Do you love Mexican cuisine? If so, then you’re probably familiar with tamales, a flavorful, starchy, doughy corn-based dish that’s been steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. This quintessential Mesoamerican dish is typically filled with cheese, meat, fruits, vegetables, and even chilies.
Tamales are so popular in Mexican culture that preparing them is a ritual in itself. Making tamales is a big part of Mexican life, and it dates back to pre-Hispanic times.
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Can you freeze tamales?
Speaking of tamale, this dish takes hours to prepare, so making a small batch is impractical. In fact, it is quite common for a household to make a huge batch and save the rest for future gatherings. But can you freeze tamales? Yes, tamales store so well in the freezer!
As long as the dish is properly prepared and packaged, tamales will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 6 months without changing the flavor or texture of the dish. If kept in the refrigerator, tamales will only keep for about a week.
One thing to keep in mind when freezing tamales is to cook the dish first before freezing. Do not freeze raw or undercooked tamales as this increases the risk of flavor or texture changes. Since the dish is prepared from uncooked ingredients, they begin to decompose even when frozen. This is especially true for uncooked tamales that have been left at room temperature for too long. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to freeze tamales:
How do you freeze tamales?
Whether you’re freezing homemade or leftover tamales, it’s important to allow the dish to cool completely before preparing. For homemade tamales, allow the cooked dish to sit on a cooling rack for about an hour. Check frequently to make sure the tamales have cooled completely. Again, if you leave the tamales at room temperature for too long, they will spoil.
Once the tamales have cooled completely, obtain a large, airtight plastic container or several heavy-duty, resealable plastic bags. Place the tamales in the container and lay flat so they will hold their shape once thawed. Don’t pack too many tamales in one container. Seal the container, write the storage date with a marker, then stick in the freezer.
How do you thaw and reheat frozen tamales?
To thaw frozen tamales, simply transfer the container from the freezer to the refrigerator. Allow the shell to thaw for several hours to overnight. When it comes to reheating tamales, there are a few different ways to do it. You can use a tamales steamer to reheat the tamales. Leave the husks on the tamales when you steam them to keep the batter from sticking to the steamer.
You can also reheat thawed tamales in the microwave. But if you reheat the shell this way, you have to remove the shells. Start by removing the shells, then place each tamale on a microwave-safe plate. Then place a cup of water on the same plate. This will ensure the tamales stay nice and soft as they heat. Pop them in the microwave and reheat for 2 to 5 minutes.
Frying the tamales is also a great way to reheat the dish. Again, remove the skins from the tamales, then fry them in a pan (with a little cooking oil) for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn frequently until each side is nicely golden brown.
Finally, you can bake the thawed tamales in the oven. Get a baking pan, spray or brush some cooking oil or butter on the pan, then place the tamales (husks removed). Pop the tamales in the oven and bake at 425 degrees F for about 30 minutes.
FAQs on Freezing Tamales
Can you freeze cooked tamales?
Cooked tamales can be frozen as a ready meal. However, the tamales need to be properly wrapped since their original corn husk wrapping is too thin for the intense cold. Just prepare the tamales the way you would normally cook them.
After you’ve steamed the tamales, you’ll want to let them cool completely on a wire cooling rack. Keep a close eye on the tamales as they cool, because if they stay on the cooling rack for too long they will spoil!
Once the tamales are completely cool, they’re ready to be wrapped. Simply stack the tamales neatly in a large airtight container. You can also use resealable plastic bags, but only if you have a large freezer. Once the tamales are stacked neatly in the container, secure the lid. Write down the storage date, then stick them in the freezer. They should stay fresh in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Can you freeze uncooked tamales?
Tamales are made from a soft dough — called masa — that is highly perishable. But with the right technique, you can make tamales ahead of time and keep the uncooked batch in the freezer for later cooking. Just do the filling as you normally would. Then you can either pack the tamales filling in their corn husk casing and freeze, or just freeze the whole batch unwrapped. There is no right or wrong way to do this; it’s all a matter of preference.
However you decide to prepare the tamales batter, make sure it’s packaged in a freezer-safe container. This is true whether or not the dough was packaged in corn husk wrappers. If you don’t use a freeze-proof container, the frost could seep into the dough and permanently change its texture and consistency. This changes the mouthfeel of the tamales.
REad Also: Can you freeze uncooked rice?
How do you cook frozen uncooked tamales?
Assuming you have frozen uncooked tamales, you can either let the tamales thaw overnight in the refrigerator or toss them straight into the steamer. Coated tamales are perfect for direct cooking without needing to be thawed. Unwrapped tamales must first be wrapped in corn husk foil before cooking. That means you have to wait for the dough to thaw completely.
Steam the thawed tamales over medium-high heat for 25 minutes. For larger tamales, you can increase the cooking time to several minutes. For tamales prepared for direct steaming, steam for about 90 minutes.
Who can say no to a plate of steaming tamales? Making these savory treats is a labor of love, but well worth the effort! Now that you know how to freeze tamales, you can make a big batch and keep the rest to impress guests at your next event!