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Instant Pot Chicken Tamales

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These Instant Pot Chicken Tamales cook in half the time compared to steaming them on the stove, and are filled with an easy salsa verde shredded chicken.

Chicken tamale on a plate, sliced open to show filling and topped with green salsa.

I know I’m going to be upsetting some people by making tamales without lard. Tamales, like most family recipes have been passed down from generations.

Tamales are a common dish eaten during the holidays and can range from savory to sweet. Families make large batches and an assembly type line is helpful to get the process moving quicker.

The recipe I’m sharing with you for Instant Pot Chicken Tamales is for a small batch, but of course can be doubled or tripled as needed.

How to Make Masa

This masa is made with oil instead of lard. Tamales made with lard are delicious, but after having masa made with oil for the past few years, I can honestly say they taste just as good.

You can find the ingredients to make the masa at a most big grocery chains or at a Latin market.

Ingredients for making tamale masa.

I add all the masa ingredients to a stand mixer and mix with a paddle attachment.

2 images showing masa being mixed in a stand mixer.

If you don’t have one, do the traditional way of needing it with you hands. Fair warning, this will take you a good 20 minutes of mixing with your hands.

The key is to season the masa with a good stock to build the flavor you would normally get with lard.

Prep The Corn Husks

Large chain grocery stores will also have corn husks during the holiday months.

Get a large Pot, place your corn husks in, and cover with hot water. You can also place a pot of water over the stove, bring to a boil, turn off the heat and add the corn husks.

Corn husks standing up in a stainless steel pot.

Soak them for at about 15-20 minutes or until soft and pliable.

Remove the husks and lay them out to dry. If the husks are wet, the masa won’t stick to it.

Tamale Filling

The filling combinations are endless, and can be adapted to what you prefer. For these tamales, I made my 2 Ingredient IP Salsa Chicken. I used salsa verde instead of the red salsa.

I also had some leftover diced potatoes so I added those in as well.

Other filling options:

Shredded Beef Tamales

Cheese Tamales

Sweet Potato and Black Beans (Vegan)

I prefer to make my filling the day before to save time and allow it to cool. If you are making the tamales the same day, do the filling first so it has time to cool before assembling.

Assemble the Tamales

Use a cutting board for your work surface. Place a corn husk down, but if it’s too small you can overlap 2 together.

Masa spread out on a corn husk.

Add a few spoons of masa and spread it over the middle of the corn husk.

Masa spread out on a corn husk and shredded green chili chicken on top.

Now place your filling in the middle of the masa. Fold both sides to meet, then fold it over, and bring the bottom part up.

I show all these steps in the Video.

You can also use shredded pieces of the corn husk to tie the tamale.

Uncooked tamales in a glass dish.

How to Cook Tamales in the Instant Pot

Once all your tamales are assembled, we can begin cooking them. I used my 8 qt Instant Pot with the trivet insert. If you have a steamer basket this would work better.

Another option is to use the trivet and place a piece of foil on top will some holes for the steam to come through. You want to make sure the tamales are not touching the water.

Cooked chicken tamales in the instant pot.

Additionally, you don’t want the top of the tamales to reach the lid, because then it won’t create a seal and the instant pot won’t come up to pressure.

Set the timer for Manual, High Pressure 30 minutes. I let the pressure release naturally for a few minutes, then released the remaining pressure.

Remove the tamales from the pot and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. The corn husks should remove easily from the tamal.

How to Store and Reheat tamales

Cooked/Cooled tamales can be stored in a container or zip-top bag in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a couple of months.

Chicken tamales on a plate with one sliced in half to show filling.

To reheat, place a damp paper towel over them and microwave for 1-2 minutes until heated through.

Keep the corn husk on the tamale while you reheat them to prevent them from drying out, then remove husk before eating.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the masa be made ahead of time?

You can make the masa a day ahead of time and keep it refrigerated. Just remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before making the tamales.

What are substitutes for the corn husks?

In 2020, it was difficult to find corn husks. Another option would be banana leaves or you can try using parchment paper to wrap the tamales.

How do you reheat frozen tamales?

For individual servings, you can re-heat frozen cooked tamales in the microwave. For a larger serving, re-heat them in the instant pot on high pressure for 10 minutes. Check to see if they are warmed through.

These chicken tamales can be a meal on their own, but also go well with some Mexican Rice and Beans. Enjoy!

Up close view of chicken tamale cut in half with filling visible.

Instant Pot Chicken Tamale Recipe

These Instant Pot Chicken Tamales cook in half the time compared to steaming them on the stove, and are filled with an easy salsa verde shredded chicken.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 45 minutes
Servings 16 Tamales



Corn Husks

  • Rinse corn husks and remove any dirt or debris. Toss any husks that have black spots on them. Smaller husks can be used by overlapping 2 together.
  • Heat a large pot of water, once warm turn off the heat and add the corn husks into the water. Rotate them to ensure they all get rehydrated. Allow the husks to soak for 20 minutes or until they are soft and pliable.
  • Remove the husks from the pot and allow to dry on a kitchen towel.


  • In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add corn flour, salt, baking powder, and avocado oil. Begin mixing on low speed to incorporate.
  • Gradually add in warm chicken broth as the mixer is still going on low speed. Once all the broth is added increase the speed to medium. Keep mixing and scraping down the sides of the bowl every few minutes until a soft smooth dough forms.
  • Taste a little bit of masa for seasoning. If more salt is needed, add salt and mix the dough again. If making tamales right away then set aside, otherwise cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Assembling Tamales

  • Take one dried corn husk and place on a work surface. If the husk is too small then overlap 2 together.
  • Spread an even layer of masa on the top half of the husk. Add shredded chicken filling to the middle. Fold one side over, then the other, and bring the bottom half up. If the tamale doesn't stay folded, tear a piece of husk and tie it around the tamale.

Cooking the Tamales

  • Instant Pot Method: Add 1 cup of water to the instant pot and the steamer basket inside. If cooking multiple batches, add 1 cup of water each time. Layer the tamales standing up, with the opening on top.
  • Set the timer to high pressure for 30 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes then release the remaining pressure.
  • Remove the steamer basket and allow the tamales to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. The husk should easily remove from the tamal.



Recipe for Salsa Verde Chicken
Steamer Method on the Stove: 
Place Water in the bottom of a steamer pot with an insert.  Layer tamales standing up and cover with a layer of corn husks and place lid. Bring water to a boil, and lower heat to a gentle boil for at least 1 hour. Periodically check to see that there is still water in the bottom of the pot.
After an hour, remove a tamale from the pot and check if the masa is cooked all the way. It will easily release from the corn husk once it’s cooked. If it does not, then continue cooking and check every 15 minutes. Once cooked, remove the tamales from the pot and allow them to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Once the tamales are completely cooled, leftovers can be stored in a zip-top bag in the refrigerator for 4 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
To reheat refrigerated tamales, place a damp paper towel over them and microwave for 1-2 minutes until heated through. Keep the husks on the tamal while you’re reheating them.


Calories: 196kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 11gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 263mgPotassium: 228mgFiber: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 6IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 44mgIron: 1mg

Nutritional information is provided as an estimate only and depends on ingredients and amounts used. Thai Caliente makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.

Keyword Chicken Tamales, Instant Pot Tamales
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  1. Delicious! I’ve never made tamales but decided to try it – I used some hatch chili I have from NM and chicken thighs because we like dark meat better. Other than that I followed the recipe – so so yummy, and pretty foolproof! I made a mess of the masa dough as I was making the tamales but it all worked out fine anyway.
    Thank you for another delicious recipe!

  2. Just made these tamales for the first time and this recipe was delicious! Hubby said they tasted better than our favorite authentic Mexican restaurant! Thank you!