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How Long Do Tamales Last? – The Ultimate Guide

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If you’re looking for a delicious, easy-to-eat, customizable meal or snack, then tamales are a perfect choice. They are made from masa-based dough and can be loaded with a variety of different fillings to suit your cravings.

Tamales are steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf to create a delicate and unique texture that is sure to have you asking for more.

If you’re making them from scratch, it can definitely be quite the undertaking, which is why batch-cooking tamales is a good idea. 

But if you’re making a huge batch of tamales, you might want to know whether you can store them in the fridge, freezer, or on the counter until you’re ready to eat them.

So, how long do tamales last? They last about one week in the fridge, six months in the freezer, and four hours on the counter. In the fridge and freezer, tamales are best stored when wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in an airtight container. On the counter, tamales shouldn’t be left out for any longer than four hours.

This article will show you exactly how to store your tamales, so they stay fresh and delicious. 

Keep reading to discover what tamales are, how long they last, how to properly store them, and the best ways to reheat them. 

What Is A Tamale?

Tamales are a corn-based dish that originated in Mesoamerica. They have been eaten in some form for thousands of years thanks to their portability and delicious flavor.

Tamale is an Anglicized form of the Spanish word tamal, which comes from the Nahuatl term, tamalli.

The dough inside a tamale is made from masa (corn) that can be filled with many things. Some of the most popular fillings include meats, cheeses, chilies, fruits, and vegetables.

The choice of filling is personal and different folks will include different combinations to create unique flavors.

This masa dough is then wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf and steamed through until cooked. If you want to add extra flavor to your tamale you can season the steaming liquid.

Once the tamale is fully cooked, you can remove it from the husk or use it as a plate. 

The wrapped tamal is easy to transport, filling, and delicious. Plus the flavor combinations are virtually limitless, so it is no wonder this food has stood the test of time.

While you may associate tamales most closely with Mexican culture, it is believed that they spread from Indigenous communities in what is modern-day Mexico and Guatemala throughout the rest of Latin America

How Long Do Tamales Last In The Fridge?

If you want to cook up a large batch of tamales to enjoy for meals throughout the week, you’re in luck. Tamales can be easily stored in the fridge for up to 1 week.

That means you can cook them early in the week and simply reheat them for lunch or dinner. 

How To Store Tamales In The Fridge

To best store your tamales in the fridge, you will want to follow these directions. 

  1. Let the tamales cool to room temperature. 
  2. Find a container that has an airtight seal and that can fit your tamales without having to bend or squish them.
  3. Place a layer of tamales on the bottom of the container. 
  4. Once the bottom of the container is full, you can place a piece of plastic wrap over the tamales. Tuck the plastic down the sides a little. 
  5. If there is more room in the container, you can place another layer of tamales over the first layer. 
  6. Once that layer is completed, you can place another piece of plastic wrap over this layer of tamales. Gently tuck the plastic down the sides of the tamales. 
  7. Repeat this step until your container is full
  8. Once your container is filled, place one last piece of plastic wrap on top and press it down over the tamales and seal the container.
  9. Take a piece of masking tape and write the date and contents on it and stick it to the lid of your container. Adding this extra step will ensure you know whether the tamales are still fresh enough to eat. 
  10. Place in the fridge and eat within 7 days

How Long Do Tamales Last In The Freezer?

Generally speaking, you will want to use your tamales within 6 months of the freezing date. Once they pass this age they may start to develop freezer burn or have a less appetizing flavor and texture. 

How To Store Tamales In The Freezer

Freezing tamales is a great way to store them for peak freshness and flavor if you aren’t planning on enjoying them within a few days of cooking.

Luckily, tamales freeze really well and if you follow the proper steps they can last up to 6 months.

  1. Make sure your tamales are cooled to room temperature. I will sometimes even put them in the fridge overnight before freezing. 
  2. Find a plate or baking sheet that will fit in your freezer and then line it with some parchment paper. 
  3. Lay your tamales out in a single layer with at least half an inch to one inch between each one. You want the air to be able to flow between them, so they freeze evenly. 
  4. Place the tray or plate of tamales into the freezer. You will want to let them sit for 12-24 hours or until they are completely frozen through. Give them a little poke to make sure they are solid.
  5. Once the tamales are fully frozen, you can transfer them to an airtight freezer bag or container. If you leave them on the baking sheet, they will likely develop freezer burn. If you want to protect them even more you can individually wrap each tamale in plastic wrap before placing them in the freezer bag or container.
  6. Once packed up, take a piece of masking tape and write the date and contents on it. Stick the tape to the bag or container and return it to the freezer. 

If you follow these steps, you will be able to preserve the integrity of your tamales for up to 6 months in the freezer.

How Long Do Tamales Last On The Counter?

When it comes to leaving food at room temperature, this is not something you want to do for longer than about 4-5 hours.

When cooked food is kept at ambient room temperature it becomes a breeding ground for various bacteria that can make you ill if you eat them. 

To keep them a little fresher and prevent flies and other insects from enjoying the fruits of your labor, make sure to cover your tamales with plastic wrap if they are on the counter. 

I don’t recommend leaving your tamales out for more than 1-2 hours on the counter before you move them to the fridge or freezer when following the instructions above.

If you know that you are not going to be eating them right away, your best bet is to pop them in the fridge then reheat.

To make sure that you don’t get sick if you have left the tamales out for a couple of hours, then you will want to reheat them to about 165°F before eating

If you are going to be serving tamales at a potluck or dinner party then you might want to keep them warm in a chafing dish to prevent bacteria growth. 

How Long Do Uncooked Tamales Last On The Counter?

Because of the fresh ingredients, uncooked tamales should not be left on the counter for more than 1 hour or so before you cook them or move them to the fridge or freezer. 

These fresh ingredients make great food for bacteria, so you want to make sure you aren’t letting them spoil before you get to enjoy them.

Can You Freeze Uncooked Tamales?

If you’re making a big batch of tamales and only want to cook a few for your meal, you might be wondering whether you can freeze the uncooked tamales to use later. Luckily, uncooked tamales freeze very well! 

They should last about 4-6 months if you follow the same instructions for freezing that I outlined above. Individually wrapping them will help keep them from sticking together and improve their quality for a longer period of time. 

Make sure you don’t skip the step where you write the date and contents on the freezer bag or masking tape. This step will prevent you from eating freezer burnt or unpleasant tasting tamales. 

How Do You Reheat Tamales?

If you want to reheat your tamales, then you have a couple of choices. Since tamales are traditionally steamed in the cooking process, steaming them to reheat is one choice.

You can also use the oven or microwave, though the texture may be slightly different if you use these methods. 

How To Reheat Tamales In A Steamer

Follow these steps to reheat your tamales using a steamer method. 

  1. Fill your steamer halfway with water and turn to medium.
  2. Place the steamer basket or steamer pot on top.
  3. Place your tamales in a single layer in the basket and cover with a lid. 
  4. Steam for about 1520 minutes. If you are steaming them from frozen, then you might need to add an extra 10 minutes to the cooking time. 
  5. Check at the 15-minute mark. If the tamales are not warmed through, then flip them over and steam for another 5-10 minutes.
  6. Once warmed, remove from the steamer basket, open the husk or banana leaf, and enjoy. 

How To Reheat Tamales In An Instant Pot

My Instant Pot is one of my favorite time-saving kitchen tools. It does everything from pressure-cooking chickpeas and beans, making amazing soups and stews, and even reheating tamales in a flash.

Follow these directions to properly reheat your tamales in an Instant Pot.

  1. Place 1 cup of water in the bottom of your Instant Pot. You cannot skip this step since the Instant Pot requires water to pressurize. 
  2. You can use either your Instant Pot steamer basket or steam rack. Place whichever you have on hand into your Instant Pot
  3. Stand the tamales up in the Instant Pot.
  4. Place the lid on your Instant Pot and set to seal. Hit the Manual button and set the timer for 5 minutes. You may need to add a couple of extra minutes if they re frozen. 
  5. Let the tamales cook. Once the timer is complete, then you can manually release the steam or let it release naturally if you’re not in a hurry. 
  6. Use tongs to remove your tamales from the Instant Pot and let cool 2-3 minutes before unwrapping and enjoying. 

How To Reheat Tamales In An Oven

Reheating your tamales in the oven is another choice if you don’t want to get out your steamer.

Keep in mind that they may dry out a little and the texture won’t be the same as if you steam them. Follow these directions to reheat your tamales in the oven:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F. 
  2. Tightly wrap each tamale in aluminum foil. Make sure there is no space between the tamale and the foil. The tighter the better! 
  3. Place the tamales in a single layer on a baking sheet. 
  4. Put the tamales in the oven for ten minutes. 
  5. At the 10-minute mark, open the oven and flip the tamales over. 
  6. Cook the tamales for another 10 minutes. 
  7. Remove the tamales from the oven and unwrap the tinfoil and corn husk.
  8. Enjoy with your favorite sauce.

If you want to cook your tamales from frozen, it is best to let them thaw overnight in the fridge first. If you forgot that step, then you might need to let them cook for about 10 more minutes.

How To Reheat Tamales In The Microwave

If you want to reheat your tamales in the microwave you can follow these steps. The texture might change and there is the possibility they could dry out.

If you have the time and opportunity, I would try steaming or cooking in the oven instead, but a microwave will do in a pinch.

  1. Find a microwave-safe plate that fits your tamales. 
  2. Wrap each tamale in some damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out too much. 
  3. Place the tamales in a single layer on the plate, with about an inch between each tamale. Keeping some space between them will help them cook evenly. 
  4. Set your microwave for about 1-2 minutes. Check the temperature and if you want them hotter, add 1 minute to the cook time until they are warmed through.
  5. Remove your tamales from the microwave, unwrap the paper towel and corn husk, and enjoy.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, tamales are a delicious food that can be easily stored in the fridge or freezer. If you want to keep them in the fridge, then make sure you eat them within a week to maintain peak freshness

With proper storage techniques, tamales will last in the freezer for about 6 months. Make sure to label your bag with the contents and date so you don’t lose track of when you cooked them and how long they will last.

Do you have a favorite way to store tamales? Let us know in the comments!

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