Why Are My Tamales Dry? Quick Cooking Tips for You

Tamales are the famous food used in the culinary world, especially for Mesoamerican cuisine. With the thick, chewy texture and starchy taste from corn husks, tamales are widely preferred in many recipes worldwide.

However, cooking sweet tamales is challenging because this corn husks-based food is super sensitive to temperature change. Many factors that make tamales worse, such as heat, water, garnish foods, etc., can all deteriorate tamales.

Based on our experience, the most common problem while cooking tamales is the food turns dry.

Hence, in this post, let’s dive deep into some reasons for your question, “Why are my tamales dry?” and later learn some techniques to fix the crumbly tamales.

Why Are My Tamales Dry?

Why Are My Tamales Dry

Pour Too Much Water To The Pot

One of the biggest mistakes in cooking tamales is that people steam the tamales with too much water. They usually think that the more water, the more environment for the tamales to boil. However, this is an extremely severe misperception.

Why? When you start boiling the water, the uncooked tamales will fall to the bottom of the pot. Then, when it comes to a boil, the water will evaporate, accidentally draining the lard.

However, the lard is the moist and fat supplement to the tamales, so if the lard is drained, the sweet tamales are also influenced. Tamales can be crumbly and dry.

As a result, we suggest you use enough water to steam. According to our experience, only an inch and a half is fine.

Not Cool Down The Stocks Before Cooking With Tamales

Another point about boiling the stocks that we want to remind you: it is necessary to cool down the stocks before cooking. In other words, you should use cool water for the boiling process.

Why should we use cold water instead of warm water? There are two reasons for that. First, if you put the stocks into hot water, the heat will make the meat suddenly burn at the exterior, but not the inside. Hence, there will be a strong stinky smell from the stocks.

Second, if the stocks meet a sudden temperature rise, its structure will be broken, and either the fat components.

Given these facts, you should put the stocks into cold water or “cool down the stocks” to avoid breaking the stocks’ fat composition. By retaining these fats, the tamales dish will be fatty, juicy, and sweet as expected.

Not Mix Enough Stocks

Stocks are super essential to make a good sweet tamales dish, which partially explains why most expert chefs advise to boil the tamales in stocks.

Originally, the typical tamales dough contained masa, stock, lard, oil, and spices. The stock is considered as top important because the stock is the fat supplement to tamales dough.

To be specific, stocks are made from animal meat, so the amount of fat contained in the stocks is extremely significant.

When boiling tamales, the fat in stocks will slowly meltdown, gluing all dough ingredients like masa, spice, vegetable, and lard altogether. If the tamales dough doesn’t have enough stocks, then that tamales lack glue, a “bonding” supplement.

Lack Of Masa

Masa is essential to sweet tamales recipes. In other words, masa dough and tamales are an indispensable duo in cooking.

To be specific, the masa is a special ingredient that could “suck” fat and water. Hence, when cooking masa dough with tamales, the mixture is juicy, fatty, and sweet. While the tamales are starchy and chewy, the masa is fatty. Such a combination makes a great soup flavor.

Thus, if you don’t cook tamales with masa dough, the dish is quite sandy and dry because it lacks the fatty and corn-husks-alike sweet taste.

How Do You Fix Dried Tamales?

Reheat In An Oven

The first technique to fix the food is to reheat tamales in an oven. This method is quite similar to steaming because the mechanism behind it is quite the same.

Here is how to reheat: first, turn on the oven and preheat it to exactly 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat each tamale with aluminum foil to ensure that the homemade tamales are airtight.

When the oven reaches the desired temperature, put the aluminum-foil-covered tamales in the oven to reheat. Wait for 20 minutes, then take out the food. Flip the tamales over and put them into the oven again for 10 minutes more in medium heat.

Reheat In An Instant Pot

Another method to reheat tamales is to use the instant pot. The instant pot, or pressure cooker, is a good equipment to reheat the tamales because it can quickly reach the boiling temperature, not dehydrate the food.

Like the above method, you have to pour warm water into the pot, put the default filter to cover the water and start warming up the instant pot first. When the cooker is heated too high, add tamales to the filter, and close the pot’s lid.

Consequently, let the instant pot sit out for 10 minutes, and the tamales are ready to serve.

We have some tips on reheating the food in a pressure cooker for you. First, please put the tamales spaced apart, so each tamale has enough space to warm up thoroughly. Second, the tamales can sit out for up to 30 minutes after steaming.

Reheat In A Microwave

If you are looking at a reheating technique with less preparation, reheating in a microwave may be suitable. Compared to other methods, this is the easiest and the most convenient, affordable, and way to reheat the tamales. You can use a microwave to warm up and cook anything.

Here is how to reheat the tamales in the microwave:

The first stage is to choose a microwave-safe bowl to place the food. This step is also important because some kinds of plates will immediately explode when being in the microwave. So, please be careful.

Consequently, wrap the crumbly tamales with a big, wet paper towel. Just imagine, when putting the damp towel in a hot environment, there will be steam emitted from it. Hence, if covering the tamales with that towel, you can push the food into the steaming mode.

After wrapping the tamales and putting them into the microwave, turn on the machine and set the time to one minute. Then, please take out the tamales and flip them. Repeat the above process to warm up the tamales thoroughly.


Below are some discussions regarding the question of “Why are my tamales dry?”. There are external factors and also internal causes that make the corn-husks-originated food turn crumbly.

Hence, please consider these discoveries when cooking to prevent the dry tamales recipes later.

We have also provided you with three techniques to fix the dried tamales, and most of them are quite simple so that everybody can follow them. It’s our pleasure if you can apply our tips and guidelines to your cooking journey.

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