Tamales are a tasty food that can liven up any dinner or special holiday!
This special dish is made from ground corn, flavorful meats, gorgeous spices, and shredded vegetables.
As they are so full of delicious ingredients, it’s hard to find a person who doesn’t appreciate tamales.
Rather than grilled or baked dishes, classic Latin-American tamales are steamed.
However, this step is where it can go wrong, as if the tamales aren’t steamed properly, they can end up inedible and soggy.
It can be frustrating to go through all of that effort preparing your tamales to end up with soggy ones, but we can help.
You’ll find our tips on how to keep your tamales moist and tasty below, including how to tell if they are done, and how to fix tamales that are undercooked.
If you want to know how to keep your tamales juicy and tasty, keep reading!
What Are Tamales?
Before we get into our tips on avoiding soggy tamales, we need to know what they are!
Tamales are a traditional Latin American dish. They are made from a mix of ground corn and water, also known as masa.
The masa will be wrapped in several leaves, like banana leaves, tree bark, or corn husks.
Tamales get their name from the wrapping, as the Náhuatl word tamalli means wrapped. Lots of juicy meats, spices, and vegetables are placed inside the masa.
However, the fillings within each tamale will depend on the person who makes them.
Some people like their tamales filled with red chilies and pork, but shredded chicken, beef, and beans are all popular fillings.
Creativity is important here, as some even fill their tamales with turkey!
Tips To Prevent Soggy Tamales
If you’ve ever tried making tamales yourself, you might have encountered soggy tamales from time to time.
Tamales take a lot of time to prepare and steam, so it can be especially frustrating if yours don’t turn out right.
Here are some ways to prevent ending up with inedible tamales:
Understand The Texture
It’s important to understand what a good tamale texture is before you bake them. This will be easy if you’ve eaten many of these before.
If you’re not used to tamales, the aim is to steam them so they remain firm on the outside.
Tamales should be firm enough to maintain their form, but they should be soft enough to eat.
The outsides should be able to house the fillings without splitting. When you eat a tamale with a fork, the insides should keep their shape instead of falling apart.
Check On The Tamales
Most tamales will need to be steamed for one or two hours. This is a long time in which there’s a risk of something going wrong, so check up on yours every half an hour.
Bear in mind that cooking time will vary depending on how many tamales you’re cooking, how large your steamer is, and what type of stove you’re using.
Amount of Filling
If you use too many fillings, the tamale will either split apart or be undercooked. With care, spread the fillings as evenly as you can inside the batch.
Check that you have used the right proportion of masa and fillings.
How To Know When Tamales Are Done?
You can tell if tamales are done or not by taking the husk off of them.
If you can peel the husk easily and smoothly, this indicates that they are done. If you can’t tell, try a bite and see how the dough tastes.
Here’s how to tell if your tamales are done:
Texture Of The Husk
One of the easiest ways of telling when tamales are done is by taking one out of the steamer and touching the husk.
Remember to let the tamale cool down for a couple of minutes before you open it.
Husks will be tough and dry before they are steamed. The moisture from the steam will make the husk softer so that it’s easier to peel.
Once the tamales are done, it should be easy to remove the husk from the tamales.
Try Them Out
If you can’t tell whether the tamales are done from the husk’s texture, you can try a bite and see how they taste.
Pay attention to how the dough tastes and feels. If it doesn’t taste undercooked, this is a sign that you can go ahead and dish up.
Fixing Undercooked Tamales
If you have the opposite problem, you might have steamed your tamales for less time than needed, leaving you with undone tamales.
On the plus side, you can fix undercooked tamales by steaming them again, but you will need to be careful not to overdo them.
You might end up with overdone tamales which can’t be fixed!
Here are two ways of fixing undercooked tamales:
Leave Them In The Steamer
If you sample your tamales and find that they need more steaming, just wrap them again and put them in the steamer.
Remember to keep checking on them every so often to prevent them from becoming soggy.
Use The Microwave
If you don’t have enough time to steam your tamales, you can use the microwave to cook them quickly.
Use a damp paper towel to wrap your tamales, then microwave them for 15 seconds.
Leave the husk on while you do this, then sample a bite to check that they are done.
You can always repeat this process if they need a little more cooking time, but make sure that the paper towel is damp!
More Tips On Making Tasty Tamales
Now you know how to prevent your tamales from turning soggy, here are some more tips on making tasty tamales.
Making The Dough
If you can’t find masa in your area, you can make your own out of corn dough and water.
You will mix the dough with lard and spices until the dough reaches a thick consistency, like peanut butter.
Once the dough stops being sticky, you can start kneading it. Make sure that your husks are trimmed well, roughly five inches long.
Use two tablespoons of masa on each corn husk, then use a putty knife to spread the dough over it.
Pork is a popular tamale filling, but it’s best to use pork when it is cold instead of hot.
Arrange the filling in a line down the center of the husk. This will prevent the filling from spreading to the edges while it is steaming.
Other tasty fillings are green chilies, shredded chicken, beef, garlic, and potatoes.
The possibilities are endless, so have fun experimenting with different spices and flavors.
You can even modify recipes to make them vegetarian or vegan, as well as switch up the ingredients to make sweet tamales.
Some sweet ingredients include cream cheese, strawberries, and pineapples.
Wrap your tamale by folding one half inward, then the other, then move the tail underneath.
Steam the tamales seam side up, as this will prevent the fillings from falling out.
You can also use broth to steam the tamales as this will infuse them with a tasty flavor. Wait until the husk can be removed easily, then enjoy!
Tamales are a classic dish within Latin American cuisine, but if you’re not careful, they can quickly turn soggy in the steamer!
You can keep your tamales firm and moist by checking on them every half an hour.
Make sure that you don’t overstuff the tamales, as this can lead to them splitting.
There are some classic tamale combinations, like pork and chili, but you can use any fillings that you wish.
Once you’ve mastered this delicious food, you can start sharing your tamales with your loved ones, which is the best part of making them!