[Full Guide] How Long To Boil Frozen Tamales

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made of masa (a type of dough made from dried corn), filled with various meats, cheeses, vegetables, or chilies, and then steamed inside a corn husk or banana leaf. Tamales can be made in large batches and frozen for later consumption, making them a convenient and delicious option for a quick meal or snack. When it comes to preparing frozen tamales, boiling is one of the most popular methods to reheat and cook them. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the process of boiling frozen tamales, including the selection of tamales, preparation, and step-by-step instructions for boiling them to perfection.

Quick Answer: How Long To Boil Frozen Tamales

Boiling frozen tamales is a straightforward process, but it requires careful timing to ensure that the tamales are thoroughly heated and cooked. On average, frozen tamales should be boiled for approximately 30 to 40 minutes. However, the exact timing may vary depending on the size of the tamales and the individual stove’s heat intensity. It’s essential to ensure that the tamales reach a safe internal temperature to be fully cooked and ready to enjoy.


Before diving into the boiling process, it’s crucial to select high-quality frozen tamales. Whether you purchase them from a grocery store or make them homemade and freeze them, the quality of the tamales will significantly impact the final outcome. Look for tamales that have been properly wrapped and sealed to prevent freezer burn. If you’re making tamales at home for freezing, make sure to wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil to maintain their freshness.


Thawing Frozen Tamales

If you have time, properly thawing frozen tamales before boiling is ideal. Thawing helps ensure even heating during the boiling process and prevents the tamales from becoming mushy or overcooked. To thaw frozen tamales, you can follow these steps:

  1. Refrigerator Thawing: Place the frozen tamales in the refrigerator and allow them to thaw overnight. This gentle, slow thawing method helps maintain the texture and flavor of the tamales.

  2. Cold Water Bath: If you need to speed up the thawing process, you can submerge the sealed tamales in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes to ensure it remains cold. This method can thaw the tamales in 1-3 hours, depending on their size and quantity.

Inspecting Tamales

Before boiling, inspect the thawed tamales for any signs of freezer burn or damage to the husks. If you notice any discoloration or ice crystals, it may indicate freezer burn, which can negatively impact the taste and texture. Additionally, ensure that the husks are intact and not torn to prevent water from seeping into the tamales during boiling.

How To Boil Frozen Tamales

Once you have selected and properly thawed the frozen tamales, it’s time to proceed with the boiling process. Follow these step-by-step instructions to ensure that your tamales are heated thoroughly and cooked to perfection.

Equipment Needed

  • Large Pot: Choose a pot that is large enough to accommodate the number of tamales you are boiling without overcrowding. A pot with a steamer basket is preferable, but not essential.

  • Water: Sufficient water to submerge the tamales during boiling.

  • Tongs: These will be used to handle the tamales, especially when removing them from the boiling water.

Boiling Process

  1. Water Level: Fill the pot with enough water to submerge the tamales fully. The water level should be sufficient to cover the tamales without overflowing when they are added.

  2. Bring Water to a Boil: Place the pot on the stove over high heat and bring the water to a rolling boil.

  3. Add Tamales: Once the water is boiling, carefully add the thawed tamales to the pot. If you’re using a steamer basket, place the tamales in the basket and then lower it into the pot.

  4. Reduce to Simmer: After adding the tamales, reduce the heat to medium to maintain a steady simmer. Cover the pot with a lid to help retain the steam and heat.

  5. Boil Time: Allow the tamales to boil for approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Remember to set a timer to ensure they do not overcook.

  6. Check for Readiness: To check if the tamales are ready, carefully remove one from the boiling water using tongs and unwrap a small portion of the husk. The masa should be heated through, and the filling should be piping hot. If the tamales are not fully heated, return them to the pot and continue boiling for another 5-10 minutes.

  7. Remove Tamales: Once the tamales are thoroughly heated and cooked, use the tongs to carefully remove them from the boiling water and allow any excess water to drip off.

  8. Resting Time: After boiling, it’s beneficial to let the tamales rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the masa to set and ensures that the fillings are evenly distributed.


Once the boiled tamales have rested for a few minutes, carefully unwrap the husks and arrange the tamales on a serving platter. They can be served with a variety of toppings and sauces, such as salsa, guacamole, or sour cream, to complement their flavors. Enjoy the delicious, freshly boiled tamales with your favorite accompaniments.

Boiling frozen tamales is a simple yet effective method for reheating and cooking these delightful treats. It’s important to take the time to properly select and thaw the tamales before proceeding with the boiling process. With careful attention to timing and cooking techniques, you can ensure that the tamales are heated through and ready to enjoy. Whether you’re enjoying store-bought frozen tamales or savoring homemade ones from your freezer, boiling is a reliable way to bring out their flavors and textures. By following the comprehensive guide outlined above, you can confidently boil frozen tamales to perfection and indulge in this beloved Mexican dish.

Science Behind Boiling

Tamales are a beloved traditional Mexican dish enjoyed by many around the world. These delicious treats consist of masa dough filled with various savory or sweet fillings, wrapped in a corn husk, and then steamed or boiled to perfection. While steaming is the most common method of cooking tamales, there are times when you may find yourself with frozen tamales and wonder if boiling is a suitable alternative.

Boiling frozen tamales can be a convenient and quick way to enjoy this tasty dish.

Boiling is a cooking method that involves immersing food in boiling liquid, typically water, and cooking it at a temperature of 212°F (100°C). When you boil frozen tamales, the heat from the boiling liquid gradually thaws the tamales, allowing the filling and masa dough to cook evenly.

As the water comes to a boil and forms bubbles, the heat transfers from the water to the tamales. The moisture within the tamales vaporizes, transferring heat energy and cooking the dough and filling. The hot water also helps soften the corn husks, making them more pliable and easier to remove before eating.

Boiling is an effective method for cooking frozen tamales because the high temperature ensures that the tamales reach a safe internal temperature, eliminating any potential foodborne pathogens.

Optimal Boiling Times

The optimal boiling time for frozen tamales can vary depending on several factors, including the size and thickness of the tamales and the type of filling. In general, it is recommended to boil frozen tamales for approximately 20-30 minutes.

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Thicker tamales may require longer boiling times to ensure that the filling reaches a safe internal temperature. Similarly, tamales with dense fillings, such as meat or cheese, may require a few extra minutes of boiling to ensure that the filling is thoroughly cooked.

It is important to note that these times are guidelines, and it is always recommended to check the doneness of the tamales using a reliable method.

Doneness Test

To determine if your boiled tamales are fully cooked, there are a few tests you can perform:

  1. Visual Inspection: Carefully unwrap a tamale and visually inspect the filling and masa dough. The filling should be hot, cooked thoroughly, and no longer raw. The masa dough should be firm and have a cooked appearance, with no visible signs of rawness or wetness.

  2. Internal Temperature: Using a food thermometer, insert it into the center of a tamale. The internal temperature should reach a minimum of 165°F (74°C) to ensure food safety.

  3. Texture and Taste: Take a small portion of the tamale and taste it. The texture should be cooked through, with the filling and masa being tender and well-cooked. The taste should be flavorful and enjoyable.

By conducting these tests, you can ensure that the tamales are fully cooked, safe to eat, and have the desired taste and texture.

Factors Affecting Boiling Tamales

Several factors can affect the boiling process of tamales. It is essential to consider these factors to achieve optimal results when boiling frozen tamales:

  1. Altitude: Altitude can impact the boiling point of water. At higher altitudes, the boiling point decreases, which means that the water boils at a lower temperature. Adjustments to boiling times may be necessary if you live at a higher altitude.

  2. Thickness and Size of Tamales: Thicker and larger tamales may take longer to cook compared to smaller and thinner ones. Consider the size and thickness of your tamales when determining the boiling time.

  3. Type of Filling: Tamales with different fillings may require varying cooking times. For example, tamales with meat filling may take longer to cook compared to tamales with vegetable or cheese fillings. Be mindful of the type of filling you have when determining the boiling time.

  4. Quantity of Tamales: The quantity of tamales being boiled at once can affect the boiling time. Boiling a larger batch of tamales may require additional time to ensure even cooking throughout.

  5. Quality of Frozen Tamales: The quality and how frozen the tamales are can affect the cooking time. If the tamales have been frozen for an extended period, they may take longer to cook. It is best to follow the recommended boiling times and perform doneness tests to ensure they are adequately cooked.

  6. Starting Temperature: The starting temperature of the tamales can also impact the boiling time. If the tamales have been thawed before boiling, they may require less time compared to tamales that are boiled directly from a frozen state.

Taking these factors into consideration will help you adjust the boiling time accordingly and ensure that your tamales are cooked to perfection.

Boiling frozen tamales can be an excellent alternative to steaming, especially when you have limited time or want a convenient way to enjoy this traditional dish. By understanding the science behind boiling, optimal boiling times, determining doneness, and considering various factors that may affect the process, you can achieve perfectly cooked tamales that are both safe and delicious.

Always remember to check the doneness of the tamales using the tests mentioned, as individual factors like altitude and the size of the tamales can vary. With this comprehensive guide, you can confidently boil your frozen tamales and indulge in their mouthwatering flavors.

Texture After Boiling

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made of masa (a type of corn dough) filled with various ingredients such as meat, cheese, or vegetables. They are often wrapped in corn husks and then steamed to perfection. However, if you find yourself with a stash of frozen tamales and don’t have the time or equipment to steam them, boiling can be a convenient alternative. Boiling frozen tamales is a simple and straightforward cooking method that can yield delicious results.

One of the concerns when boiling frozen tamales is the potential impact on their texture. Steaming tamales allows the moisture to penetrate the corn dough slowly, resulting in a soft and fluffy texture. Boiling, on the other hand, can be more intense and may affect the texture differently.

When tamales are boiled, they absorb a larger amount of water compared to steaming. This extra moisture can make the masa dough slightly more hydrated, resulting in a texture that is moister and less fluffy than when steamed. The prolonged exposure to boiling water can lead to a softer exterior of the tamale as well. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the texture is negatively affected.

Some people actually prefer the slightly denser and more moist texture of boiled tamales. It can be a matter of personal taste and the overall enjoyment of the dish. The corn dough may still be cooked thoroughly and have a pleasing consistency. However, if you are a fan of the light and airy texture that steamed tamales offer, boiling may not be the best option for you.

Taste After Boiling

The taste of tamales is primarily influenced by the filling and seasoning. Boiling tamales may not significantly impact the flavors inside, but it can dilute the intensity of the seasonings. This is because the boiling water absorbs some of the flavors and spreads them throughout the tamales.

While the dilution of flavors may occur, it doesn’t mean that boiled tamales taste bland or unappetizing. It simply means that the taste can be slightly less pronounced compared to steamed tamales. However, this can be easily countered by using bold fillings and robust seasonings in your tamale recipe. By incorporating strong flavors, such as spicy meats or tangy sauces, you can ensure that the taste remains vibrant even after boiling.

Additionally, if you prefer a milder taste, boiling frozen tamales can help reduce the intensity of certain spices or seasonings. This can be advantageous for individuals who have a sensitive palate or prefer a subtler flavor profile.

Smell After Boiling

The aroma of tamales is an essential aspect of the overall eating experience. When tamales are traditionally steamed, the heat releases their aromatic qualities, filling the kitchen with a pleasant, appetizing scent. Boiling, however, may not produce the same level of aroma.

Boiling frozen tamales can still generate a decent aroma, but it may not be as potent or widespread as when they are steamed. The process of boiling may not entirely capture and release the fragrant compounds present in the tamale filling and masa dough. As a result, the smell may not be as noticeable throughout your home.

To enhance the aroma when boiling tamales, you can consider adding aromatic ingredients to the boiling water. For example, you may add a bay leaf, a few crushed garlic cloves, or a sprinkle of herbs such as oregano or cilantro. These additions can infuse the boiling water with extra fragrance, improving the overall smell of the tamale.

Boiling Techniques For Different Culinary Preferences

Now that we have discussed the effects of boiling on the texture, taste, and smell of tamales, let’s explore some boiling techniques that cater to different culinary preferences. By adopting specific methods, you can achieve the desired results when boiling frozen tamales.

1. Traditional Boiling

The most straightforward boiling method is to place the frozen tamales in a pot of boiling water. Ensure that the water covers the tamales completely. You may need to add extra water to compensate for evaporation during the boiling process.

Once the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Allow the tamales to cook for approximately 30-45 minutes. Check for doneness by carefully opening one tamale and ensuring that the masa dough is cooked through and the filling is hot.

This traditional boiling method is ideal for individuals who appreciate a slightly softer texture and don’t mind a diluted taste. It requires minimal effort and allows the natural flavors of the tamales to shine through without any additional embellishments.

2. Flavor-Infused Boiling

For those who want to enhance the taste and smell of boiled tamales, flavor-infused boiling is an excellent technique. In this method, you can add aromatic ingredients to the boiling water, which can impart additional flavors to the tamales.

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Fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add ingredients such as a bay leaf, crushed garlic, oregano, cilantro, or other herbs of your choice to the boiling water. Allow the ingredients to infuse the water for a few minutes before carefully adding the frozen tamales.

Cover the pot and let the tamales boil for approximately 30-45 minutes. The herbs and spices will subtly infuse into the tamales, enhancing their taste and fragrance.

Flavor-infused boiling is particularly suitable for individuals who want to elevate the overall flavor profile of their tamales. The added herbs and spices can compensate for any potential dilution caused by boiling and create a more aromatic eating experience.

3. Boiling With Broth

Another technique to enhance the taste of boiled tamales is to use a flavorful broth as the boiling liquid. This method allows the tamales to absorb the rich flavors of the broth, resulting in a more pronounced taste.

To start, prepare a broth of your choice. This can be a chicken broth, beef broth, or vegetable broth, depending on your dietary preferences. Place the broth in a pot and bring it to a boil. Once the broth is boiling, carefully add the frozen tamales and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Cover the pot and let the tamales cook for about 30-45 minutes in the flavorful broth. The tamales will absorb the essence of the broth, contributing to a more robust and satisfying taste.

Boiling tamales with broth is an ideal method for individuals who desire a stronger flavor profile. The broth adds depth and richness to the tamales, complementing the filling and spices used in the recipe.

Boiling frozen tamales can be a convenient way to enjoy this delicious Mexican dish when steaming is not an option. Although boiling may result in a slightly different texture, taste, and smell compared to steaming, it does not mean inferior quality. The key lies in understanding the effects of boiling on tamales and utilizing appropriate techniques to achieve the desired results.

Whether you prefer a softer texture, a milder taste, or a more aromatic experience, the boiling techniques discussed in this article can help you tailor your boiled tamales to suit your culinary preferences. Experiment with different methods, ingredients, and flavors to find the perfect balance that brings out the best in your frozen tamales.

Retaining Nutrition

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made with masa dough and a filling of meat, cheese, or vegetables, usually steamed in corn husks. They make a great meal or snack, and can be enjoyed anywhere in the world. Whether you have a special occasion or just a craving for something delicious, you might have bought tamales in bulk, but unfortunately, it is hard to consume them all in one go. So, if you have frozen tamales, it is important to know how to boil them properly.

Cooking frozen tamales by boiling is one of the easiest and quickest ways to make tamales, but it is important to boil them correctly to retain their nutritional value and flavor. Boiling can cause water-soluble vitamins and minerals to leach out from the tamales. However, by using the right amount of water and cooking them at the right temperature, you can retain most of their original nutritional value.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

Boiling Frozen tamales is not rocket science, but there are some common mistakes you should avoid, such as overcooking your tamales, not adding enough water or adding too much water, and not allowing the tamales to defrost completely before boiling. Here are a few tips to help you boil tamales perfectly.

Tips To Boil Tamales

1. Allow Tamale To Defrost

Before boiling frozen tamales, it is essential to allow them to defrost entirely. You can defrost them in the refrigerator overnight or let them sit at room temperature for a few hours until they are soft.

2. Add Enough Water For Boiling

Make sure you add enough water to the pot so that the tamales are covered entirely. The amount of water needed depends on the number of tamales you’re boiling, but a good rule of thumb is to use enough water to cover the tamales, about two inches above them.

3. Heat The Water

Pour the desired amount of water into a large pot, then heat it over medium heat until it boils.

4. Carefully Add The Frozen Tamales

Once the water has come to a boil, carefully add the frozen tamales to the pot, being sure not to overcrowd the pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low.

5. Boil For 30-40 Minutes

Boil the tamales for 30 to 40 minutes over medium-low heat. Periodically check the water level to ensure that it has not evaporated completely. You can add more boiling water if necessary.

6. Test For Cooked Tamales

After 30-40 minutes of boiling, take a tamale out of the pot and let it cool for a few seconds before unwrapping it to check if it’s cooked. If the masa is firm and the filling has reached the desired temperature, then all tamales are likely cooked.

7. Transfer To A Plate

Carefully remove the tamales from the boiling water using tongs and place them on a plate. Use a towel to hold the hot tamales while unwrapping them.

What To Do With Boiled Tamales

There are several ways to serve boiled tamales, depending on your preference. Below are a few ideas:

1. Serve With Salsa Or Guacamole

You can serve boiled tamales with salsa or guacamole for added flavor.

2. Make A Tamale Casserole

You can use boiled tamales to make a tamale casserole by cutting them into bite-sized pieces and layering them with cheese, salsa, and any other toppings you like.

3. Enjoy As A Snack

Boiled tamales are an excellent snack and can be eaten on their own without any additional ingredients.


Boiling frozen tamales is an easy and convenient way to enjoy this traditional Mexican dish. By defrosting the tamales, adding enough water, and boiling them for 30 to 40 minutes, you can retain most of their nutritional value and flavor. Serve them with salsa, guacamole, or any other toppings of your choice, or use them to make a delicious tamale casserole.


How Do I Boil Frozen Tamales Without Making Them Soggy?

To prevent soggy tamales, it is important to thaw them completely before boiling. This can be done by placing the frozen tamales in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Alternatively, you can also use the defrost setting on your microwave.

How Long Should I Boil Frozen Tamales?

The boiling time for frozen tamales will vary depending on their size and thickness. Generally, it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for them to cook through. It is best to refer to the cooking instructions on the package or use a meat thermometer to ensure they are fully cooked.

Can I Boil Frozen Tamales In A Regular Pot?

Yes, you can boil frozen tamales in a regular pot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the tamales and bring it to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and let them simmer for the recommended cooking time. Make sure to stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Is It Safe To Boil Frozen Tamales?

Yes, it is safe to boil frozen tamales. Freezing helps to preserve the tamales and boiling ensures that they are thoroughly cooked. Just make sure to thaw them completely before boiling to avoid a soggy texture.

Can I Add Extra Seasonings Or Ingredients While Boiling Frozen Tamales?

Yes, you can add extra seasonings or ingredients to your liking while boiling frozen tamales. Some popular options include adding a dried chili or bay leaves to the boiling water for additional flavor. However, be mindful that too much seasoning or added ingredients may alter the overall taste of the tamales.