How To Fix Mushy Tamales

Tamales are a delicious dish enjoyed by nearly everyone. They are made with a filling, wrapped with some type of corn-based dough, and steamed to perfection so that they are moist and tasty. But what if your tamales come out mushy or soggy? After all, there is such a thing as tamales being too moist.

To fix mushy tamales, you must first determine the cause of the problem, which in most cases is the wrapping not being tight enough before steaming the tamales, too much filling, or not cooking the tamales long enough. Once you’ve determined the cause, you can make the necessary adjustments and then steam the tamales for a bit longer until you get the right texture.

The Main Causes of Soggy or Mushy Tamales

Chef making tamales after learning how to fix mushy tamales
You have to wrap your tamales just right to make sure they cook properly.

While authentic tamales are meant to be moist and fairly soft on the outside, they are not meant to be too soft or soggy. The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you’ve wrapped the tamales tight enough before you steam them. The masa dough used to make the tamale shell will absorb too much of the steam if the tamales aren’t wrapped well enough. This allows the steam to get underneath the wrapping and into the filling, causing too much moisture in the wrapping. This is what makes the tamales soggy.

The same happens when you put too much filling in the tamales before wrapping them. With too much filling on the inside, the wrap will never be tight enough, and it will cause the steam to get inside the tamale, causing sogginess.

Finally, paying attention to the cooking time listed in the instructions is also very important because taking the tamales out of the steamer too soon can result in mushy or soggy tamales.

How Do I Fix My Mushy Tamales?

We’ve determined that wrapping your tamales properly, not over-filling the tamales, and steaming them for the right amount of time can help prevent mushy tamales, but let’s take a look at a few other things to keep in mind when making homemade tamales.

Cook making tamales after learning how to fix mushy tamales
Careful not to overstuff that tamale, or it might turn out mushy!

First of all, tamales are made with a wrapping made out of a corn-based mix, and a dough called masa harina dough. Make sure you use dried masa harina and not cornmeal. If you use corn husks for the wrap, you have to first hydrate them by soaking them in water for roughly two hours.

Why should you do this? Because the soaking in water allows the husks to stretch out so that they don’t crack while you’re wrapping your tamales. Always pat them dry with a paper towel after removing them from the water so they aren’t too moist. Then add just the right amount of tamale filling before wrapping the tamales. If you see any filling coming out of the husk, you’ve put too much in there.

When you re-steam the tamales, which normally takes around 15 minutes, remove them from the steamer and check them. If they appear soggy or mushy, place them back in the steamer and cook them for a few additional minutes, then check them again. Check to make sure filling isn’t coming out of the tamales, and make sure the wrap isn’t too loose. Make adjustments if you can, and keep re-steaming the tamales a few minutes at a time until their texture is just right.

Should You Give Up at Some Point?

Normally, you can remove some of the sogginess and moisture from the tamales. The methods mentioned above usually work. It’s pretty rare to get to the point where repairing the tamales isn’t possible, so don’t sweat it too much.

Don’t have corn husks for your tamales? See our post about the best substitutes for corn husks when making tamales.