How Long are Tamales Good for in the Refrigerator?

If you have just gotten home from a Mexican restaurant and are trying to figure out how long tamales are good for in the refrigerator, you’re not alone. While it’s always best to store tamales at room temperature, you may want to freeze or refrigerate them when you get home, especially if you have an emergency. You don’t want to reheat them, as it could cause mold to grow, which is not good for anyone. Having moldy tamales is not fun, and if you don’t know how to store them, you might get sick instead. Fortunately, you can learn a few tips that will help keep tamales fresher and longer.

In this quick guide, we’ll examine the duration for which tamales can be kept at room temperature, in the refrigerator, and in the freezer in both cooked and raw versions to answer the query “how long are tamales good for in the fridge.” In addition, we’ll describe how to store tamales, potential issues that might develop, and solutions to those issues.


What is Tamale?

A full dinner in a portable form is a tamale. Tamales are typically produced by combining maize dough (masa) with filling, wrapping them in a banana leaf or corn husk, and steaming them. When the corn masa is steam-cooked, it becomes firmer, and the tamale can be opened and consumed on the move.

The first tamales were straightforward. According to archaeological findings, tamales were reportedly eaten by the Aztec and Mayan cultures. They were grilled over a fire and prepared from beans and squash. Tamales developed into more complex dishes once Europeans introduced items like chicken, pork, raisins, and olives to the New World.

Tamals, tamales, and pasteles are just a few of the various names and varieties of tamales. Hallacas are popular in Venezuela, especially around Christmas. In the Andes, humitas are cooked with freshly ground maize rather than the more common dried cornmeal known as masa harina (or masarepa in some regions).

How Long are Tamales Good for in the Refrigerator?

For about a week, tamales can be kept in the refrigerator. Additionally, they can be kept in the freezer for up to six months or at ambient temperature for roughly four to five hours. In either situation, tamale quality, taste, vacuum-sealing, condition, or safety may change. As a result, it is best to try to eat them right away.

Tamale filling can be stored in the refrigerator for one week. The tamales can also be frozen to increase their shelf life by a few months. The uncooked tamales can also be frozen for several months or kept in the refrigerator for about 6-7 days. Maintaining them at room temperature will be difficult because they can spoil in 4-5 hours.

How to Freeze Tamales?

It is crucial to allow the meal completely cool before preparing, whether you are freezing freshly cooked or leftover tamales. Place the cooked dish for handmade tamales on a cooling rack for about an hour. Make sure the tamales have cooled by checking often. Once more, if the tamales are left at room temperature for too long, they will become stale.

Get a sizable, airtight plastic container or several robust resealable plastic bags once the tamales have cooled. Place them inside the container flat to ensure the tamales maintain their shape after thawing. A container shouldn’t be filled with too many tamales. Put the container in the freezer after sealing it and marking the storage date with a marker.

How to Reheat Frozen Tamales?

The quickest way to reheat a frozen tamale if you’re in a hurry is in the microwave. Take the tamale out of the husk, put it on a microwave-safe plate, and heat it for 45 to 1 minute on high. Place the tamales on a baking pan while still in their husks and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for roughly 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. You can reheat the tamales in the oven if you have additional time.

Steam frozen tamales for 20 to 30 minutes to reheat them. The use of other techniques, such as boiling and microwave cooking, is permitted but not recommended. As an alternative, you might reheat them on the stovetop or oven.

Tamale filling options range from rice and beans to meat. Suppose you don’t have a countertop steamer; steam tamales in a rice cooker or Instant Pot. It’s ideal to properly defrost your tamales until they are just defrosted if you plan to fry them. Make sure the corn husks are still securely on them before cooking.

You can cook tamales on a skillet with cooking or olive oil if you don’t want them wrapped in husks. Because microwaves don’t spread heat evenly, you won’t obtain a perfect result when reheating tamales in one of these devices. A microwave can be your only option if you need to finish something quickly.

You should pay attention to the time and temperature when cooking tamales in the microwave. Keep all reheated food at 165 degrees Fahrenheit or greater at all times. You should be alright if you closely monitor your tamale and do not overcook it; if the tamale is rubbery or soft, it may be slightly sticky or soft, but you should be fine.

How to Store Tamales?

Covering the tamales with a wrapper will stop the supply of air or oxygen while they are being stored at room temperature for a brief length of time. By doing this, you can help keep the tamales from growing bacteria while they are left out at ambient temperature.

To avoid exposure to the outside world while storing tamales in a refrigerator, attempt to place them in an airtight jar or container. To avoid exposing the tamales to oxygen, try to squeeze out as much air as possible before placing them in plastic bags for storage. Additionally, avoid piling them on top of one another.

Additionally, please keep them in an airtight container, bag, or jar for freeing. The oxygen level must be removed or reduced to stop oxidation and the development of bacteria inside the jar or plastic bag.

Tamales can also be kept for a year and sealed in a vacuum-sealed bag. Ensure the tamales are kept in freezers that don’t have issues with temperature fluctuation.

How to Cook Tamales?

The most popular method for steaming tamales is with a multi-compartment steamer. In a pinch, a pressure cooker or slow cooker will work. Tamales made at home are fantastic, particularly pig tamales.

These steamers are made to maintain the tamales above the water level through an efficient basket since there must be enough water to generate steam without getting the tamales wet. Remember, you want to avoid soggy tamales at all costs.

During this steaming process, if you notice that you are running low on water, feel free to add as much as you need, but make sure to pour it down the edge of the pot rather than on top of the tamales.

Dropping a penny down the side and listening to it rattle against the bottom is one way to determine if you need more water.

Make a large batch of the tamales so they can stand erect for a longer period and stack them with the open tops of the husks facing the steamer’s opening.

To assist the tamale’s balance, place a heat-resistant cup in the center of the pan. To keep the steam near the tamales, cover them with additional husks or clean cloths.

Once the water has reached a rolling boil, reduce the heat to a low setting and begin cooking.

The cooking time does not begin when the water starts to heat up, just like when you are preheating an oven.

The tamales typically take 1-2 hours to cook completely; however, it’s important to check at the 1.5-hour point to see if the masa dough has maintained its structure.

The simplest technique to determine whether they need more cooking time is to remove one tamale and open the husk. They need more time to cook if the masa is mushy and has adhered to the husk.

Remember to let them cool in their husk encasements for 5 to 15 minutes so they can thoroughly set.

Another great advice is to avoid spreading the masa to the bottom of the husk to avoid spills.

Leave a 2 cm space between the masa and the end of the husk. The tamales will be higher quality, and spills that can be messy to clean up will also be avoided.

Avoid stuffing the husk or banana leaf too full; doing so will prevent the casing from wrapping tightly around the tamale and could leak the masa and filling, which would be a mess to clean up.

How to Identify Tamales have Gone Bad?

Tamales won’t keep for very long and will spoil if not stored properly. Don’t let your entire day of making tamales go to waste!

Tamales with varied textures are terrible tamales. The tamale dough will smell sour, as will the filling, like conventional perishable goods.

As you thaw the frozen tamales, make sure to do it in the refrigerator. It’s a good idea to start the night before or the day before.

Tamales typically don’t degrade gradually. Here are some warning signs:

  • Sour odor
  • Grey or dark green mold stains
  • Leaks of liquids
  • Moving from yellow to pink or orange in color

You’ll typically notice the smell when a tamale starts to go bad. Although it can be difficult to determine which of the numerous ingredients was originally contaminated by germs, the sickening, pungent smell is usually the first observable sign of a tamale disaster. Wherever it began, your poor tamale has already suffered enough by the time it smells.

Tamale mold typically has a dark green or grey color. Before it spreads inside, you usually notice it is speckling the corn husk wrapping first. But don’t just throw away the wrapper and start eating. Spots on the exterior typically indicate inside spores. Spores can cause you to become ill even if you cannot see them.

Can Tamales Make you Sick?

Tamale contamination can occur if they are left out for an extended period. They may be infected with salmonella, Clostridium, or Campylobacter if they contain meat.

Tamales can rapidly become infected with staph bacteria, even without meat. You could get quite ill from any of the frights above.

Staph bacteria infestations present a challenge because even if you successfully kill the bacteria by roasting it to death, you may not be as fortunate with the poisons these bacteria create. Even at high temperatures, staph toxins can continue to be poisonous and active.

Cooking and consuming stale tamales could tempt fate. Better off just ordering fresh tamales.

Reference: Effect of Fat Type on Starch and Protein Digestibility of Traditional Tamales

Overconsumption of energy can increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome and contribute to being overweight and obese. Traditional Mexican food known as tamales is made with a batter of nixtamalized maize flour, lard, and water (masa). There is a push to make traditional meals, like tamales, more “healthy.” This drives the requirement for assessing the physicochemical changes occurring during tamales manufacturing. This research examines how the types of fats used in artisanal and industrial production—pork lard (AF) and hydrogenated vegetable shortening (VF)—affect tamales’ physical and chemical characteristics and digestion.


Frozen tamales are a great way to store food in your fridge. They are a tasty treat lasting up to a week when stored properly. However, it is important to understand the proper ways to freeze tamales to ensure that they stay fresh. Whether you are making homemade or store-bought tamales, here are tips on how to freeze them.

First, tamales should be cooked before being frozen. This will prevent the dough from spoiling. Then, place the tamales in a freezer bag and seal the bag with a plastic lid. Tamales should also be wrapped with aluminum foil. When frozen, the tamales will keep their shape and will be easier to reheat. You can also wrap the tamales with napkins to help absorb moisture and stop ice crystals from forming.