Tamales are a South American treat that can be filled with a range of meats, beans and cheeses. Traditional tamales are wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks which helps to hold the masa and filling together when steamed.
However, constructing tamales is tricky and time-consuming, so they are for special occasions. But if you want to enjoy this delicious treat outside of birthdays or holidays, you can always freeze some for later.
To freeze raw tamales, wrap the masa filling in cling film and then pop it into a freezer bag for up to 8 months. You can then freeze the other tamale ingredients in Tupperware containers. You can also freeze cooked tamales for 6 months.
How to Freeze Tamales
Tamales can be frozen either before or after they are cooked. When you choose to freeze your tamales is entirely up to you and what is most convenient for your needs.
Just make sure to have enough room in your freezer if you plan to store tamales for longer periods. Below are the two methods you can use to freeze them:
How to Freeze Raw Tamales
It is a whole ordeal prepping tamales for family gatherings and special events.
Instead of spending so much time on food prep the next time you are planning on serving your guests some delicious tamales, you can do some of the hard work ahead of time to save you that effort on the day.
Here is how:
- Wrap The Masa
Using plastic wrap, tightly cover the raw masa to avoid it falling apart when freezing.
- Separate The Filling
Take your various tamale filings and pour them into separate airtight containers.
- Store The Wrapped Masa
Take another larger airtight container or freezer bag and use it to store the plastic-wrapped masa. This will offer extra protection and stop the masa from falling apart with the frigid temperature.
Individually label each of your tamale containers to remind you what they contain when it comes time to construct them later.
- Secure And Seal
Tightly shut the lids of each container, ensuring that they are completely airtight. This will prevent freezer burn.
Raw tamales can be frozen for 6 – 8 months before the fillings lose their flavour entirely.
Leave the raw tamale filling and the masa to defrost in your fridge until they are ready to be shaped. You will be able to tell when they are ready by the texture of the masa.
How to Freeze Cooked Tamales
You will have a few spare tamales after a family event if you are lucky. Don’t let your hard work go to waste. Freeze your cooked leftover tamales as a treat for yourself later on:
- Leave To Cool
Before you go ahead and prep any spare cooked tamales for freezing, allow them to cool to room temperature. As soon as they are cool enough to hold, move on to the next step.
- Portion Out
Depending on how many cooked tamales you have to freeze, you may need multiple freezer bags or containers. Split the tamales into manageable portions, keeping in mind how many you will want to defrost once you are ready to use them.
- Layer The Tamales
In an airtight container or freezer bag, carefully layer the tamales on top of each other so they lay flat.
- Seal And Secure
If you are using a freezer bag, push as much air out of the bag as possible before securing it shut. For an airtight container, ensure all sides of the container are correctly shut.
Note down the contents and use-by date of the tamales on the container or freezer bag using masking tape and a permanent marker. Tamales will last in your freezer for 6 months.
- Lay Flat In The Freezer
When you are ready to freeze your tamales, be careful not to put them somewhere that they will get squashed if you are using a freezer bag. Lay the bag so that all the tamales are flat on the freezer shelf.
- Time To Freeze
And that’s it! Just shut your freezer door and allow the cold to work its magic.
Don’t heat frozen cooked tamales straight away. Leave them in the fridge to defrost for at least 24 hours before warming them up to eat.
How to Freeze Tamales Successfully
There is no debate that tamales are a delicious treat, but they can lose this flavour and become an awful texture if the above methods are not followed carefully.
Here are a few tips you can use to freeze cooked successfully and raw tamales every time:
- Freeze Constructed Raw Tamales – If you find you have prepped too many tamales but don’t want to cook them all, you can still freeze them. When freezing, you must ensure that the husks are tightly wrapped, and the packages are tightly packed together in a container.
- Don’t Leave Them Exposed For Too Long – Cooked tamales are best eaten immediately. Leaving them exposed on your countertop for too long can make them form bacteria and fall apart. Do so as soon as your cooked tamales are cool enough to freeze.
- Ensure They Are Cool – It is easy to get ahead of yourself and freeze cooked tamales when they are still warm to the touch. However, freeing warm tamales will create condensation in the storage container and make the tamales wet and fall apart when defrosted. The tamales should be at least room temperature before you freeze them.
Do Tamales Freeze Well?
Tamales are best frozen once they have been cooked.
You can freeze raw tamales, but you will need to freeze the masa and filling individually. Otherwise, the tamales will fall apart once defrosted.
Freezing Tamales FAQs
If you have further questions about freezing tamales, check these FAQs out, which might help:
Raw tamales can be kept in the freezer for between 6 and 8 months. Cooked tamales can be frozen for around 6 months. Beyond this, you may notice some textural changes.
If you have constructed the tamales, they will freeze better and hold together when frozen cooked. If you’re freezing uncooked tamales then you’re better off freezing the element individually.
Acacia may be a freelance writer by day, but they are a food fanatic by night. They are always trying out new recipes or finding different ways to elevate classical dishes. But their biggest culinary aim is to educate others on the basics of the kitchen so that they too can enjoy delicious food.