Why Are My Tamales Taking So Long To Cook

Why Are My Tamales Taking So Long To Cook? Solved

Last Updated on March 16, 2024 by Shari Mason

Despite the undeniable deliciousness of tamales, it can be difficult to determine if they are fully cooked due to their unique wrapper. If any difficulties prevent you from completing this task, please reply with the following error message: Unable to process the request due to encountered difficulties.

If you’re asking, “Why are my tamales taking so long to cook?” This guide will tell you a few things you can do.

Why Do My Tamales Take Too Long To Cook?

cooking tamales on a pot

If you use too much water to make the dough, tamales will take a long time to cook. Once the water boils, it flows to the strainer or steamer basket. 

The bottom of the tamales sit in the water and soak them.

Tamales should also be placed in a covered steamer. Seal the lid of the steamer tightly. Otherwise, tamales won’t cook. 

Read: How Long Are Tamales Good For In The Fridge?

Possible Reasons It Is Taking Long

The Water Is Not Boiling

Too many tamales in a pot at once can lower the temperature of the steam. This can slow down the boiling and cooking time.

The Tamales Is Not Fully Submerged

Tamales are a complete meal made with a mixture of corn dough (tamale masa) and filling. [1] 

The tamale dough is made of masa harina, baking powder, broth, and lard or oil. Then, they’re wrapped in a corn husk and banana leaf and steamed.

When making tamales, it is important that they are not just sitting in water but that they are submerged in it. 

Read: What Cheese Do Mexican Restaurants Use?

It is Overcrowded

The tamales are taking too long to cook because they are overcrowded. If there’s not enough room for the steam to circulate, the tamales won’t cook evenly.

You Didn’t Use Tight-Fitting Lid

The most common reason tamales take too long to cook is because the lid is not tight-fitting and steam is escaping. 

If the lid fits tightly, then it will trap the steam and help the tamales cook much faster. 

How Long Do Tamales Need To Cook?


Boil tamales for 4 1/2 to 6 hours on high heat to ensure the tamales are well-cooked. Don’t overcrowd, and add more corn husks for protection.

Also, don’t steam tamales for too long. 

Read: What To Do With Leftover Enchilada Sauce?


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the tamales on a sheet pan. Bake tamales in the oven for 15-20 minutes. 

However, the cooking time depends on whether you use fresh tamales or frozen ones. Frozen tamales take a longer time to bake.

“Lard makes tastier and fluffier tamales than other fats do.”

– Fany Gerson, Chef, and Cookbook Author

You can also use a casserole dish when cooking tamales in the oven. Use a rack to separate the water and the tamales.

How To Tell If It Is Done

tamales on a white plate

Firm Texture

The tamales are done if the masa is firm to touch. If the masa sticks for three minutes, it may not be fully cooked. When you cut into an over-steamed tamale, it will fall apart.

Husk is Easy To Remove

The tamales are thoroughly cooked if the husks can be easily removed and the masa dough feels firm. 

Cook the tamales for a few more minutes if the husk is difficult to remove.

Use Toothpick Technique

To know if the tamales are fully cooked, insert a toothpick in the center of one tamale. It’s fully cooked if the toothpick comes out clean. If not, put them back in the steamer.

Steam for a few more minutes. However, if they steamed long enough and the masa is still sloppy, you used too much lard in the masa recipe.

What Will Happen If Tamales Are Overcooked?

If you steam tamales too long, they become soggy. To fix soggy tamales, drain extra moisture from them. Place them on a damp paper towel or a steam rack. 

Once drained, bake them for 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven. This will make them less soggy and crisp up the outsides.

Tips & Tricks To Make Perfect Tamales

Soak corn husk first.

Use cold water to peel the corn husks apart and loosen them up. Husks should stick to the tamale properly, or the structure will fall apart.

Pre-cook the meat to ensure the filling is cooked all throughout. 


u003cstrongu003eHow do you fix undercooked tamales?u003c/strongu003e

Wrap the tamales in aluminum foil to fix undercooked tamales. Wrapping the tamale tightly in aluminum foil layers will prevent air from entering. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eBake them for 20-25 minutes at 325 degrees. Reheating tamales is also possible using a steamer or covered pot with boiling water at the bottom.

u003cstrongu003eWhy are my tamales still soft?u003c/strongu003e

Your tamales are still soft because you may have overcooked them. Cooking them for too long will result in soggy tamales. 

In Conclusion

Steaming tamales may be tricky, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you’re asking how long it takes to cook tamales, the answer depends on whether you’re using an oven or steamer. 

The size of the tamales also determines how long it will take to cook.

If your tamales take so long to cook, they are not fully submerged, the water is not boiling, or they’re too overcrowded. Consider these factors as you cook tamales to ensure they are done.

Don’t steam tamales for too long. Overcooked tamales are soggy. If this happens, remove moisture using a damp paper towel and bake them in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes.



Shari Mason

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *