Do they still make canned tamales? Absolutely! Whether you prefer Hormel tamales in a can or another brand, this classic comfort food is fast and easy to make! Get tips on finding the best brand of can tamales, Hormel tamales recipes, nutrition information, and more. It’s true (IMVHO) that homemade Mexican tamales are the most delicious. However, Hormel canned tamales can satisfy a simple craving without spending hours in the kitchen!
For today’s post I’m doing a canned tamales review. For those unfamiliar with Mexican cuisine, tamales are a mixture of masa (ground nixtamalized corn) and lard. This masa dough is then wrapped in a dried corn husk or banana leaf before being steamed until firm.
Tamales can have a savory or sweet filling. We’ll cover details on tamale fillings below. If you’re buying canned tamales, the most typical fillings are beef, chicken, or canned hot tamales (spicy beef).
Tamales are not typically vegan due to the lard or meaty fillings used. Tamales are also not a keto low carb-friendly food, since they are made with corn. Most of the special diet folks will need to sit this one out.
Canned tamales are different than authentic tamales from scratch for several reasons. For example, Hormel beef tamales are wrapped individually in waxy paper instead of a corn husk. This product comes precooked in the can, swimming in a mild chili sauce.
Tamales in a can tend to be smaller than from scratch tamales, and you get fewer of them. You only get 6 small Hormel tamales per can.
You can fry, bake, microwave, air fry, or cook canned tamales on the stovetop. I’ve got the cooking directions for Hormel can tamales for you below, in case your packaging was damaged.
- 🤔 Canned Tamales Brands
- 😋 Best Canned Tamales
- 🥘 Hormel Tamales Ingredients
- 🔥 Canned Tamales Recipe (Skillet)
- ⏲ How to Make Beef Tamales in Oven
- 🔪 How to Cook Can Tamales in Microwave
- 🌶️ What can tamales be filled with?
- ❓️ How do you eat canned tamales?
- 🌡️ How long do canned tamales last?
- 📋 Canned Tamales Nutrition
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- 👨🏾🍳 Other Recipes Using Canned Foods
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
🤔 Canned Tamales Brands
Despite certain rumors online, Hormel tamales have not been discontinued. Here are some popular brands of canned tamales in the U.S.:
- Hormel Beef Tamales
- Hormel Chicken Tamales
- La Preferida Canned Tamales (Beef & Pork)
- Hormel Hot Tamales (Spicy Beef)
- Nalley Beef Tamales
As far as I’m aware, those are the main brands. I haven’t found Old El Paso Canned Tamales or Chef Boyardee tamales, for instance. Frozen tamales from El Monterey may also be available, and some say they taste even better than their canned counterparts.
😋 Best Canned Tamales
In the opinion of this dietitian, the best canned tamales are the ones you enjoy. These should be thought of as a treat, not a dietary mainstay. If you like canned tamales and have no medical contraindications, pick the one that reminds you of childhood or otherwise makes you happy.
🥘 Hormel Tamales Ingredients
What is in canned tamales? Here is the ingredients list for Hormel beef tamales in a can:
- Corn meal
- Corn flour
- 2% or less of: modified cornstarch (contains erythorbic acid), masa flour, salt, chili powder, paprika, spice
And here are the ingredients list for Hormel chicken tamales in a can:
- Mechanically separated chicken
- Corn meal
- Corn flour
- Modified cornstarch (contains erythorbic acid)
- 2% or less of: chili powder, masa flour, salt, paprika, spice
Something interesting about these is that the corn dough is primarily corn meal, not masa flour like in authentic tamales.
🔥 Canned Tamales Recipe (Skillet)
The can of Hormel tamales gives directions for cooking on the stovetop, in the microwave, and in the oven. To cook on the stove, put a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Pour the sauce and tamales into the pan in a single layer (leave the papers on the tamales).
Canned tamales are already cooked, so you only need to heat them to simmering. This will take 3-4 minutes. Turn the tamales occasionally as they cook, using tongs or a spatula. Carefully remove the papers on the tamales with tongs before serving.
⏲ How to Make Beef Tamales in Oven
Another option from the can is to make a tamale casserole in the oven (the “CasserOLE”). Preheat the oven to 350F (177C).
Remove the tamales from the can and carefully remove and discard the paper wrappers. Pour the chili sauce into a glass baking dish. Hormel recommends adding a can of their chili to the dish, but no big deal if you don’t have one.
Place the unwrapped tamales in a single layer on top of the sauce in the baking dish. Sprinkle 3 ounces (85 grams) of shredded cheese on top. I used Pepper Jack cheese, but cheddar or Monterey Jack would also be great. Bake for 25-30 minutes on a rack in the middle of the oven.
🔪 How to Cook Can Tamales in Microwave
To microwave canned tamales, begin by placing the tamales and sauce in a single layer in a microwave-safe dish. Cover loosely with a paper towel, and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Let the tamales rest for 1 minute before removing the paper wrappers and serving.
🌶️ What can tamales be filled with?
Tamales can be filled with a variety of sweet or savory fillings. Beef, pork, chicken, cheese, and jalapenos or other chiles are some common fillings in the U.S. Depending on where in the world you are, you can also find tamales filled with:
- Bell peppers
- And even fruit such as pineapples and blackberries!
❓️ How do you eat canned tamales?
How to serve canned tamales? You can enjoy tamales alone as a snack, or bake them into a casserole, as described above. I’ve even seen recipes for chili nachos with tamales layered in!
If you’ll be making a tamale bake, I would add some vegetables on the side, such as a garden salad. When I really want to carb load, I add some cilantro-lime rice to my plate as well.
🌡️ How long do canned tamales last?
How long can tamales stay out of refrigerator? Open cans of tamales and heated tamales are safe at room temp for up to 2 hours. Cooked tamales and opened tamale cans can be kept in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
Unopened cans of hash are a non-perishable item you can keep in the pantry. For the best quality, freshness, and flavor, consume the product within the date printed on the can. Technically, the cans are good for longer if kept in a cool, dry area, but there may be loss of quality.
Can you freeze canned tamales? You should not freeze unopened cans of tamales. Canned tamales are already preserved to have a long shelf-life.
Tamales that were removed from the can be frozen. However, the texture of this food may not be optimal after thawing.
📋 Canned Tamales Nutrition
Here is the nutrition information for one serving of Hormel tamales with sauce (3 tamales):
|Nutrition Info||Hormel Chicken Tamales||Hormel Beef Tamales|
|Sodium||990mg (41% DV)||990mg (41% DV)|
|Vitamin A||6% DV||6% DV|
|Vitamin C||0% DV||0% DV|
|Calcium||4% DV||0% DV|
|Iron||2% DV||4% DV|
The canned chicken tamales are 99% fat free, with significantly less fat and calories than the beef tamales. Both types of canned tamales are high in sodium.
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). Are canned tamales healthy? Canned tamales are an ultra-processed food and high sodium. I’d say there are likely many healthier options for you out there.
These little review posts of throwback foods are some of my favorites to write. They tend to be popular, and I enjoy investigating just how “unhealthy” these foods are really. Like other less-than-optimal food choices, it is possible to incorporate canned tamales into an overall healthy meal.
That said, if you are on a low sodium diet, canned tamales are not a good choice. One half of a can of Hormel tamales provides 41% DV for sodium, and many of us finish a whole can by ourselves.
Canned tamales can taste quite salty. Serving the tamales without the chili sauce can help reduce the sodium. However, one of the simplest ways to lower the sodium in your diet is to eat less highly processed foods.
Another thing to note is that you’re only getting 4-6 grams of protein per serving of canned tamales. If having them as a meal, you can add more protein by serving them with cheese and beans.
I’d also add some veggie side dishes to help make the meal more filling. The serving of tamales listed on the can is very small in volume. Veggies add color and flavor to your plate, as well as bulk up meals for few calories.
To eat a tamale, begin by unwrapping it. Do not eat the tamale wrapper, whether it’s a corn husk, banana leaf, or waxed paper! Eat the tamale (the filling in the wrapper) with a fork and a knife.
I wouldn’t count on Hormel tamales being gluten-free, as the chili powder has “flavoring” that may contain gluten. In addition, canned tamales may have had cross-contact with gluten during manufacturing.
If we’re talking about taste, the answer to this question is completely subjective. The best way to find out if canned tamales are “good” is to try them yourself and decide! In terms of nutrition, there are better options out there than this high sodium food with low protein density.
I purchase canned tamales at Super Walmart. You can also find them at other major grocery stores, such as Kroger, as well as online through Amazon.
If you are controlling your blood sugar in diabetes with a low carb diet, tamales are not a good choice. If you are doing exchanges, you can fit a small serving of tamales into your diabetes diet. With a CGM, you can monitor how eating this food impacts your blood sugar, to help determine whether it’s a good fit.
👨🏾🍳 Other Recipes Using Canned Foods
Want some more canned food recipes and reviews? Check these out:
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
Canned Tamales (Hormel Tamales in a Can)
- 1 can tamales 15 ounces/425 grams
- 3 ounces shredded cheese 85 grams (optional, for oven directions)
To Make Canned Tamales on Stove:
- Put a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Pour the sauce and tamales into the pan in a single layer (leave the papers on the tamales).
- Simmer 3-4 minutes, turning the tamales occasionally as they cook. Carefully remove the papers on the tamales with tongs before serving.
To Make Canned Tamales in Oven:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Remove the tamales from the can and carefully remove and discard the paper wrappers. Pour the chili sauce from the can into a glass baking dish. Hormel recommends adding a can of their chili to the dish as well, but no big deal if you don’t have one.
- Place the unwrapped tamales in a single layer on top of the sauce in the baking dish. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top. I used Pepper Jack cheese, but cheddar or Monterey Jack would also be great. Bake for 25-30 minutes on a rack in the middle of the oven.
To Make Canned Tamales in Microwave:
- Place the tamales and sauce in a single layer in a microwave-safe dish. Cover loosely with a paper towel, and microwave on high for 3 minutes.
- Let the tamales rest for 1 minute before removing the paper wrappers and serving.