Can You Eat Tamales Cold? Are They Good?

Tamales are an all-time favorite Mexican dish served during social gatherings, holidays, and as comfort food. They are traditionally served hot, but can you eat them cold? And are they any good? It is a …

traditionally prepared tamales wrapped in corn husks

Tamales are an all-time favorite Mexican dish served during social gatherings, holidays, and as comfort food. They are traditionally served hot, but can you eat them cold? And are they any good?

It is a personal preference if you want to eat cold tamales. However, like any other dishes initially served hot,  the flavors of the tamales will be different when eaten cold. The masa or dough will be harder, and the filling will not be as moist. If you plan to eat your leftover tamales, it is best to store them in the refrigerator and reheat them before eating.

Aside from its taste and texture, is there any concern about its safety? Are tamales traditionally eaten cold or is that weird? Read on to learn more.

Can You Eat Cold Tamales?

It’s perfectly fine to eat tamales cold. In fact, some people prefer it that way. However, like any other dish, eating tamales without reheating them can lead to food poisoning.

Bacteria like Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus aureus can grow in food that’s not kept at the right temperature, and these bacteria can cause serious illness (source: Foods Journal).

three tamales on corn husks

To be on the safe side, it is best to store your leftover tamales in the fridge and reheat them before consuming them. Bacteria grow fast between the temperatures of 40°F and 140°F (source: USDA), so it’s essential to keep food out of this “danger zone.”

If you have leftover tamales, ensure they’ve been appropriately refrigerated below 40°F or 4c. Tamales only last in the fridge for 3-4 days. After that, they must be thrown away. Also, food left and not appropriately stored after about two hours at room temperature should be discarded to prevent food poisoning.

If you’re in a pinch and need to eat your tamales cold, there are a few ways you can reheat them. To reheat it, the temperature must be above 165 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid food poisoning.

To make cold, dry tamales a bit more moist, you could also steam them to reheat:

  1. Fill a pot with about an inch of water and bring it to a boil.
  2. Place the tamales in a steamer basket over the boiling water.
  3. Cover the pot and let it steam for about 10 minutes.
  4. Once again, let it cool down for a few minutes before eating.

Done. You can now enjoy your cold tamales worry-free.

Are Tamales Good Cold?

Bear in mind that tamales are made from corn dough (masa), typically steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper and filled with various ingredients like meats, cheeses, vegetables, or beans. Both the texture of the masa and the filling aren’t particularly good cold.

As I mentioned earlier, some people prefer to eat their tamales cold. While nothing is wrong with that, the dish is best enjoyed hot. When tamales are cold, the masa or dough will be harder, and the filling won’t be as moist.

So the answer to the question “Are tamales any good cold or are they better heated?” the answer is that it’s a personal preference. But if you want to enjoy the full tamales experience, it is best to eat them hot. Plus,  it’s also safer to reheat your tamales to avoid food poisoning.

tamales with green sauce and atole drink in a cup

Are Tamales Traditionally Eaten Hot or Cold?

Tamales are traditionally served hot, right out of the steamer. They can be eaten as a snack for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In some cultures, it is customary to eat tamales on special occasions, such as religious holidays, weddings, or funerals. Tamales are also given as gifts during the holiday season.

I’ve only ever come across cold tamales when they’ve been sold or given with the intention of reheating them. Traditionally, I doubt many people would serve them cold with the intention of eating them cold either!

In conclusion, it is best to eat your tamales hot,  but if you can’t reheat them, store them properly and yep – eat them cold if you like!