Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish that is also hugely popular in the United States. It is a pie made with different fillings that tastes delicious. One query that people are often unsure about tamales is how long are they good for in the fridge?
Tamales is a corn-based dish with fillings inside that requires refrigeration. So, how should you store tamales? And for how long can cooking and being uncooked last in the refrigerator?
If these are the answers you are looking for, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will discuss why it is important to store tamales in a fridge and for how long they will last if stored incorrectly.
You will also learn about the containers required to store tamales in the fridge. Let’s get started.
What Are Tamales?
Tamales are a street food believed to have originated in Mesoamerica as early as 8000 to 5000 BC. The word “Tamale” originates from the word “Tamali’,’ which means a wrap.
They are made from a corn dough called masa and can have different fillings. The masa is a mixture of sweet corn dough, lard, water, broth (chicken, beef, vegetable), salt, baking powder, and dried corn husks.
They are wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk and steamed before cooking. Once steamed, the corn masa becomes firmer. This is when tamales can be unwrapped and eaten.
Tamales have many names and variations. They are also known as tamalitos, tamals, or pasteles. The fillings for tamales include slow-cooked seasoned meat fillings such as chicken or pork or vegetables like corn, potatoes, corn, peppers, carrots, cheese, dried fruits, and olives.
Tamales are wrapped in dried corn husks or banana leaves and steamed. While the wrapper is not eaten, it imparts a certain flavor to the pie. The cooking time of tamales is generally 30 minutes.
How Long Do Tamales Last In The Fridge?
So, how long do tamales last in the fridge? Like any other perishable food, the shelf life of tamales depends on various factors, such as the preparation method, when it was made, and how it is stored.
The general rule of thumb to store tamales is in a cool and dry place, free from moisture. However, cooked and uncooked tamales are refrigerated for different periods.
Cooked Tamales have four days to 1-week lifespan in the refrigerator. Beyond this period, the health of tamales may deteriorate and lose their quality and taste day by day. Therefore, it’s best to consume cooked tamales as soon as possible.
Moreover, cooked tamales should only be kept at room temperature for 1 or 2 hours.
Like cooked tamales, uncooked tamales’ lifespan can be anywhere from 4 days to 1 week in the fridge. However, if they have a meat filling, they should be consumed within a day or two.
Uncooked tamales should not be left outside for more than 1 hour. Another great option to increase the shelf life of tamales is by freezing them.
Cooked or uncooked tamales can be stored in the freezer for up to six months with or without their wrapping ( corn husk) in a freezer-safe bag.
To store tamales in the freezer, place them in a Ziplock or air-tight freezer bag. Make sure that the air is pressed out of the freezer bag and that it is flat. Label the bag with the name and date of packaging and store it in the freezer.
In a nutshell, these are the tamale storing guidelines for best results:
- Cooked tamales – Store for 2 hours at room temperature
- Uncooked tamales – Store for 1 hour at room temperature
- Cooked or uncooked tamales – Refrigerate for one week
- Cooked or uncooked tamales – Freeze for six months
How To Store Tamales In The Fridge The Right Way?
Now that you have an idea about the shelf life of cooked and uncooked tamales in the fridge let’s look at the correct storage ways for tamales. The way tamales are stored in the fridge directly impacts their quality and taste.
Before storing cooked tamales in the fridge, it is advisable to remove the masa and let them cool and come down to room temperature. Once cooled, transfer them into a Ziplock or in an airtight freezer bag.
You can also place them in an airtight container by placing one row at the bottom. Place a plastic sheet on top of them before adding the second layer, seal the container tightly, and label the box. Place the packed in the fridge.
Tips For Storing Tamales In The Fridge Properly
- Storing tamales in the fridge keeps cooked tamales fresh for up to one week and uncooked for up to 6 months in the freezer.
- Make sure to store tamales in the refrigerator only when they come down to room temperature. If warm tamales are refrigerated, the risk of microbial growth increases due to extreme temperature fluctuations.
- Uncooked tamales are best stored in the freezer, especially the ones with meat filling.
- Airtight containers protect tamales from cross-contamination with other refrigerated food.
- While refrigeration is a good way to increase the shelf life of tamales, nothing compares to the taste of freshly made food.
How To Reheat Tamales?
Tamales are a delicious food to eat with their decadent fillings. While fresh tamales taste the best, you can enjoy them the same way when stored properly in the refrigerator.
But how do you reheat tamales out of the refrigerator? Whether reheating homemade or store-bought tamales, warming them the right way ensures you experience their best flavors.
Steaming is the best method to reheat cooked tamales. This method ensures their taste and texture remain intact.
To reheat tamales, fill your steamer with water, and turn the heat to medium. Keep your tamales in their husks and steam for 15 to 20 minutes. If your tamales are frozen, allow them to steam for an extra 10 minutes.
2. Rice Cooker
A rice cooker is a good alternative to a steamer machine. To reheat tamales using a rice cooker, place a metal rack in the rice cooker’s base that will prevent them from touching the water added at the bottom to create steam. Add 1-2 inches of water to the bottom of the rice cooker. Stand the tamales vertically in the cooker by placing the closed ends at the bottom. Allow the tamales to heat on high for about 20 minutes or more, if needed.
An alternative to steaming tamales is reheating them in the oven. It is a simple and quick method. To reheat tamales in the oven, preheat your oven to 425°.
Wrap each tamale in two layers of aluminum foil and seal it properly. Make sure there is no air entryway. Place the tamale in the oven for 20 minutes and turn them over after 10 minutes.
4. Instant Pot
Instant pots have recently gained a lot of popularity for their ease of use and quick results. So, if you don’t have a steamer or oven, you can easily reheat tamales in an instant pot.
Switch on your instant Pot. Place about 2 cups of water in the Instant Pot and place a mesh steamer basket. Add tamales vertically in the basket, closed side down. Close the instant pot lid and heat them for 10 – 15 minutes.
Heating food in a microwave is the most effective way. But one must remember that the microwave’s heat is direct and high compared to other cheating methods. This interferes with the texture of your food.
So, when using a microwave to heat food, some water should be added to the food being heated while using a cover. This allows the creation of steam that prevents food texture from drying out.
Wrap each piece in a damp paper towel to reheat the tamales in the microwave. Place them on a microwave-safe plate by leaving some space between them, and heat them for one to two minutes.
You can also heat tamales on the stovetop in a frying pan. To do so, you can place thawed tamales with the husk on the pan. Allow one side of the tamales to blacken before flipping it. Your tamale will turn hot inside once the husk is mostly black on all sides. This method would take 5–7 minutes to reheat tamales over high heat.
Additionally, you can also fry tamales without the husks by using a little bit of cooking oil or olive oil. This will give a crispier outer crust.
How Do You Thaw Frozen Tamales?
Frozen tamales can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator. To thaw frozen tamales partially, you can heat them in the microwave for 1-2 minutes on 50% power.
|Appliance||Temperature Setting||How Long (from frozen)||How Long (Thawed)|
|Steamer||High||30–45 minutes||20 minutes|
|Pot (Steamer Insert)||High, boiling water||30–45 minutes||20 minutes|
|Rice Cooker||High||20–30 minutes||15–20 minutes|
|Instant Pot||High||15 minutes||10 minutes|
|Microwave||Med (Frozen) High (Thawed)||3 minutes, flip 2 minutes||1 ½ minutes, flip 1 minute|
|Oven||350 F||25-35 minutes||15–20 minutes|
|Pot (Boiling Water)||High, boiling water||10–15 minutes||8–10 minutes|
|Griddle/Stovetop||High||n/a||Until husks are charred on all sides|
How To Tell If Tamales Go Bad?
Tamales are best eaten fresh and can stay in good condition for up to four days in the refrigerator if stored properly. However, any food time is bound to spoil after a certain time. To tell if your tamales have gone bad, you can look up the signs mentioned below.
The smell is the first indicator to tell the condition of tamales. If tamales have an unpleasant aroma, it clearly indicates that it has gone bad.
Appearance is another indicator of whether the tamales are in the right condition. Suppose the tamales feel slimy or have black or brown molds on them; it’s a clear sign of spoilage.
Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)
What are tamales?
Tamales are rectangular-shaped pies made of corn dough with a filling. They are steamed or boiled in corn husk wrappers or a banana leaf.
What fillings can be added to tamales?
Tamales can have seasoned meat fillings such as chicken or pork or vegetables like corn, potatoes, corn, peppers, carrots, cheese, dried fruits, and olives.
Can tamales be stored in the refrigerator?
Tamales can be stored in the refrigerator for one week.
Can we store tamales at room temperature?
Tamales should not be stored outside at room temperature for more than an hour, especially with a meat filling.
Can we store tamales in the freezer?
Tamales can be frozen for up to 6 months.
Should frozen tamales be thawed before reheated?
Frozen tamales can be thawed in the refrigerator overnight.