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Instant Pot Chicken Tamales – YES PLEASE!
Making homemade tamales is a big deal. There’s a lot involved from making the masa for tamales to preparing the corn husks.
Why make it more complicated? Here’s an authentic Mexican recipe made in almost HALF the time as the traditional way.
For Father’s Day, Christmas, or any special occasion, you have to try this delicious instant pot tamales recipe.
Also check out: Instant Pot Red Pork Tamales
- Add raw chicken, salt, pepper, bay leaf, onion, and garlic to a large stock pot.
- Cover with water. Cook for 45 minutes.
- Let cool before shredding.
Discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Reserve the chicken broth for another day.
You can very easily use rotisserie chicken. Just remove the skin.
We are following the same recipe as traditional Chicken Salsa Verde Tamales but cooked faster.
Save yourself time and make the filling DAYS before the assembling happens.
Cook the chicken up to 4 months ahead and freeze in a sealable bag and up to 5 days in the fridge.
More Tamales Recipes
Tamales de Rajas con Queso
How to Make Salsa Verde
- Shred the chicken and add salsa verde.
- Cook on low heat.
You want the mixture to be saucy. Mexican food is all about the sauce.
Yes, you can use store bought green salsa.
How to Prepare the Corn Husks
- Separate the dry corn husks and remove any debris like hairs.
- Soak them for 20 minutes in hot water.
Do the corn husks move easily?
If so, great. You’re in business.
If not, then add more hot water and let them soak longer.
To make tamale making go faster, soak the husks the night BEFORE. Then drain and rinse before assembling.
This way, the corn husks are ready to go.
Masa for Tamales
There’s no shame in buying pre-made masa dough.
For those you interested in a healthier option, there’s also Masa with Olive Oil.
It is completely vegan and 100% better for you than the lard kind.
How to Assemble Tamales
- Spread thin layer of masa with the back of a spoon.
- Add about a tablespoon of cooked chicken (depending on the size of your tamal) to the center of the masa.
- Spoon over salsa verde.
- Fold both sides in and over the chicken filling. Fold the pointy top inward.
- Set aside and repeat.
Tamales need to be cooked upright.
Because we are making these tamales in an Instant Pot, make sure to fold them SHORTER than longer.
The tamales can be fat, but not too tall, or the lid won’t fit.
For the Newbie Tamale Maker:
Get a little help from your friends. Invite them over to help with the assembling.
Or, ask them to bring different tamale fillings.
How to Cook Tamales in the Instant Pot
- Insert trivet, or crate, to the bottom of the instant pot.
- Add water to the bottom. This is only 1 cup of water.
- Assemble the tamales on top of the trivet, open end facing upward.
The trivet will create a small lift so the tamales are NOT sitting in water while cooking. Almost like a steam rack.
How Many Tamales Fit in an Instant Pot?
I own an 8-quart Instant Pot and 16 big tamales fit perfectly. About 2 dozen small tamales, but it really depends on the size of your instant pot AND the size of your tamales.
Downside to Instant Pot Tamales:
You can only make a small batch. You can’t make a huge amount like with traditional steamers.
- Place lid. Set the valve to SEALING.
- Adjust the cook time settings. Set timer.
- Once the cycle is complete, move valve to venting, or steam release, for a quick release.
- Let the tamales sit in the steamer pot for 10 minutes. DO NOT open the lid!
Why are my tamales mushy in the instant pot?
The masa needs to come together and set. Let the tamales sit in the instant pot for 10 minutes before testing a tamal, or they will be mushy.
After 10 minutes, open the lid and test a tamal. Tamales are ready when they peel away from the corn husks EASILY.
What if the tamales are not ready after 10 minutes?
If after 10 minutes, the tamales are still mushy, add more water to the bottom of the pot, cover with lid, set valve to sealing, press HIGH PRESSURE button, and cook for 5 minutes. Release the valve. Let them sit again for an additional 10 minutes.
How do you steam pre-cooked tamales in an instant pot?
Add 1 cup of water to the instant pot. Place the trivet in the pot.
Arrange the tamales. Cover with the lid. Move valve to sealing. Pressure Cook High.
Set timer. 5 minutes for thawed tamales, and 15 minutes for frozen tamales. Release the valve.
How do you steam tamales in an instant pot without a steamer basket?
If you don’t have a trivet or steamer basket, roll up a few balls of aluminum foil. Add the water. Then, place a heat-proof safe bowl above the balls. A broken sieve without a handle or mesh strainer would work great! Then assemble the tamales upright as best as you can. They need to be lifted above the water in order to steam. Also note, that you might not be able to cook many tamales.
More Tamales Recipes
Green Pork Tamales
Northern Style Bean Tamales
Red Pork Tamales
How to Serve Tamales
I like to add a big spoonful of salsa verde or salsa roja on top of the tamales. Or, for breakfast, serve with a sunny-side up egg. Some people will add sour cream. And you can’t forget the Champurrado!
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Instant Pot Chicken Tamales
For the Chicken:
- 4 lb chicken any cut, or whole chicken
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp ground pepper
- 1 onion cut in half
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 cups water
For the Salsa Verde:
- 2 lbs tomatillos husks removed
- 4 serrano peppers
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 onion rough chopped
- 4 cups water enough to cover the tomatillos
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 tsp salt
For the Tamales:
- 16-24 Corn Husks pre-soaked in hot water
- 2 1/2 cups prepared masa (or more, depending on size of corn husks)
- 1 cup Water
- For the Chicken:
- Add the chicken, salt, pepper, onion, garlic, bay leaf, and water to a large stock pot.
- Cook for 45 minutes.
- Discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaf.
- Store the chicken broth for another recipe.
- Once cool enough, shred the chicken.
- Set aside until ready to use.
For the Salsa Verde:
- Rinse the tomatillos and place in a large stock pot.
- Add serranos, garlic, and onion to the pot.
- Cover with water.
- Bring to a boil and cook for 7 minutes.
- Discard water.
- Place tomatillos, onion, garlic, and serranos to a blender.
- Add cilantro and salt to the blender.
- Blend until smooth. Set aside until ready to use.
- How to Assemble Tamales:
- Soak the corn husks in a warm water for 20 minutes.
- Drain water. Shake off any excess water.
- Smear a thin layer of prepared masa on each corn husk.
- To the middle of the masa layer, add a tablespoon of the chicken.
- Add a spoonful of salsa verde over the chicken.
- Fold one side of the corn husk in and over the chicken.
- Fold the other side in.
- Fold the pointy top to the center of the tamale.
- Stand upright and set aside.
- Repeat until there are no more corn husks left.
- Place the steam rack crate on the bottom of the Instant Pot.
- Add 1 cup of water.
- Place all the uncooked tamales on the rack.
- Open side up.
- Lock the lid in place.
- Turn the valve to “SEALING.”
- Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook at high pressure 35 minutes.
- When done, turn the valve to "venting."
- It will release any leftover steam.
- Let stand for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid very carefully.
- The tamales are ready when they peel away from the corn husk easily.
Another reason to love the Instant Pot; these turned out great!!!
I know, right? Best kitchen investment.
These tamales are delish!! Thanks for the recipe
Yay! So glad you liked them.
Wow! This is a such great way to cook food! This recipe looks absolutely delicious! The tamales will improve and contain the taste of this dish within! Loved it!
Thank you! So glad you liked it.
I never thought about making these in the instant pot before. What a great idea! I love tamales – such a delicious meal!
You’re going to love making them in the instant pot. Cuts the cooking time way down!