foil and bake at 180°C for about 20-30 minutes, or until heated through.
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