I am looking for ways to to cook large quantities of Tamales but I don't have a Tamale Steamer. Anyone do this before with other standard kitchen gear? I would rather not cook them in batches as the recipes call for 2-3 hours worth of steaming...

  • 3 hours of steaming seems too long. My Wife's recipe (which I am not allowed to share) only calls for approx 90 minutes. We've also found that tamales freeze well, if you freeze them before steaming. ie cook whatever filling you are using, assemble the filling, maza, and husks; make sure they are cool and freeze them. When ready to eat, they go straight from the freezer to the steamer, for slightly more than the 90 minutes.
    – BillN
    Sep 7, 2010 at 23:27
  • Last time I made these, they were done in just over 2 and 1/4 hours... I think the recipe was incorrect. I was checking them routinely, so it didn't really matter. Sep 9, 2010 at 16:19

4 Answers 4


Alton Brown recommends steaming them right in a normal tall pot with a steamer insert (your typical expanding/contracting one many people have on hand), directly in their husks. Basically, you put a couple inches of water in, and then a steamer insert, and the tamales (in the husks) go on top of the steamer.

You can find his recipe/method here.

You can also watch the episode on YouTube, go to about 4:45 in to see the tamales in the pot.

If you don't have a steamer insert of any kind, I would imagine you could fashion something out of aluminum foil without much problem. The most important thing is that you keep the tamales out of the water. In a pinch, an upside-down colander would work if you have a pot that's large enough to hold it.

Another (very low-tech) option is this hack, that basically uses a disposable aluminum pan to create the steamer/upside-down colander part of the rig. This seems like a pretty easy, straightforward solution.

Edit: as Michael points out in the comments, this seems like it could be a huge mess. I would recommend getting a disposable pie pan that's just smaller than your pot, poking holes in that, and putting it upside down in the pot like a steamer insert - seems a lot safer and more efficient than a large rectangle on top of the pot!

  • 1
    Any of those will work, although the last one looks like it leaks a lot of steam. Basically you just want a big pot with a tight fitting lid, and some way to elevate the tamales a bit above a couple inches of water. I use a huge pasta pot that has a built in colander, works great. Sep 7, 2010 at 22:44
  • 2
    One more tip: if you end up with a situation that has too much room for the tamales so they are falling over, just stick a big drinking glass or something else in there to hold them upright, but not too tightly packed. Sep 7, 2010 at 22:44
  • I was thinking the same about the last method. Seems like the fastest, cheapest hack, but also the most potential for a big mess. You could always find a way to trim down the size so there's less overhang, but that seems like a pain. Sep 7, 2010 at 22:45

My husband stole my cookie racks and rigged them in his giant stock pot uses lots of foil and Saran wraps the lid on for a good steam seal and cooks about 300 tamales at a time in a few hours.


I used a roasting pan with a rack. I filled pan with water, put tamales on rack and covered with foil. I used 400 degrees for an hour and did twelve, but could have fit a bit more.


Cut corn off cob by cutting off end and put cobs along bottom of pot. Works great and gives a corn flavor. An old Mexican way I watched on PBS.

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