How to Store Tamales Before Steaming

by M.T. Wroblewski

To the people who love them, tamales are more than mere food; they’re an art form. A soft dough—known as masa—and a meat or vegetable filling are wrapped in a dried corn husk before the tamales are steamed to perfection. The process isn’t difficult, but it can be time-consuming. And because many people make dozens of tamales at a time, some people prefer to break up the process into two days so that they can store the tamales before steaming them.

Split up your tamale-making process in one of two ways -- store the filled and wrapped tamales, or store the filling and wrap the tamales the next day. There is no “right” way to proceed, though some believe that a filled and wrapped tamale that is stored in a refrigerator gives the flavors time to congeal, resulting in a tastier tamale the next day.

Place the filled and wrapped tamales in a 13-by-9-inch dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, then with aluminum foil. The wrapped tamales will be good for as long as two days in the refrigerator.

To store just the filling, put it in an airtight plastic container and keep it in the refrigerator. The filling will be good for as long as two days in the refrigerator.

When you're ready to cook the tamales, steam them for about 90 minutes over a medium flame. Extend the time for extra-large tamales.

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Items you will need

  • 13-by-9-inch dish
  • Plastic wrap
  • Aluminum foil
  • Airtight plastic container


  • Freeze leftover steamed tamales for as long as three months in an airtight container or plastic freezer bags. Steam frozen tamales for about 25 minutes before eating.

About the Author

If you can't see the world, then you may as well try to meet (or at least talk to) everyone in it. So goes the hopeful thinking of many journalists, including Mary Wroblewski. This is why you'll see her work in a wide variety of publications, especially those in the business, education, health care and nutrition genres. Mary came of age as a reporter and editor in some of Chicago's scrappiest newsrooms but softened up long enough to write nine children's books as well as one nonfiction tome.

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