The Best Way to Cook Tamales in a Roaster Oven

Tamales are a fun, festive meal for the holidays or any time of year.
Image Credit: Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/iStock/GettyImages

Tamales are a traditional holiday favorite for many families, but they also make a satisfying meal anytime of the year. Commercial tamales are pre-cooked and only require reheating.


An electric roaster works well for this task, especially if you're hosting a large group. If you're making tamales by hand, however, steam them to ensure that the dough cooks evenly without drying out.

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Things You'll Need

  • Tamales

  • Electric roaster

  • Roaster oven rack

  • Beef or chicken broth

  • Tongs


  1. Fill the electric roaster with about 3 cups of water or broth, or enough to cover the bottom of the roaster with 1 inch of liquid.
    • Tamales are traditionally steamed. Putting some water in the roaster keeps them moist and prevents burning.
  2. Place the rack in the bottom of the roaster.
    • The rack holds the tamales out of the liquid, creating a steam effect. Tamales that sit directly in the liquid become soggy and may fall apart.
  3. Lay the tamales on the rack horizontally. If necessary, stack the tamales on top of each other for a large group.
    • An electric roaster can cook 30 to 50 tamales at a time, depending on the model and size.
  4. Set the roaster at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, but watch it closely.
    • Add more broth if the liquid runs dry and turn the roaster down if the tamales get too hot.
  5. When the tamales are warm enough, turn the roaster to 200 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them warm.
  6. Serve tamales with salsa, cheese, sour cream, olives, tomatoes or green chili, depending on your preference.


Although tamales are traditionally placed in a pot of boiling water during cooking, they're packed tightly and cooked quickly so the dough doesn't become mushy. A slow cooker heats tamales by using the same technique.

In an electric roaster, they may cook for a longer period of time, under less controlled circumstances. Don't allow them to sit in water or they'll become soft.


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