Instant Pot Tamale Recipe

Homemade instant pot tamales are spicy and full of flavor, and they have a great texture. Sometimes our family gets together with the sole purpose of making dozens of instant pot tamales.

Have you ever eaten homemade instant pot tamales? If not, you need to get after it immediately! If you have, then you need to get after it again immediately! There’s no substitute for real, homemade (in your own kitchen) instant pot tamales!

Can You Cook Tamales in the Instant Pot?

Making tamales in the instant pot is the easiest, least time-consuming way to cook tamales. It takes about 1-1/2 hours cooking time with the instant pot, but takes about 4 hours (and sometimes longer) on the stovetop and in the oven.

How to Use Instant Pot for Tamales?

When preparing the tamales to place into the instant pot, make sure that the tamales don’t extend above the top of the steamer basket or inner pot that fits inside your instant pot. If necessary, trim the open end of the tamales. Once you have placed the assembled tamales in the steamer basket, add about 2 cups of water and lock the instant pot lid in place. Cook for 25 minutes on high pressure, then turn the pot off and let the steam escape naturally for about 15 minutes. Quick release the remaining pressure and open the instant pot. Your tamales should be firm, and when you open the corn husk pouch it should pull away from the cooked masa.

What do You Need to Make Instant Pot Tamales?

Here’s a list of the ingredients and other items you will need to make these delicious homemade instant pot pork tamales:

The Evening Before the Day Before

I like to marinate the pork loin overnight before cooking it. You can skip this step if you want, but I think it makes a difference in the flavor of the meat you will use for filling the tamales. So, I mix up some spices and vinegar or citrus, and a little beef or chicken broth, put it in a zip lock bag and let it soak in the fridge overnight.

The Day Before

This is the day I cook the pork loin. You can cook it in the instant pot, or you can bake it in the oven. Baking in the oven takes a couple of hours, or in the instant pot it will take about 40 minutes. Once the loin is thoroughly cooked through, I put it back in the fridge. I prefer to work with cooled meat for shredding. And I reserve the juices from the pork loin to use in the meat filling and the masa the next day.

Instructions for the Day Of Making Delicious Homemade Tamales

This is not the recipe, but if you want to jump on down to the bottom of this post, that’s where you’ll find it. Here are the basic steps to follow to put together and finish your delicious homemade tamales.

  1. Put your corn husks in a large bowl or pot, cover them with warm water, and set aside.
  2. Remove the pork loin from the fridge and shred it.
  3. Saute onion over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the shredded pork loin, and season. Add a bit of the meat juices (from the cooked pork loin) to keep the meat mixture moist.
  4. Blend the masa harina with the remaining meat juices, spices, and broth as described in the recipe.
  5. Take a few of the corn husks from the water and stand them on end in a dry bowl, so they will drain.
  6. Cut around the edges of a quart-sized baggie, so that you end up with two pieces of plastic.
  7. Lay a corn husk on a cutting board or paper plate.
  8. Put about 1/4 cup of masa mixture on the corn husk, then cover it with a piece of the plastic baggie. Using your hand, spread the masa mixture to within about 1/2 inch of the sides and top of the corn husk. Leave about 1.5 inches of the narrow end of the corn husk clear of the masa mixture. Remove the plastic.
  9. Spoon a heaping tablespoon or two of the meat mixture on top of the masa mixture.
  10. Bring up the sides of the corn husk and overlap one side. Fold the bottom of the corn husk toward the top.
  11. Place the assembled tamale in the inner pot of your instant pot (or pressure cooker).
  12. Continue to assemble tamales and place each one in the instant pot until the pot is full. My instant pot holds about 4 dozen tamales. Cook for about 25 minutes.

If you still have some of the meat mixture leftover, you can make more masa and continue to assemble and cook until all the meat is gone.

How Many Tamales Fit in an Instant Pot?

About 4 dozen tamales will fit in an instant pot. But, that can vary depending on how big your instant pot is and how big your tamales are.

Can You Cook Tamales Without a Steamer?

It is possible to cook tamales without a steamer. Using a large pot (maybe a Dutch oven), put a layer about an inch thick of the corn husks in the bottom of the pot. Put enough water in the pot to almost (but not quite) cover the corn husks. Stand the tamales in the pot with the open ends up. Put a lid on the pot, and simmer for about 2 hours, replenishing the water as necessary to keep the corn husks from scorching.

Should I Cover Tamales When You Steam Them?

Yes, you should put a lid on the pot while steaming tamales. This will hold the heat in the pot, and you will be able to simmer over lower heat. This will help to prevent scorching the contents of the pot. It will also keep the moisture inside the pot, and you will not have to replenish the water as often.

Why Use Lard in Tamales?

Some cooks prefer to use lard in tamales. They will tell you that lard imparts a special taste to the tamales. The lard really helps the masa stay together. Although the same result can be achieved by using butter or dairy free margarine or vegetable oil. I’ve made tamales with dairy free margarine and vegetable oil, and both make great tasting tamales.

How Long Does It Take to Steam Tamales in a Pressure Cooker?

In a pressure cooker (also known as an instant pot), it takes about 25 minutes to steam the tamales. After you pressure cook the tamales, turn the pot off and let it reduce the pressure naturally for about 10 minutes, then go ahead and quick release the remaining pressure and release the seal. The 25 minute cooking time could take longer if your masa dough has too much moisture in it.

How Can I make My Tamales Firmer?

Cooking them a little longer should make your tamales firmer. The next time you make the masa dough, you can try putting a little less liquid in it, too. The masa dough should be the consistency of creamy peanut butter, and it should be a little sticky.

How Long do Tamales Take to Set?

Tamales don’t set in a specific amount of time. It is a matter of temperature and moisture content. After the tamales have cooled, then are placed in the refrigerator, they will set.

What do You do with All Those Leftover Tamales?

Tamales keep well in the freezer. How long will they keep? Well, we may never know the answer to that question, because they disappear so quickly.

Let the tamales cool until you can handle them without burning your hands. The put them in zip lock freezer bags. I usually put about 6 per bag, because that’s how many my family will eat at one meal. But, you don’t have to put 6 per bag. After they are frozen, you can bang them on your kitchen counter, and they will break away from one another and you can warm up however many you like.

Can You Heat Tamales in the Instant Pot?

Yes, you can heat tamales in the instant pot. Just put them in the steamer basket, and set the instant pot to “keep warm”. The instant pot will slowly warm your tamales. This will work best if the tamales are not frozen.

What Should I Serve with My Instant Pot Tamales?

Some garnishes for your instant pot tamales include:

  • Your Favorite Salsa or Hot Sauce
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • Nerdy Mamma’s Texas Chili con Carne
  • Chili Sauce
  • Sour Cream
  • Salsa Verde
  • Pico de Gallo

Some side dishes that go well with your delicious instant pot tamales include:

  • Refried Beans
  • Spanish Rice
  • Lettuce and Tomato Salad
  • Avocado
  • Nerdymamma’s Easy Guacamole Dip

Instant Pot Tamales

Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 3 hours
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 24
Author Darlene Hattox

Ingredients

Pork Filling

  • 1 Pork Loin Roast, appx. 5 pounds
  • 2 tsp Chili Powder
  • 2 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Celery Seed, ground Celery Seed doesn't release its flavor until it is broken, so grind your celery seed in a coffee or spice grinder.
  • 1 Onion, medium size, chopped
  • 1 cup Broth (Beef, Chicken, or Vegetable)
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Lemon (or other Citrus Fruit, or 2 tsp White Vinegar)
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper, chopped (optional)

Masa Dough

  • 4 cups Masa Harina
  • 3 cups Broth (Beef, Chicken, or Vegetable) and leftover marinade Pour leftover marinade into measuring cup and add broth to make 3 cups liquid.
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 1/3 cups Dairy Free Margarine (Lard or Butter will also work)
  • 1 pound Corn Husks

Instructions

Pork Tamale Filling

  1. Mix together half of the Chili Powder, Cumin, Garlic Powder, Cinnamon, Celery Seed, Salt, and Pepper.

  2. Add Broth (Beef, Chicken, or Vegetable) and vinegar (or citrus juice) and stir to combine.

  3. Place the Pork Loin into a large zip lock bag and pour the broth mixture over it. Seal the bag, making sure to remove all the air from inside the bag. Place the bag into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Overnight would be preferable.

  4. Remove the Pork Loin from the plastic bag and place the pork in your instant pot. Pour the marinade into the instant pot, as well.

  5. Cook on high pressure for 40 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for about 15 minutes. If you quick release the pressure immediately after the cooking time, the meat may be tough.

  6. Remove the Pork Loin from the instant pot and place on a platter to cool. Refrigerate overnight, or at least let it cool to the point where it is not too hot to handle.

  7. Place a large skillet over medium heat with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Chop the Onion, and place it in the heated skillet. Stir occasionally and cook until the onion is tender.

  8. Shred the Pork Loin by pulling the meat apart with a couple of forks, and add it to the skillet with the onion.

  9. Add about 1/4 cup of the marinade.

  10. Stir in the remaining half of the Chili Powder, Cumin, Garlic Powder, Cinnamon, Celery Seed, Salt, and Pepper.

  11. If you want to make your tamales spicy, add cayenne and/or chopped jalapeno pepper to taste.

  12. Set aside the meat mixture.

Masa Dough

  1. Put the corn husks in a large pot and cover with warm water, set aside.

  2. Place the butter (or lard or margarine) in a large bowl and beat until creamy. Add 2 tablespoons of the leftover marinade and broth mixture, and beat until combined and fluffy.

  3. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.

  4. Gradually stir the dry mixture into the butter mixture.

  5. Gradually add the broth/marinade mixture to the dry mixture, stirring to make a soft dough. The dough should have the consistency of creamy peanut butter. It may not take all of the broth/marinade to get to this consistency.

  6. Use a mixer to beat on high speed for about 3 minutes. The dough should be a little bit sticky.

Assemble Your Instant Pot Tamales

  1. Remove the corn husks from the water, and stand them up in a bowl so the water will drain off them.

  2. Cut around the edges of a quart size baggie, so you end up with two pieces of plastic.

  3. Place one corn husk on a cutting board or flat plate.

  4. Put about 1/4 cup of masa dough on top of the corn husk.

  5. Cover the masa dough with one of the pieces of plastic, then use the side of your hand to spread the masa dough to within about 1/2 inch of the top (wide end) and sides of the corn husk, and about 2 inches from the bottom (narrow end) of the corn husk.

  6. Gently remove the plastic from the masa dough. If the masa is sticking to the plastic, you can dampen the plastic before making the next tamale.

  7. Put a couple teaspoons of the meat mixture in the center of the masa dough. Spread the meat mixture lengthwise in the center of the masa dough.

  8. Fold the left and right sides of the corn husk together, letting one side overlap the other.

  9. Fold the narrow end up toward the top of the corn husk.

  10. Put the completed tamale into the instant pot, open end up. Make sure that the corn husk does not extend past the top of the instant pot. If it is too long, trim the open end to fit.

  11. When your instant pot is full of tamales, add about 1 cup of water to the pot. Cover and lock the lid.

  12. Set the instant pot to high pressure (or manual) for 25 minutes. When the cooking time is complete, turn the instant pot off. Let the pressure release naturally for about ten minutes. Then you can quick release any remaining pressure.

  13. Your instant pot tamales are done if you attempt to remove the corn husk, and it pulls away easily, and the masa dough doesn't stick. If the masa dough sticks to the corn husk, try cooking the tamales for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

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