Wondering how to freeze tamales without losing that homemade goodness? You’re in the right place. Whether you’ve got a mountain of leftover tamales from a family gathering or you’re planning ahead, freezing is a fantastic way to extend the life of this delicious Mexican dish.
Now, don’t just chuck those homemade tamales in the freezer willy-nilly. There’s an art to it. Properly frozen tamales can last up to 3-6 months, and when you thaw them, they’ll taste almost as delicious as the day you made them.
So, grab your freezer bags and airtight containers. We’re about to get into the nitty-gritty of how to freeze tamales—cooked, uncooked, and even just the fillings.
How To Freeze Tamales
What You’ll Need
- Cooked tamales
- Plastic wrap or aluminum foil
- Freezer bags or airtight containers
- Permanent marker for labeling
Step 1: Cooling Period & Preparation
First, let your cooked tamales cool down a bit. Hot tamales can create condensation in your airtight container, and that’s a one-way ticket to freezer burn. Give them a breather on the counter, but not for too long because you don’t want to invite any bacteria to the party. A good half an hour to an hour should do it.
A cooling period is important in preserving the moist texture of your tamales. You’re essentially allowing the corn dough and fillings to firm up, making them less susceptible to texture changes in the freezer.
You might be tempted to speed up the process with a fan or by popping them in the fridge. Resist that urge. A natural cooling process ensures that the tamales cool uniformly, keeping that delicious Mexican tamale integrity intact.
Raw tamales have their own set of rules for freezing, and it all starts with the prep work. Your dough should be well-mixed and your fillings ready to go, whether it’s a meaty concoction or a cheese filling.
Tamale dough, often made from masa harina, needs to be moist but not wet. The right consistency ensures that your tamales will cook evenly after thawing. As for the fillings, make sure they’re not too watery. Excess liquid will lead to a soggy mess when defrosted, and you don’t want that.
Should assemble the tamales before freezing? The answer is a resounding yes. Assembling your tamales before they hit the freezer ensures that the flavors meld together, even while frozen. It’s like giving them a head start on deliciousness.
Not all fillings are created equal when it comes to freezing. Meat-based fillings like pork, chicken, and beef are your best bets for freezing.
On the flip side, some fillings just don’t play well with the freezer. Anything with a high water content, like certain veggies, can turn mushy when thawed. Cheese fillings can be hit or miss; softer cheeses may separate, while harder cheeses like queso fresco tend to fare better.
The key takeaway here is to stick with fillings that have a stable texture and low water content. These are more likely to emerge from the freezer in good shape, ready to be tucked into a fresh tamale. So, if you’re planning to freeze fillings, choose wisely.
Preparing your fillings for freezing is a bit like prepping for a big night out—you want them to look their best. Make sure meat-based fillings are fully cooked and cooled before freezing. This ensures that the texture remains consistent upon thawing.
For cheese fillings, consider adding a touch of cornstarch to the mix. This helps stabilize the cheese and prevents it from separating when it thaws. Just a little sprinkle will do; you don’t want to alter the flavor. If you’re freezing vegetable fillings, opt for those that have been sautéed or roasted to reduce their water content.
Portioning is another thing to consider. If you know you’ll be making a dozen tamales next time, freeze your fillings in batches that match. This way, you won’t have to thaw more than you need. Use an ice cube tray for smaller portions or a muffin tin for larger ones.
Step 2: Individual Wrapping
Now that your tamales are cool, it’s time to wrap each one like the little treasure it is. Individual wrapping is key to maintaining the quality of your frozen tamales. Plastic wrap or aluminum foil works like a charm to keep out moisture and help prevent freezer burn.
So why not just toss them all in a bag and call it a day? Well, individual wrapping acts like a second skin, preserving the moist texture and flavors locked inside. It’s like giving each tamale its own personal bodyguard against the harsh conditions of your freezer.
How do you choose between plastic wrap and aluminum foil? Plastic wrap clings tightly, ensuring a snug fit, while aluminum foil is sturdy and can withstand jostling in a crowded freezer. Both are solid choices, so go with what you’ve got on hand.
So, you’ve got your uncooked tamales assembled and ready for their freezer debut. But hold up, these raw tamales need a little extra TLC in the wrapping department. A tighter wrap is essential for uncooked tamales to maintain their shape and integrity.
Why the extra fuss for uncooked tamales? Well, the dough is softer, and the fillings are more fluid. A tight wrap keeps everything in place, preventing the fillings from seeping out or the dough from becoming misshapen. It’s like creating a cozy, protective cocoon for each tamale.
Your best bets for this job are plastic wrap or corn husks. Plastic wrap offers a clingy embrace, while corn husks provide a more traditional touch. If you’re going the corn husk route, make sure the husks are moistened to make them more pliable. This helps them wrap tightly around the tamale without tearing.
Step 3: Container Choices
Alright, you’ve got your tamales wrapped up, but where are you going to stash them? You’ve got two options: freezer bags or airtight containers. Each has its pros and cons, but both are better than just tossing your tamales in the freezer unprotected.
Freezer bags are my go-to. They’re flexible, easy to label, and can be squeezed into tight spaces. Plus, they’re specifically designed to combat freezer burn. Just make sure you’re using actual freezer bags, not just any zip-top bag you find in the drawer.
Airtight containers are a good option because they’re sturdy and stackable. If you’re the organized type who likes everything to have its place, airtight containers are your jam. Just make sure they’re freezer-safe to avoid any cracking or warping. The downside is that there will be air pockets you can’t get out like a bag.
For fillings, you’ve got a couple of solid options: silicone molds and airtight containers.
Silicone molds, like ice cube trays or muffin tins, are fantastic for portion control. Once the fillings are frozen, you can pop them out and then transfer them to a freezer bag. This makes it super easy to grab just the amount you need when making tamales. Plus, silicone molds are easy to clean and reusable.
Airtight containers are another good choice, especially for larger batches. These containers offer excellent protection against freezer burn and flavor loss. Just make sure the container is freezer-safe to avoid any cracking or warping. And don’t forget to leave a little space at the top to allow for expansion as the fillings freeze.
Step 5: Sealing And Labeling
Your tamales are wrapped, packed, and almost ready to hibernate. But before you shove them into the icy depths of your freezer, let’s seal the deal—literally. Proper sealing is the final guard against freezer burn and flavor loss, ensuring that your tamales will emerge as tasty as they went in.
If you’re using freezer bags, press out as much air as possible before sealing. Excess air will lead to freezer burn. For airtight containers, make sure the lid is securely fastened. Double-check those latches or give the lid an extra push to make sure it’s snug.
Now, don’t forget to label your tamales. Use a marker to write the date and type of tamale on the freezer bag. Put a piece of masking tape on containers and write on it.
How Long Do Tamales Last In The Freezer?
When it comes to the freezer life of tamales, you’ve got a solid six months if you’ve done your prep and packaging right. Whether they’re cooked or uncooked, tamales can hang out in the freezer for up to half a year without losing too much of their texture and flavor.
I prefer to freeze tamales cooked. It locks in the flavor and makes the thawing process a breeze.
Uncooked tamales, on the other hand, can be a bit finicky. The raw corn dough tends to crumble over time in the freezer, leading to a potential mess when thawing. So, if you’re going the uncooked route, just be prepared for a little extra TLC when it’s time to cook.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do tamales freeze well?
Absolutely, tamales freeze like a dream when properly prepared and packaged. You can store cooked and uncooked tamales in the freezer for up to six months, but using them within three months is best to maintain their quality.
Can you freeze tamales before steaming?
Yes, you can freeze tamales before steaming, but uncooked tamales tend to lose flavor faster and can be a bit crumbly when thawed. It’s generally easier to freeze them after they’ve been cooked.
Can you freeze tamale masa?
You bet! Tamale masa can be frozen for future use. Wrap your masa dough tightly in plastic wrap and store it in an airtight container. Make sure to use it within three months for the best quality.
Can you freeze tamales in foil?
Yes, aluminum foil is a great option for freezing tamales. Just wrap each tamale tightly in foil before placing them in a freezer-safe container. The foil helps prevent freezer burn and keeps your tamales tasting fresh.
How To Freeze Tamales
- 1 Roll of plastic wrap or aluminum foil
- 1 Box of freezer bags or airtight containers
- 1 Permanent Marker for Labeling
- 1 batch cooked tamales
Freezing Cooked Tamales
- Let cooked tamales cool to room temperature before freezing.
- Wrap each tamale tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
- Place wrapped tamales in a freezer bag or airtight container.
- Arrange tamales in a single layer in the container.
- Remove air, seal tightly, and label with the date.
- Freeze your tamales immediately.
Freezing Uncooked Tamales
- Prepare dough and fillings, ensuring they are cool before wrapping.
- Wrap uncooked tamales more tightly than cooked ones.
- Use airtight containers specifically for uncooked tamales.
- Minimize air pockets and maximize space in the container.
- Seal tightly and label with the date and 'uncooked.'
- Freeze your tamales immediately.
Freezing Tamale Fillings
- Choose fillings that freeze well, like meat-based or hard cheese fillings.
- Fully cook meat fillings and stabilize cheese with cornstarch.
- Use silicone molds or airtight containers for fillings.
- Pack tightly to avoid air and potential freezer burn.
- Double-check seals and label them with the type of filling and date.
- Freeze your tamale filling immediately.