How To Steam Tamales Without A Steamer?

How To Steam Tamales Without A Steamer?

Tamales are enjoyed because of the wonderful way their ingredients come together to make a delicious, soft, and moist snack. A large part of the reason tamales enjoyed is how they are cooked. Tamales are steamed with uncooked dough and fully cooked fillings. This specific process gives the taste tamales are known for. Tamales wouldn’t be tamales if it weren’t for this detailed cooking process.

However, there are times you want to enjoy the home-cooked tamales but do not have a steamer, which is the most crucial part of the entire process. Also, you do not want to buy a steamer for a snack you enjoy probably just once a month. This is where we will help you out. We will share with you the list of options you can use to prepare tamales without a steamer. So let’s start.

Source: Pixabay

How To Steam Tamales Without a Steamer?

In each of the below methods, ensure the tamales are spread out, and there is enough place for the steam to reach all the tamales and escape. Aluminum foil is always recommended if you want to cook them faster.

Using Metal Strainer or Crockpot or Slow Cookers

This one will require a fair bit of engineering to ensure the heat is trapped in the form of steam to cook the tamales. However, the idea is pretty simple. Place any pot on the stove and place a metal strainer inside so that it is suspended midway leaving some space below for the water to boil and create steam. You can wrap the tamales in aluminum foil to ensure they cook fast in less heat. You may need to steam this for up to 2 hours to cook the tamales properly.

Crockpots and slow cookers are used for steaming. They also usually come with a rack placed in the pot and used to steam tamales. If you don’t have a rack, use a colander instead to get the job done. Just follow the same process as a steamer, and you’ll steam your tamales perfectly. Fill up with water just below the rack and let the water boil before placing the tamales. The rest of the cooking process remains the same. Only the cooking time may differ.

Read more:

Bowl and Chopstick

This one is easy and tricky at the same time. You can place a bowl in the pot and then place chopsticks on the bowl. This arrangement will act as the rack on which the tamales can be placed. The water will be poured into the pot lower than the chopsticks. This can be slightly tricky because the boiling water can displace the bowl, so the bowl has to be strong and heavy to withstand the pressure of boiling water. Also, the chopsticks have to be arranged so that they do not let the tamales fall into the water below.


Preheat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit or 219 degrees Celsius. Pour boiling water into a baking tray and send it to the oven. Use a baking rack on the baking tray to ensure tamales stay well above the water. Wrap each tamale in aluminum foil and then place it in the oven. Let this steam for 1 -2 hours or until the tamales are properly cooked and ready.

While the oven will usually dry out all the food cooked in it, the wrapping foil will ensure the moisture is trapped inside the tamales.

Rice Cooker

A rice cooker may be one of the best options, provided you have one. A rice cooker is traditionally found in only Asian homes. The process is pretty simple. Rice cookers have a pot in which you can boil the water and create steam. Place some rack in the pot and above the water level. Then place the tamales on this rack and let them steam and cook just like the steamer.

Pressure Cooker

The pressure cooker follows the same principle as the others we have seen before. Place a basket or a rack in the cooker to make a physical separation from the water below. Then place the tamales and send them to steam for 1 – 2 hours. Let the temperature setting be high at the beginning to reach the boiling point fast, then reduce it to ensure the tamales cook slowly for the next 60 – 90 minutes.


This can be the easiest and the fastest method, yet the taste will be slightly different as it is not exactly a steaming process. Place the tamales in the microwave dish and heat them for 2 – 4 minutes. If you have more tamales, increase the time setting. You can wrap the tamales in wet towels to get a more steaming effect.

Apart from the above methods, you can also deep or shallow fry or just pan fry the tamales for a different taste. Another method will be to send them to the barbeque oven on a low flame to ensure they cook well, evenly, and thoroughly. This will cause the husks to burn due to the heat, but it won’t damage the tamales until you keep rolling their sides. Alternately, you can also wrap them in aluminum foil.

Steaming frozen tamales

Frozen tamales need more space to cook well, and so they should be placed more liberally than the non-frozen ones. So if you want to re-heat the tamales or cook the raw frozen ones, the method is the same. Just spread them apart well and then send them to any steamer. Re-heating the cooked frozen ones, will take 15 – 20 minutes, and cooking the raw frozen ones will take 2 – 2 ½ hours.

Jillian Noon

Hi, I am Jillian Noon, the owner of this beautiful cooking blog. I create this blog to share my passion for cooking and other kitchen & food tips. I hope you will enjoy it!

Recent Posts