How to Steam Tamales

There are many ways to steam a tamale. All that is needed is a lidded container held above hot steaming water. Many commercial steamer baskets and vegetable steamers available for purchase; however, a double boiler or colander or metal strainer suspended above a water filled pot work just as well. The microwave is also an option for steaming tamales, however the result is not as flavorful as a traditional lengthy steam atop the stove.

Things You'll Need

  • Tamales
  • Steamer basket or double boiler pot
  • Paper towel
  • Plastic sipper bag

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Step 1

Place the tamales “standing up” inside a double boiler or colander. Do not pack them in lying on their side. Double boilers used for vegetable steaming are perfect for steaming tamales; if you do not have a double boiler set, try fitting a metal colander inside of a pot of boiling water (but not touching the water).

Step 2

Bring the water in the pot underneath the double boiler or colander to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover it with a large lid.

Step 3

Let it steam for about 1 ½ hours. Do not let all the water boil out, check to make sure that there is enough water left and refill if necessary.


Step 1

Wrap a fresh uncooked tamale in a damp paper towel and place in a plastic zipper bag.

Step 2

Cook on high for 2 to 3 minutes turning over every 30 seconds. This method is not recommended by most cooks due to the difference of taste it creates.

Step 3

Remove the tamale from the microwave. Allow it to rest inside of the plastic bag for about 5 minutes. Take caution when opening the bag; the steam will be hot.

Step 4

Reheat your steamed tamales in the microwave. You can reheat your tamales (after they have been steamed and refrigerated or frozen) by quick steaming in the microwave. Follow the same procedure for microwave steaming, but only cook on high for 45 seconds.

Tips & Warnings

  • Steam the tamales in a specified steamer basket. If you have a steamer pot or basket that does not use a stove top for heating, you will need to pour boiling water into the base of the pot and cover with a lid for 1 to 2 hours. Make reference to the instruction manual provided for your particular model to verify.


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