How to Store Tamales | Cooked or Uncooked


Tamales are some of the most delicious food in the world. The only downside is that they take forever to make. Naturally, you want to store as many tamales as you can fit in your fridge whenever making them.

You can store cooked or uncooked tamales by tightly wrapping them in aluminum foil. Put the wrapped tamales in an airtight container or ziplock bag. They’ll stay fresh for longer when you seal them properly.

Read on to learn how to store cooked or uncooked tamales. The article will also explain everything you need to know about freezing tamales.

How Do You Store Tamales Overnight?

To store your tamales overnight, place them in an airtight container in the fridge. You don’t have to wrap them in foil, but it’s highly recommended. Don’t leave tamales at room temperatures overnight because the bacteria will spoil them. This rule applies to both cooked and uncooked tamales.

You can’t leave out any food overnight at room temperature. Dairy products and meat are especially susceptible to spoilage. The USDA states that you shouldn’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours (one hour if the temperature is 90 °F or 32.2 °C).

So, keep any leftover tamales you and your guests didn’t eat in the refrigerator. You can wrap them in aluminum foil for easier reheating the next morning.

Do You Put Tamales in the Fridge?

You should put tamales in the fridge if you don’t plan to eat them within one or two hours after cooking. The refrigerator will keep them fresh and ready to eat. Store them properly to prevent contamination and foodborne illness.

Note that the tamales won’t last a week if you don’t wrap them in plastic or aluminum foil. Keep them in an airtight container or plastic ziplock.

The tamales can still spoil in the fridge. If you’ve ever seen mold on fruit even though it was in the refrigerator, you know what I’m talking about. So, protect them as much as you can if you want to store them for a week. 

If you don’t go through the wrapping process, the tamales can still stay fresh for two to three days.

Can I Put Warm Tamales in the Fridge?

A Plate of Tamales

You can’t put warm tamales in the fridge. The temperature of warm tamales stays warm for too long, which causes microbial growth. Let them cool completely at room temperature before wrapping them and storing them in the refrigerator.

I understand that this can be a bit inconvenient. But a slight inconvenience is way better than a trip to the emergency room because of salmonella.

However, there’s the counterargument that your powerful refrigerator will chill the tamales quickly enough. But, the center of the tamales can take forever to cool down. So it really is the inside that counts.

If you’re planning to wrap your tamales in aluminum foil, they can stay warm for hours in the fridge. After all, aluminum foil is an incredible insulator.

Play it safe. Let the tamales come down to room temperature before you wrap and store them.

How Long Do Tamales Stay Good in the Fridge?

Tamales stay good in the fridge for up to a week. You should wrap them and keep them protected from air to keep them fresh. If they come in contact with air, they’ll stay good for a few days.

You don’t have to wrap them if you’re going to eat them the same day, and you can keep the tamales in the corn husks, but it’s not essential. Uncooked tamales will spoil a bit faster than cooked ones. If you’re handling raw meat, be cautious, as it can cause cross-contamination in your refrigerator.

If you want them to last as long as possible, wrap them tightly. You can even do multiple layers, just to be sure. And put them in a lidded plastic box.

These pasta storage containers are perfect for tamales. You can put in multiple rows and columns of tamales in them. And they have an ideal shape for most fridges.

How Long Can You Freeze Tamales?

You can freeze tamales to keep them fresh for up to six months. They contain ingredients like pork, chicken, beans, and cheese, which all spoil after five to six months in the freezer. Wrap them tightly in aluminum foil and keep them in ziplock bags until ready to eat.

You can store both uncooked and cooked tamales in the freezer. However, uncooked tamales may spoil slightly faster.

It’s best and probably more convenient to cook your tamales completely before freezing them.

You might notice that frozen food manufacturers usually cook their food halfway through. They do it so that you can reheat the food in the microwave.

The freezer is a fantastic way to prolong the shelf life of your tamales. It’s also good for the planet. Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted each year. So, you’re saving our environment by freezing your tamales. 

You should never throw away such delicious food anyway.

What Is the Best Way to Freeze Tamales?

The best way to freeze tamales is to remove the husk, cook them, wrap them in aluminum foil, and put them in a freezer bag. You can also use an airtight container either instead of, or together with, the freezer bags.

You shouldn’t freeze tamales in the husk because there’s too much moisture, which is the last thing you want in your freezer. Ice crystals form as the moisture freezes, which makes your tamales mushy. Also, some of the water will stay in the freezer, which causes ice to build up.

Here are some benefits of storing tamales cooked instead of raw:

  • The texture is better.
  • The flavor is richer.
  • The shape stays the same.
  • It’s easier to thaw.
  • You can easily reheat the tamales in the oven, microwave, pan, steamer, or pot.

I’m a huge fan of wrapping and freezing homemade tamales. They thaw and warm up wonderfully in the oven. Just put the wrapped tamales directly on the oven rack.

Can You Freeze Tamales in Foil?

You can freeze tamales in foil. The foil keeps the shape of the tamales and makes thawing and reheating easier. Put the wrapped tamales in a ziplock bag to keep them safe from cross-contamination, as the foil alone won’t be enough.

Aluminum foil is my favorite method of freezing tamales, as it also works wonderfully for burritos and other similar food.

Pro Tip: Remember that you need to wrap the tamales tightly. You can’t do just one layer and be done with it. Two to three tight layers should be sufficient to protect the tamales.

How Do You Thaw Frozen Tamales?

Thaw frozen tamales in the fridge for 16 to 24 hours, but if you’re in a rush, you can thaw them in the oven. Keep the tamales wrapped in aluminum foil. Put them in a cool oven and turn the heat up to around 250 °F (121 °C).

Never rush the thawing process. If the tamales are completely frozen, reheating them is impossible. By the time your center thaws, the dough will turn into charcoal.

Thawing tamales on your countertop is extremely dangerous. On the other hand, the fridge will keep the tamales below 40 °F (4 °C).

WebMD explains that your refrigerator is the safest place to thaw frozen food safely.

There’s also the water-dripping method. If you do it correctly, your tamales will thaw fast. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Put the tamales in a water-tight ziplock bag. Make sure there’s as little air as possible.
  2. Place the ziplock bag with the tamales in a large bowl.
  3. Turn on your faucet so that there’s a few drops of cold water every second. Even better, make the water trickle.
  4. Wait for about half an hour. Take a look once every few minutes to make sure the water is still dripping.

The water should be as cold as possible to keep the temperatures in the safe zone. If your tap water is too warm, don’t use this method.

But then again, you’re probably better off thawing the tamales in the oven.

How Do You Store Tamales After Steaming Them?

Pile of Cooked Tamales

After steaming them, allow your tamales to cool to room temperature. Next, remove the corn husk and wrap the tamales tightly using aluminum foil. Put the wrapped tamales in an airtight container or ziplock bag. Store the packaged tamales in the fridge or freezer.

You must let the tamales get to room temperature before wrapping them. If you wrap hot or even warm tamales, the aluminum foil will keep the temperature for a long time, which might be long enough to cause spoilage.

Never store tamales at room temperature. Most food that contains any humidity spoils after one or two hours at room temperature. Your fridge is a great place for tamales that you plan to eat the same week. Everything else goes into your freezer.

Can You Leave Cooked Tamales out Overnight?

You should never leave cooked tamales out overnight. Like any other food, they can stay good for one to two hours at room temperature. Everything longer than that can cause a foodborne illness. Instead, store the cooked tamales in your fridge if you want to eat them the next day.

Throw away any tamales that you forgot to wrap and store on time. They’re not worth the risk, even if they taste amazing. When the tamales smell bad, they’re not safe to eat. However, anyone who has ever had food poisoning will tell you that the food smelled and looked good.

That’s because microbial growth happens long before the food starts smelling worse than durian.

I got food poisoning twice in my life. Each time, it was from meat that stayed too long at room temperature. It tasted amazing. What followed wasn’t so great.

So, throw away those tempting countertop tamales that stayed out overnight.

How Should I Reheat Tamales?

Reheating tamales in the oven is the easiest method. Preheat the oven to 350 – 400 °F (176 – 204 °C). If your tamales are wrapped in aluminum foil, put them directly on the oven rack or a flat baking dish. A good alternative is to reheat the tamales in the steamer or frying pan.

If you want to reheat the tamales with minimum effort, the oven is your best bet. 

But if your tamales are still in the corn husk, you can reheat them in an instant pot or steamer. Put the tamales in the steamer basket, then add some water. The steam will reheat the tamales in a few minutes, so keep a close eye on them.

Still, frying is the best method. It lets you add a rich flavor and texture to the already delicious tamales. It’s similar to quesadillas but even better.

Here’s how to reheat tamales in the frying pan:

  1. Preheat your frying pan to medium heat.
  2. Add a bit of butter or any oil of your choosing.
  3. Put as many tamales as you can fit into the frying pan.
  4. Allow the tamales to turn golden on the bottom, then flip and repeat.
  5. Put the tamales on paper towels to soak up excess fat.

Enjoy your fried reheated tamales! Be careful with this method because masa burns fast.

How To Tell if Tamales Are Bad?

You can tell that tamales are bad if they have an unpleasant smell. Also, the color of the tamales will change to a pinkish white. Any visible mold means that all tamales around it are bad. Also, if the tamales were left out for more than two hours at room temperature, they are bad.

Don’t eat your tamales if you notice any signs of spoilage. For example, when visible mold is present, that means the tamales were bad long before that because mold isn’t visible in the initial stages.

If you notice a foul, rotten, or unpleasant smell, they’re bad. But more often than not, you can’t tell that tamales are bad using your senses. If the tamales spent more than 2 hours at room temperature, throw them away.

And for temperatures above 90 °F (32 °C), even one hour is enough to spoil your delicious party food.

Final Thoughts

Correctly storing tamales is essential if you don’t want to get salmonella. Wrap them in aluminum foil and put them in a container to keep them fresh. Store them for a week in your fridge or for up to six months in the freezer.

I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for stoppin’ by!

For more, don’t miss What to Do if Tamales Are Soggy (And How to Avoid It).

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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