Trader Joe’s Frozen Tamales Air Fryer — Dive into a culinary experience with Trader Joe’s Frozen Tamales, effortlessly cooked to perfection in the air fryer. In this guide, we’ll unveil the magic of achieving that ideal blend of texture and flavor from your kitchen’s countertop!

This is a great way to cook a traditional Mexican dish in minutes! 

Air Fryer Trader Joe's Frozen Tamales
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What Are Tamales?

Tamales are traditional Mesoamerican dishes and a popular Mexican dish made of masa dough, or tamale dough (a dough derived from hominy, which is dried maize kernels treated with an alkali) filled with various ingredients like meats, cheeses, fruits, or chilies. These fillings are wrapped in corn husks, which act as a protective layer and a cooking vessel, then steamed or boiled. Once cooked, the husk is discarded, revealing the delicious, steamy tamale inside. They are often served with salsa or crema and hold cultural significance in many celebrations and festivities.

Trader Joe’s Frozen Tamales

Trader Joe’s is a haven for those who love convenient yet high-quality foods, and their frozen tamales are no exception. These tamales, inspired by the traditional Mesoamerican dish, promise a burst of authentic flavor with the ease of preparation in your kitchen.

Whether you’ve grown up enjoying tamales during festive occasions or are new to this culinary delight, Trader Joe’s version offers both convenience and a tasty meal option. Let’s dive in and see how to make the most of these frozen gems, especially when cooking them in an air fryer!

Why Cook Frozen Air Fryer Tamales

Cooking frozen tamales in an air fryer offers several advantages; you will soon find that an air fryer is the best way (and easiest way) for cooking tamales.

  • Speedy Cooking: Air fryers circulate hot air around the food, meaning tamales cook faster in an air fryer than in a conventional oven or stovetop steaming method.
  • Crispier Texture: The circulating hot air ensures the tamale’s outer masa (corn dough) achieves a slightly crispy texture, contrasting beautifully with the soft and steamy interior.
  • Even Cooking: The design of air fryers ensures that heat is distributed uniformly, so each tamale is cooked evenly from all sides without any cold or undercooked spots.
  • Less Mess: Forget about setting up a steaming pot or dealing with boiling water. With an air fryer, it’s as simple as placing the tamales in the basket and setting the timer.
  • Energy Efficient: Instead of heating a large oven or stovetop, the compact nature of an air fryer uses less energy, making it an eco-friendly choice.
  • Healthier Option: While tamales are not fried, using an air fryer means using a cooking method that reduces the need for additional oils or fats, making it a healthier alternative.

Using an air fryer provides a convenient, quick, and efficient method to enjoy perfectly cooked tamales with a delightful texture every time.

Ingredients Needed For Air Fryer Frozen Tamalaes

While the primary ingredient is the frozen tamales, the optional additions can help create a more complete and flavorful dish. These are the easiest air fryer instructions to make this traditional Central America dish.

Air Fryer Trader Joe's Frozen Tamales (1)

Remember the step-by-step directions and detailed ingredient list are below in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post, as well as the nutritional information.

  • Frozen Tamales (from Trader Joe’s or another brand): These are pre-made tamales that have been filled, wrapped, and frozen, offering a convenient way to enjoy this traditional dish without the hours of prep work.
  • Cooking Spray (optional): A light spritz of cooking spray can enhance the crispiness of the tamale’s exterior, but it’s optional based on your preference.
  • Salsa or Sauce (for serving, optional): A complementary sauce, like a tangy salsa or a rich mole, can elevate the flavor of your tamales and provide a burst of freshness or depth.
  • Fresh Cilantro (for garnish, optional): Chopped cilantro offers a burst of fresh flavor and a pop of green color, accentuating the rich flavors of the tamales.
  • Lime Wedges (for serving, optional): A squeeze of fresh lime juice can add a zesty kick, balancing the rich and savory flavors of the tamales.

How To Cook Frozen Tamales In Air Fryer

You can make a perfect batch of frozen tamales in the air fryer with a few simple steps.

How To Cook Frozen Tamales In Air Fryer

Preparation: Begin by removing the tamales from their packaging. If they are wrapped in plastic, remove this, but keep the corn husks on as they’ll protect the tamales from drying out and give them that authentic flavor.

Preheat: Turn on the air fryer and preheat it to 370 degrees F (190°C). Preheating ensures even cooking throughout.

Arrange: Place the tamales in the air fryer basket in a single layer, ensuring they aren’t touching or overcrowded. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you might need to cook them in batches.

Cook: Set cook time for 12-15 minutes. Halfway through the cooking process, flip or rotate the tamales to ensure even cooking.

Check: After 12 minutes, check on the tamales. They should be thoroughly heated, with the masa firm to the touch and the fillings steaming hot.

Serve: Once cooked, carefully remove the tamales from the air fryer (they will be hot), and let them sit for a couple of minutes. Serve with salsa, sauce, fresh cilantro, and lime wedges on the side.

Enjoy: Unwrap the corn husk, drizzle your desired toppings, and dive into your deliciously steamed tamales!

How To Cook Frozen Tamales In Air Fryer

​Pro Tips

  • Corn Husk On: Always keep the corn husk on when air frying. It acts as a natural barrier, preventing the tamale from drying out and retaining its flavors.
  • Don’t Overcrowd: Avoid stacking tamales or overcrowding the air fryer basket. This ensures even circulation of hot air, which results in uniform cooking.
  • Preheating Matters: Always preheat your air fryer before placing the tamales inside. This step ensures that the tamales start cooking immediately, preserving their moisture.
  • Moisture Boost: If you’re worried about your tamales drying out, lightly mist them with water using a spray bottle before placing them in the air fryer. This helps in keeping them moist during the cooking process.
  • Rotation: Try rotating or flipping the tamales halfway through the cooking process for best results. This guarantees that they are cooked evenly from all sides.
  • Check Early: Since air fryers can vary in power, it’s a good idea to check your tamales a few minutes earlier than the suggested time to avoid overcooking.
  • Resting Time: After air frying, allow the tamales to rest for 2-3 minutes before serving. This lets the flavors settle and the filling to cool down slightly.
  • Serve Hot: Tamales are best enjoyed hot out of the fryer. Pair them with fresh salsa, guacamole, or sour cream for a delightful meal.
  • Reheat With Care: If you have leftovers, the air fryer is also perfect for reheating without making them too dry. Just reduce the initial cooking time by a few minutes.
  • Experiment with Toppings: While traditional toppings are always a hit, don’t hesitate to get creative. Consider drizzling with creamy sauces, cheese, or even fresh herbs for a twist.

How To Serve Trader Joe’s Tamales

  • Traditional Style: Place the steaming tamales on a plate, remove the corn husk, and enjoy them as is. The intrinsic flavors of the tamale often need no embellishment.
  • With Dips: Tamales pair wonderfully with various dips. Consider serving them with salsa, red sauce, guacamole, sour cream, or a spicy queso dip.
  • Garnish: Enhance the presentation and taste by sprinkling chopped fresh cilantro, diced tomatoes, and crumbled queso fresco or cotija cheese on top.
  • Sides: Complement the tamales with traditional Mexican sides like refried beans, Mexican rice, or a fresh salad with a tangy vinaigrette.
  • Spice it Up: For those who love a bit of heat, drizzling hot sauce or offering sliced jalapeños can kick things up a notch.
  • Beverage Pairings: Tamales go well with a variety of beverages. Consider serving them with cold Mexican beers, margaritas, or a refreshing horchata.
  • Dessert: If you’re making it a meal, follow up the savory tamales with a sweet treat like churros, tres leches cake or flan.

Remember, while Trader Joe’s tamales are delicious on their own, their beauty lies in their versatility. They can be dressed up or down to match any occasion, from casual dinners to festive parties.

Air Fryer Trader Joe's Frozen Tamales

How To Cook Trader Joe’s Frozen Tamales In Microwave Oven

Preparation: Take the Trader Joe’s frozen tamales out of the freezer. You don’t need to thaw them beforehand. Remove the plastic wrapping, if any, from the tamales. Leave the corn husk on as it retains moisture and flavor during the cooking process.

Place on a Microwave-Safe Plate: Arrange the tamales on a microwave-safe plate, leaving space between each one for even heating.

Cover with a Damp Paper Towel: Drape a damp paper towels or cloth over the tamales. This helps steam the tamales and keeps them moist during microwaving.

Microwave on High: If cooking one tamale, microwave on high for 1-2 minutes. For two or more tamales, microwave for 3-4 minutes. Check if they’re heated through; if not, microwave in additional 30-second intervals until done.

Let Them Stand: Once you remove the tamales from the microwave, let them sit for a minute or two. This allows the heat to distribute evenly throughout the tamales.

Enjoy! Carefully remove the corn husk and enjoy your steaming hot tamales.

Note: Microwave ovens vary in power, so cooking times might need adjustment. Always ensure that the tamales are thoroughly heated before consuming.

How To Cook Frozen Trader Joe’s Tamales In Skillet​

Preparation: Take your Trader Joe’s frozen tamales out of the freezer. Remove any plastic wrap, but keep the corn husks on the tamales. The husk helps retain moisture, ensuring your tamales remain juicy during cooking.

Heat the Skillet: Place a frying pan over medium heat and let it get hot. Add oil or butter to prevent sticking and give the tamales a slightly crispy exterior.

Place tamales in a hot pan: Arrange the frozen tamales’ seam side down once the skillet is ready. This helps them keep their shape and prevents them from unwrapping while cooking.

Cover and Cook: Reduce the heat to low or medium-low. Cover the skillet with a lid, allowing the tamales to steam as they cook. Cook for 10-12 minutes, occasionally turning them to ensure they are heated evenly.

Check for Doneness: To check if they’re ready, touch the middle of a tamale. It should feel hot to the touch. If not, let them cook a little longer.

Serve and Enjoy: Once thoroughly heated, remove them from the skillet, peel back the corn husk, and enjoy!

Air Fryer Trader Joe's Frozen Tamales

FAQ’s Air Fryer Trader Joe’s Frozen Tamales

​Do I need to thaw the tamales before air frying them?
No, you can cook Trader Joe’s frozen tamales directly from the freezer in an air fryer. No thawing is required!

Should I remove the corn husk before air frying?
No, keep the corn husk on while air frying. It helps to keep the tamale moist and adds to the traditional flavor. Remove it before eating.

Can I stack tamales in the air fryer?
Placing tamales in a single layer is best to ensure even cooking. If you have a multi-layered air fryer rack, you can use it to cook more tamales at once.

How do I know when the tamales are done cooking?
The tamales are done when they’re heated through and slightly crisp on the outside. The internal temperature should reach 165°F (74°C).

Can I reheat leftover tamales in the air fryer?
Yes, the air fryer is great for reheating cold tamales. Set the temperature to 320°F (160°C) and heat for about 3-4 minutes until they’re warmed through.

Why are my tamales dry after air frying?
If the tamales come out dry, it could be due to overcooking. Always monitor the cooking time and consider spraying or brushing them with a little oil to retain moisture.

Is it healthier to air fry tamales than traditional methods?
Air frying generally uses less oil than traditional frying, making it healthier. However, tamales are naturally steamed in corn husks, so both methods can be considered healthy.

Can I make my tamales and then air fry them?
Absolutely! Homemade tamales can be cooked in the air fryer like store-bought ones. Ensure they are properly assembled and secured before air frying.

More Air Fryer Recipes

Air Fryer Trader Joe's Frozen Tamales

Air Fryer Trader Joe’s Frozen Tamales

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 Servings


Experience the authentic taste and delightful texture of Trader Joe's frozen tamales, now made even better and crispier with the air fryer. This hassle-free method locks in the traditional flavors, while providing a unique touch that's sure to impress at any meal.


  • 2 Trader Joe’s frozen tamales
  • Optional: A spritz of cooking spray for extra crispiness


  • Preheat the Air Fryer: Preheat your air fryer to 370°F (185°C).
  • Preparation: While the air fryer heats up, remove the tamales from their packaging, but keep them wrapped in their corn husks.
  • Placement: Place the tamales, seam side down, in a single layer in the air fryer basket. If desired, lightly spritz with cooking spray.
  • Air Fry: Cook the tamales for about 12-15 minutes, turning them halfway through to ensure even cooking.
  • Check for Doneness: After the cooking time, the tamales should be hot in the center. If not, continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Serve: Remove the tamales from the air fryer, let them sit for a minute or two, and then serve. Peel back the corn husk and enjoy with your favorite sides and dips.


  • Air Fryer
  • Cooking Spray
  • Parchment Paper, optional


  • Do not overcrowd the air fryer. If you’re preparing multiple tamales, you might need to cook them in batches.
  • Pair the tamales with salsa, guacamole, or sour cream for enhanced flavor.
  • Use the air fryer to reheat any leftover tamales; it keeps them crispy and delicious!


Serving: 1ServingCalories: 1kcalCarbohydrates: 0.2gProtein: 0.04gFat: 0.01gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.01gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01gSodium: 0.01mgPotassium: 2mgFiber: 0.03gSugar: 0.04gVitamin A: 3IUVitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 0.03mgIron: 0.01mg

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