One of the staples of Mexican cuisine, tamales are wonderfully doughy dishes which have been cooked in either a corn husk or a banana leaf, which steams the delicate dish.
This perfect dish can be filled with a myriad of ingredients, including fruit, vegetables, cheese, and meat.
The tamale is a very old dish, dating back as far as 100 AD. Aztecs, among other civilizations, would pack tamales for very long journeys, as well as sustaining armies.
It was considered the food of the gods, and in some places, it still carries the traditions of ritual.
When this dish is made traditionally, it takes a long time to make, so it would be impractical among other things to only make a small amount of it.
People will often make a huge amount of tamales, storing the surplus for another day, usually for a big get-together.
So it helps tremendously that you can freeze tamales, because if they are kept in the fridge, they will last about a week.
When it comes to the tamale’s shelf life in the freezer, as long as it has been prepared correctly, the dish can last up to 6 months before the quality starts to deteriorate.
One thing that you should keep in mind, however, is whether you decide to cook the tamales before you freeze them, or to freeze them raw.
It’s not recommended freezing raw tamales, as this will risk loss of flavor and texture, and the components of the dish will start to degrade, even when frozen.
If you’ve left uncooked tamales out on the side for much longer than needed, this will also affect the quality of the end dish. If you have left the tamales out for too long, your best bet is to cook them and eat them, as they won’t freeze well.
But how do you go about freezing tamales?
How Do You Freeze Tamales?
When it comes to freezing cooked tamales, you’ll need to wait enough time for the dish to go stone-cold before you attempt to freeze it.
If you’re freezing homemade tamales, the best way to let it cool is on a cooling rack, which will stop the dish from going soggy before you have a chance to freeze it.
You’ll need to check on it regularly, as leaving tamales out for too long will mean that they will spoil.
When the tamales have cooled, it’s time to get your container or freezer bags. Both need to seal properly, and be suitable for freezing.
Lay the tamales completely flat inside the container, so that they will stay the right shape after thawing. Don’t overfill the container.
It’s best to use more containers if you’re not sure, and this will also help with portioning and cutting down on the defrosting time.
Seal the container or bag, making sure to write the date of freezing, and then put the container into the freezer.
How Do You Thaw and Reheat Frozen Tamales?
The best way to defrost frozen tamales is to transfer the whole container into the fridge, and leave overnight to thaw.
Once they are fully defrosted, there are several ways you can reheat them.
If you have a tamales steamer, you can gently reheat them, making sure to leave the husks on, so the dough doesn’t get stuck.
You can also use the microwave. If you do choose this method, you will need to remove the husks, and lay them flat on a microwave-safe plate. Put a small cup of water on the plate, which will stop the tamales from going tough and disappointing.
Set the microwave to reheat, and depending on the size, you’ll want to reheat them for 2 to 5 minutes.
You can also fry tamales, if you prefer. This is a quick way of doing it without risking a hugely noticeable difference in texture. You’ll first need to remove the husks.
Put cooking oil of your choice into a skillet, let it heat, and fry them until they are up to temperature, for a maximum of 10 minutes. Make sure to fry each side evenly.
You can also use the oven. Remove the husks, and grab a baking tray. Make sure to oil it a little to stop the tamales from sticking, and cook for about 30 minutes at 425°F.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Freeze Cooked Tamales?
Yes, you can freeze cooked tamales. You will need to pack them carefully for freezing, however.
If you’re using corn husks to steam them, you will need to remove these when the dish is cooked, as they will simply disintegrate in the cold temperatures of the freezer.
Cook the tamales as you usually would, and set them aside to cool on a wire rack. Make sure not to leave them for too long, just until they are completely cool, and you are then ready to freeze them.
Put them flat into a container or a freezer bag, and seal tightly. Make sure to write the date of freezing, as these can last 6 months with no problem.
Can You Freeze Raw Tamales?
You can freeze raw tamales, though you will get better results if you cook them before freezing.
Thawing and then cooking raw tamales will result in a significant texture change, but having said that, here’s how you do it.
Tamales largely consist of masa, which is a soft dough that will very easily perish. As long as you pack them properly, this shouldn’t be a problem.
You can either make them as normal, packing them into the corn husk wrapping (which can disintegrate at very low temperatures), or leave the tamales without the wrapping and then freeze.
Make sure that the container you’re using is suitable for freezing, especially up to 6 months at a time.
Otherwise, freezer burn will ruin your tamales, and they won’t taste anything like they should. The lower temperatures will decimate the consistency, and you won’t be able to fix it.
How Do You Cook Frozen Raw Tamales?
There are two ways of cooking frozen raw tamales. It depends on your preference and how much time you have as to which one to go for.
If you have a lot of time, you can transfer the tamales into the fridge, and let them thaw overnight before you cook them. Then you can cook them as you normally would.
If you have a steamer, you don’t need to wait. This is especially helpful if you have a lot of guests coming over, or if you’re starving and tamales would do the trick.
If you freeze the tamales inside their corn husk wrappings, you can cook them immediately. You can place them directly into the steamer. If you’re cooking them from frozen, you’ll need to steam them for about 90 minutes.
If you defrost them first, it will be about 25 minutes until they are ready to eat.
You can also put them into the oven, wrapping them in foil and placing them on a baking sheet at 325°F, allowing 5 or 10 minutes extra cooking time.
If you didn’t wrap the tamales before you froze them, you’ll need to do so before you cook them. In order to wrap them properly, you’ll need to wait until the dough has defrosted, otherwise you’ll risk them not being done.
Making tamales is a very satisfying process, but you may not always have the time. The best way to get around this is to make more than you need, and freeze the rest.