Update December 22, 2021: This recipe is now available in Web Story format with video instructions! You can view it here.
Cinco de Mayo is coming up – and while I don’t exactly have a vested interest in commemorating the military victories of our neighbors to the south, I will take any excuse to appreciate delicious Mexican food.
I absolutely love tamales, and from the moment I first read about steaming them in a pressure cooker via this epic Mexican feast on hippressurecooking, I’ve been eager to try out a big batch in my Instant Pot.
Basically… excuse to eat Mexican food + excuse to play with Instant Pot = TAMALE PARTY, AMIGOS.
Making tamales is sort of a big production, but I think it’s perfect dinner party material. Last weekend I had a couple of friends over, and we treated it as our activity for the evening. Before they arrived, I soaked the corn husks, prepped some tasty fillings, and set everything up on the table along with some chips + guac and festive drinks. After a quick lesson, everyone gets to have fun folding up little packages of dinner while chatting and snacking.
With Instant Pot (or another pressure cooker) it’s much easier to pull this off, because the cooking process is so much faster and totally hands-off. Cooking my batches took no more than 45 minutes from first button press to full natural release. With a traditional steamer, the masses may start to get restless during the 1.5+ hours the tamales will need to cook. But under pressure, once your batch is folded and loaded into the pot, just pour your guests another cocktail and dinner will be ready before you know it!
For our fillings, I decided to offer both meaty and vegetarian options. The veggie filling was finely diced and sauteed zucchini, onion, and Anaheim pepper, mixed up with crumbled queso fresco (yum!). The meat was Smitten Kitchen’s southwestern pulled brisket, which was amazing, and I made it in Instant Pot, too! Only 70 minutes for perfectly tender brisket versus 8-10 hours in the original slow-cooker recipe!
And if you’re going through the trouble to cook tamales, definitely make a huge batch, because they freeze flawlessly. We sent our friends home with leftovers to enjoy, and we stowed away a big bag in our freezer too.
Don’t miss my next post, in which I share the perfect make-ahead dessert for your tamale party: Horchata Sorbet!!
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Instant Pot Tamales
- dried corn husks soaked in hot water
- masa harina dough use your favorite recipe, purchased dough, or the basic Masa Dough below
- savory fillings of your choice
- 1 cup water
- 6 cups dry masa harina
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup avocado oil or fat of your choice, eg. lard, butter, corn oil
- 3-4 cups chicken broth
Prepare Masa Dough:
- In a large bowl, combine masa harina, baking powder, and salt. Mix well, then mix in your choice of fat. Slowly pour in the broth or water a bit at a time, while stirring – adding just enough to make a soft, pliable dough.
- For each tamale, set a soaked corn husk on a flat surface. Scoop about 1/3 cup of masa dough onto the wider top end of the husk, and spread it into an even layer about 1/2 inch thick, in a rectangular shape tightly bordering the top edge of the husk. Leave at least 1-2 inches of corn husk uncovered on the left and right sides of the dough, and ample space to the bottom of the dough to allow room to fold over the husk to contain the filling.
- Spoon about two tablespoons of your filling onto the masa, arranging it along the center of the dough from the top to bottom of the slab. Pick up one (left or right) edge of the corn husk, and use it to fold one side of the masa dough over to the center of the filling. Set down the first edge of the corn husk and repeat with the other edge; use the husk to firmly fold over the second side of the masa dough, and press down to join a solid layer of dough covering the filling. After the tamale is formed, gently but tightly wrap the left and right edge of the corn husk around the tamale, then fold the bottom of the corn husk up to close the package. Set the tamale seam-side-down while continuing to fold the rest.
Pressure Cook Tamales:
- Pour 1 cup water into Instant Pot and place the trivet rack. Arrange the tamales, open-side-up, vertically in the pressure cooker. Lean them against the sides of the pot and prop them up against each other to maximize your capacity, but leave a small amount of empty space to allow enough airflow for the pot to properly pressurize and the tamales to cook evenly.
- Close the lid and set the valve to sealing position. Press “Steam” and adjust the time to 25 minutes. Let the tamales come to pressure and cook. When the timer rings after cooking, wait for the pressure indicator to release naturally for at least 10 minutes before opening the lid and serving.
80 thoughts on “[Instant Pot] Tamale Party!”
Whoops! Sorry about that.
Your instant pot steaming directions worked perfectly!! We have tamales for New Years Eve!!!
Can I use my grand mothers recipe and use this steam time or will it change according to the masa type and size of tamales
Tamale size is what really counts – if you prefer yours larger or smaller than these, I would adjust the time up or down by a few minutes to match.
Thank you Mary I’m new to the instant pot I’ve tried several recipes already and I have come out terrific I am Hispanic and I do wanna try this in an instant pot is there any tips you can give me and I look forward to any other tips you can help me with I will leave my name and email address and thank you
Hi Edward, I’m glad you’re interested and hope you’re having fun with your new Instant Pot! My main advice to new users is that it can take just a little bit of learning curve to get used to the cooking times. Sometimes when I follow recipes I find online, my experience doesn’t always match up with other cooks’ reports, so don’t get discouraged if that happens from time to time. If you’re unsure, start low and you can always add more time if you need to!
Rose, Mary is not entirely incorrect. In the USA, we (although technically incorrect) celebrate May 5 as Mexican Independence Day. – Probably because “Cinco de May” is easier than “Diez y seis de Septiembre” LOL!
September 16, 1810 is considered the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. Since October 1825, the anniversary of the event is celebrated as Mexican Independence Day.
However, 5 de May is the date observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. So, technically there are two.
Yeah but the fifth isn’t celebrated my Mexicans. That’s the point she was tryna get across
Wrong. I know Hispanics that celebrate both!
Hey. It doesn’t matter what days we all celebrate. What is important is why we are all celebrating. Having fun, cooking our favorite dishes for family and friends. Enjoying the moments we will cherish for years to come. Eat,drink and be merry !!!!😋🎉✌️
They do have good specials for Margarita’s on that date👍👍👍😉
Who cares. Use the recipe or don’t…
Americans celebrate…5th of may…because…barachos…like the weather at that time…salud…bbq and beautifu women
Si mi Amiga’…..when it was said Adios to the last foreign occupier of Mexico. The French. Forced into a departure treaty by Mexican forces.
Also, this battle was of major importance to the U.S. Many historians believe that if the French had won at Puebla, they would have used it as a stepping stone to enter the U.S. and provide troops and supplies to the South during the Civil War, at a time when the South was beginning to lose their strength. The French had supported the South ideaologies from the beginning of the war.
Did you use the low pressure or high pressure setting on instant pot?
What size instant pot did you use and how many tamales did you cook at one time?
I have a 6-quart model – I wish I remembered to write down how many I cooked at once, but I think it was ~15.
Hi. I have an 8qt and was able to cook 3dz sweet tamales (no filling). First time cooking with this and making the tamales.. LOVE IT!! 24min
Do u have a good recipe for sweet tamales? Thanks in advance
I have never made sweet tamales! But I remember seeing this Rick Bayless recipe for guava & cream cheese tamales that would be the first one I would try 🙂 https://www.rickbayless.com/recipe/sweet-guava-cream-cheese-tamales/
Can I cook frozen tamales in the insta pot too? How long should I cook for?
Yes in a ziploc doesn’t dry them out it’s steaming
In the oven with the husk on at 350 for 10 min or in microwave for 1 to 2 min
What is the best way to reheat leftover tamales that have been frozen? Can that be done in an instant pot?
Maybe, but I haven’t tried it myself. I usually just reheat frozen ones in a microwave.
Ooh Mary you shouldn’t. You should take the time to rehear correctly!! Microwave fries them out and you always want them to be moist.
Sorry Mary microwave dries them out.
Interesting, I haven’t noticed that problem, but it sounds like a good point.. I bet a damp cloth/papertowel could help too.
Yes. I wrap them in a wet paper towel when I rehear frozen tamales in the microwave
Steaming to reheat makes them like fresh made. Some people like to reheat on the griddle so they are crispy outside.
I reheat mine in the microwave as well. I put them in a plastic bag with a little water, twist the top but don’t tie it, and microwave for a few minutes. The water in the plastic bag steams them and prevents them from drying out.
Hello, I tried steaming in the IP and it was a fail. The masa came out watery post 25min added 10min with same result on high pressure. I’m not sure where I went wrong, the only thing I can think of is I quick released instead of natural release?? I’m afraid to try again so much hard work lost!
Always such a bummer to get poor results on such a time-consuming dish! Did you use purchased masa dough, or mix up your own? Do you think the dough had too much liquid to begin with?
Thank you for your reply! masa was homemade and not too moist actually after all the time in the IP it actually became more watery. Do you usually leave room in the IP? I packed mine with tamales didnt double layer but completely filled and not sure if that’s what contributed.
That sounds like it could be part of the problem – just like in a conventional steamer, the bit of space around the food leaves room for the hot steam to circulate and cook evenly. You can load a lot of tamales propped up vertically, but pack loosely enough to allow air flow.
You pulled them out to soon, I did same thing first time. You have to let them settle and cool slowly. You did nothing wrong except, leave it alone.
Best advice grams ever gave me.
Leave it alone and give it time to do is thing.. no peeking or bothering it!
I just tried this method, I have a 3qt and it worked PERFECTLY. Thank you for this post, it’s the reason I bought the IP so it would make the
Hi ! You say cook times : 45 min but I read your instructions, and it states 20 min?
(press “Manual” and adjust the time to 20 minutes. Let the tamales come to pressure and cook. )
Is it 20 min or 45 min?
45 minutes is including the time it took for my Pot to reach pressure. Select 20 minutes of cooking time (and don’t forget to let pressure release naturally instead of opening the valve early!)
Do I add water when pressure cooking the tamales
Yes you do! 1 cup.
Yes Amiga, always use at least one cup of water or the pot will not pressurize. Enjoy!
We have a six quart instant pot. Put a cup and a half of water in it. The water was all gone at the release, and the bottom of the instant pot was scorched. Did 20 min manual. Any ideas what went wrong?
I have to admit, this one is baffling to me! I have steamed things with 1 cup of water for much longer and never had problems – I would think, under pressure, there’s nowhere for the water to go… anybody else have any ideas??
Edit: PS: Could the valve have been partly open?
Had the valve open during cooking and all liquid evaporated out the top instead of recirculating in pot!
Oh no, that’s not good! I’ve never had the valve open up on me during cooking… Was it fully closed at the beginning?
This happened to me the two times I’ve made them. After reading I think I packed too many tamales in the pot.
My Sister my Mom and I all made tamales yesterday. We used 4 different (sizes and brands) instant pot pressure cookers. At first things weren’t coming out right. VERY FRUSTRATING!!!!! BUT… after toying around with modes and times we found that it was better to set each machine on steam for 20 to 45 minutes (depending on machine size and how many tamales are in the pot) Let it pressure release on it’s own. Then open and let cool until they are a bit stiffened. We ended up with about 200 tamales that are very yummy!!!
Hi Mary I want to know if you can steam tamales that you get from a tamale store. They have been steamed so you wouldn’t cook them again. Could you steam them again.
Not a cook
Hi Gina, sorry for my late reply – I believe you can give them a light steam to reheat, but I have not used IP for that. I am not sure how long it would take to heat through. I usually pop my leftovers in the microwave 🙂
Tried cooking tamales twice in instant pot. It does not work. 60 minutes first time and over 90 the second time I made them. Save yourself the frustration and do it the old fashion way.
Sorry to hear you had so much trouble – what was it that didn’t work? The masa didn’t cook through? Do you think the pot could have been packed too tightly?
I had 12 the first time and 10 the second. The masa didn’t cook through. I had a foil ball in the center to keep them upright and at least a finger width of space between each tamale. Wondering if masa was old?? I may try again, but for now threw the rest away out of frustration. Lol
I don’t blame you! So frustrating to lose all that work. I wish I knew what went wrong, it sounds like your method was solid 🤷
The ratio of corn masa flour, fat or lard, and water is critical. According to my grandma (c. 1959-1960), the water and fat content in the tamale masa must be balanced. Too little water or fat in the final masa mix and the masa will absorb the needed water to cook properly from the surrounding steam “bath.” As she said, that is why boiling hot water was added when being steamed the old fashioned way when the pot “ran”dry.
Not authentic but definitely healthy 🙂
I had the same issue as others – tried to do this twice, both times it took over 60 minutes before the tamales were even close to being done. I’ve come to the conclusion that as far as tamales are concerned, the old fashioned way is the best way. 🙂
How much water do you add? I read 1 cup
I steamed mine in IP for 20 minutes after pressure came up.. they came out perfect.. Maybe to long??
Sue, were you reheating tamales? If so, you actually used the “Steam” function rather than pressure, is that correct? I was planning on reheating using the Steam function for about 25 minutes. Thanks!
Mine turned out perfect, 2 cups of water though and 20min at high pressure. PLEASE LET YOUR TAMALES Rest after they cook, they take 20 mins out of the instant Pot to firm up, cooking them longer will not firm them up but only make them runny.
Good tip.. They do need to firm up. Steam 20 minutes, 10 minutes natural release then I place on a cookie sheet for about 20 min… then hide them quickly before my husband devours them!
Heather D. Thank you for your final tip. Mine are cooking at this very moment and reading these fails is like having a bad dream just hoping I wake up. I already plan on bragging If i am successful at this tonight .. but even more importantly I just want to indulge in my hard work.. yum.. wish me luck every one. Fingers crossed.
Making them right now! I made them for Cinco de Mayo in the IP and they were perfect. Let’s see how these do!
Just got the IP this Christmas (2018) I don’t understand the Pot’s instructions. But I’m doing Tamales as my first cook in IP. ..1. I thought if I choose “steam,” I’d be cooking them the same ol way just wouldnt have to worry about running out of water. 2..not so, so now i see that it’s “on” & “normal”, I guess its building pressure. Sweet Jesus, I’m seeing this through.
Wow! So many know it alls on this thread. Jeezzzz chill people. Mary amazing recipe!!! I am new to tamales but best masa recipe I have found so far. Thank you! Thank you! All positive vibes girl!
We freeze our tamales after rolling them. How long should they cook when frozen?
This is normally a very time consuming meal. We put it in for the allotted time, then 20 minutes on steam, then 20 minutes more on high heat. Gave up, left them in the pot on warm from 12:30-5:30a.m., woke up and they were ready. The pot eventually went off, but they are finally finished.
I to had the problem of the ip saying burn on the screen after I placed 1cup of water an 12 tamales in ip not sure what went wrong so annoying ugh
Love this recipe, have used it several times with great results. I have a 6qt toastmaster cooker and usually put 8-10 tamales in at a time. On full pressure, steam setting, for 20 minutes. I have made chicken, pork and beef. Labor intensive but SO worth it!
I’m new to making tamales. But I have some questions. If I buy “masa preparada” at my local Mexican market, do I have to add anything else to that masa or is it “ready” to make tamales?
If your market has prepared dough like that, you are good to go! It will already have the water and fat in the dough. Lucky you ☺️
When steaming in an old Steamer Pot, a coin was placed in the bottom of the pot.
It the coin started making noise – the Water evaporated and the pot was Dry !
ok to add a coin or a light-weight metal baking ring under the Instapot steamer ?
Great trick for a stovetop steamer! With Instant Pot, you don’t have to worry about all of your water boiling off because it is sealed up under pressure!!