Tamales: How to Freeze, Defrost & Reheat (Cooked & Uncooked)

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish with a truly incredible taste. Nowadays, they are popular with families all over the world, so making a lot of tamales at once to feed a crowd is certainly not unheard of. However, if you have made too many tamales for one sitting, it would be such a shame to throw them away.

Knowing how to store them properly is essential to your tamales’ tastiness when you decide you’re ready to eat them. But what are the best ways to store them? Can you freeze tamales?

You can freeze tamales very easily. Some might suggest that it is better not to freeze uncooked tamales, but otherwise, it is a very simple and straightforward way to keep your cooked tamales tasting excellent from day one.  

In the rest of this article, I will go through the best ways to store both cooked and uncooked tamales, how to freeze them properly, and the most convenient ways to thaw and reheat them. 

What Is the Best Way To Store Uncooked Tamales?

If you aren’t planning to eat your tamales after assembling them, you can easily store them until you are ready to cook and eat them.

The best way to store uncooked tamales is to wrap them up tightly and keep them in the fridge. They will last quite well in the refrigerator if appropriately wrapped for about a week. 

Freezing Tamales: How to Freeze, Defrost & Reheat

If you want your uncooked tamales to last for a whole week in the fridge, you must ensure they are adequately wrapped. To keep the flavors intact, wrap each tamale individually in aluminum foil and arrange them in a sealed container to avoid losing their shape.

After a week, they will start to degrade in taste and texture, so make sure your tamales haven’t expired or gone bad by the time you want to eat them.

What Is the Best Way To Store Cooked Tamales?

Once you have cooked your tamales, you will probably want to keep them in good shape so that you can enjoy them for a while.

The best way to store cooked tamales is to either keep them in the fridge for a few days, wrapped individually in a well-sealed bag, or store them in the freezer for up to six months. Either way, make sure your tamales are correctly covered. 

Storing Your Tamales in the Fridge

If you decide to store your cooked tamales in the fridge, you will need to wait for them to cool down before you do anything. Cooling them completely allows the flavors to settle, and if you put hot food in the fridge, it will tamper with the overall fridge temperature.

You should bear in mind that keeping cooked tamales at room temperature for too long can present problems as well. If they have been sitting out on the counter for one to two hours, then this is fine. However, if they have been there for a few hours or overnight, they will be compromised, and harmful bacteria may be present.

Once they are thoroughly cooled, you can wrap them. Try to wrap them individually so that they maintain their consistency and shape, and then stack them neatly inside a sealable container or bag. 

You can keep them in the fridge for up to a week, but bear in mind that the longer you keep them in the refrigerator, the more the flavors may be compromised. 

Storing Your Tamales in the Freezer

If you have chosen to freeze your cooked tamales, then you should go through the same steps above: let them cool completely, then wrap them individually. 

When placing the tamales into a ziplock bag in preparation for freezing, place a small paper towel beneath each one. This removes unnecessary moisture and prevents ice crystals from forming on your tamales. 

Ice crystals will destroy the consistency of the tamales, so when you thaw them out, their shape and taste will be lost.

You can keep your cooked tamales in the freezer for up to six months. Beyond six months, you will find that the taste will be much blander, and the flavor won’t be the same as when they were fresh. 

Try to remember that, in the freezer, vegetables can lose many of their nutritional benefits, such as vitamins – especially if they are left too long. If you want to reap the full dietary rewards from your vegetarian tamales, try to eat them fresh.  

Learn the Signs of Expired Tamales

Expired tamales should be pretty apparent due to the smell. If there is a pungent smell emanating from them, you should definitely throw them away. 

If they don’t smell, but the consistency is mushy or rubbery and hard, then you should throw the tamales away.

The best way to ensure that your tamales won’t expire is to eat them fresh!

How To Defrost and Reheat Frozen Tamales

If you have decided to store your tamales in the freezer, you will need to thaw them out and reheat them properly before you eat them. Of course, you can eat them cold if you wish, but you won’t be getting the full taste and consistency for which tamales are so famous.

Defrosting and reheating frozen tamales is easy; just decide if you want to use a microwave, crockpot, frying pan, oven, or rice cooker, and follow the guidance below. You can also choose to reheat your tamales without defrosting them if you like. 

How To Thaw Frozen Tamales

The best way to thaw frozen tamales is to take them out of the freezer and place them in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Do not defrost your tamales on the counter at room temperature, especially if your tamales have meat inside. Leaving them out for a long time to defrost can alter the taste and texture of the tamales and allow harmful bacteria to gather on the surface, even if they are still wrapped. 

When trying to defrost your frozen food, it is always best to play it safe. Consider taking out your tamales from the freezer the night before and placing them inside the fridge until they are fully defrosted.

It is best to leave the tamales inside their individual wrappings until you take them out of the fridge and they are defrosted. This way, you are not compromising the shape of the tamales or risking the husks getting stuck to the foil.

How To Reheat Tamales

There are several good ways to reheat your frozen tamales. Below I have included the instructions for using a steamer, the oven, a crockpot, and a microwave. 

Using a steamer is the best way to reheat your tamales. It enables them to keep their original shape and taste while heating them up quickly. Just remove the aluminum foil from each one and steam for about 20 minutes – or, if you haven’t defrosted them, 30 minutes in the steamer should do the trick.

If you want to use the oven, heat the tamales for about 30 minutes at 425 °F (220 °C) until they are cooked through. 

Using a crockpot is relatively straightforward, as well. Just pour some water into the pot, cover the tamales on a small, flat dish, and put them on top of the water. Leave it on low for about four hours before removing them. 

The easiest way to heat up your tamales is probably in the microwave. Unwrap them from the aluminum foil and lay each tamale out on a flat plate that fits inside the microwave. Cover the dish with a paper towel and microwave on medium heat for about five minutes.

Here’s a great way to wrap your tamales and prepare them for long-term freezer storage.

Final Thoughts

Tamales are delicious and deserve to be appropriately stored. Freezing tamales is definitely a good option if you have no intention of eating them anytime soon, just make sure you are not leaving them in the freezer for more than six months.