Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish that has been enjoyed for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Some say tamales may have been made as far back as during the Aztec civilizations of Mesoamerica! These wonderful handheld meals consist of ‘masa’ dough made from ground maize, which is then filled with a seasoned, spicy pork filling before being wrapped in a corn husk.
While this pork mixture is the traditional filling for tamales, modern Mexican tamales recipes vary greatly and there is a wide range of different fillings you can make. They can be gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan! Tamales can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a quick snack, and if you know how you reheat tamales, you can store any leftovers for future meals.
While tamales can be prepared in a variety of cooking methods, they are most commonly steamed. This cooks them evenly, keeps them moist, and brings all of the delicious flavors together. However, they can be oversteamed which can lead to a soggy, wet texture. In this article, we will explore the ways you can steam your tamales to perfection.
Why Steaming Is the Best Way to Cook Tamales
Tamales are traditionally placed in a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water and steamed for about an hour. The steam helps to cook the masa dough while preventing the filling from drying out, resulting in a moist and tender texture.
Steaming your tamales also comes with health benefits! Unlike frying or baking, steaming does not require any additional oil or fat. This makes steamed tamales a healthier and lighter option than other preparation methods.
Can you bake tamales? Of course you can–but we recommend steaming them for the best results and authentic tamales.
How to Avoid Oversteaming Your Tamales
Yes, it is possible to oversteam tamales. When tamales are oversteamed, they become wet and soggy; this is because prolonged exposure to the steam can cause the masa to absorb too much moisture. Oversteaming can also cause the masa dough to become mushy and lose its texture, making the tamales messy and difficult to eat.
If you’ve never steamed your tamales before, don’t worry. Follow these tips to make sure you steam your tamales the right way:
- Soak the corn husks in hot water for at least thirty minutes before using them. This will make them pliable and easier to work with.
- Fill the steamer basket with enough water to cover the bottom of the pot. Place a rack in the pot to keep the tamales out of the water (the water should only be used to produce steam and should not touch the tamales directly.
- Arrange the tamales in the steamer basket with the open end facing up. This will prevent the filling from falling out while they steam.
- Cover the pot with a lid and steam the tamales for about an hour. Periodically check to ensure they’re not overcooking. Also, keep an eye on the water level, and if it starts to run low, replenish it to prevent the pot from drying out.
Making tamales by hand at home can be fun for the whole family, and steaming them is easier than you’d think. That said, monitor your tamales as you steam them to avoid overcooking them.
Follow our tips in this article for steaming tamales perfectly, and we’re sure you’ll have no problems cooking your tamales to perfection!