How to Cook Tamales Without a Vegetable Steamer

Homemade tamales are a delicious meal you can sit down with or take on the go.
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Tamales contain meat, vegetables and seasonings tucked inside a tender dough wrapped in a corn husk and tied closed. The corn husk protects the tamale during steaming, while also providing its own serving container.


Steaming tamales, as opposed to baking them, keeps the dough soft and tender. You can steam tamales in a regular pot with modifications if you don't have a vegetable steamer.

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Things You'll Need

  • Tamales

  • Pot with lid

  • Metal rack

  • Metal bowl

  • Tongs

  • Cooling rack


  1. Set a round metal rack inside a large pot.
  2. Add at least 2 inches of water to the pot so the water sits just beneath the top of the rack.
  3. Place a metal heat-safe bowl inside the pot upside down, resting it on top of the rack.
    • Use a bowl with a diameter smaller than the pot to ensure there are 1 to 2 inches of space between the rim of the bowl and the sides of the pot.
  4. Stand the tamales on end inside the pot, resting them between the bowl and pot. Place the tamales next to each other but do not overlap them. The bowl holds the tamales upright.
  5. Place the lid on the pot.
  6. Heat it over medium heat until the water begins to simmer.
  7. Steam the tamales for one hour, checking the water level every 15 minutes or so.
    • Add more water as necessary so the pot doesn't boil dry.
  8. Remove the tamales from the pot with a pair of tongs.
  9. Cool them on a rack for 15 minutes or until they cool enough to handle and unwrap safely.


Cook multiple layers of tamales in a single, deep pot. Stack each row of tamales on top of the one below, keeping them upright against the side of the bowl.



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