Canned Tamales: Quick and Easy Comfort Food Review


Do canned tamales still exist? Absolutely! Whether you’re a fan of Hormel tamales or another brand, this classic comfort food is convenient and satisfying. In this article, we’ll explore the best brands of canned tamales, share Hormel tamales recipes, provide nutrition information, and more. While it’s true that homemade Mexican tamales are the most delicious, canned tamales can fulfill your craving in no time!

Canned Tamales Brands

The Popular Choices

Despite online rumors, Hormel tamales are still available. 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

Other brands like Old El Paso or Chef Boyardee do not seem to offer canned tamales. However, you may find frozen tamales from El Monterey, which some claim are even tastier than the canned ones.

The Best Canned Tamales

In my opinion, the best canned tamales are the ones that bring you joy. Consider them a treat rather than a regular part of your diet. Choose the brand that evokes childhood memories or simply makes you happy.

Hormel Tamales Ingredients

Let’s take a look at the ingredients in Hormel beef tamales:

  • Water
  • Beef
  • Tomatoes
  • Corn meal
  • Corn flour
  • 2% or less of: modified cornstarch (contains erythorbic acid), masa flour, salt, chili powder, paprika, spice
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The ingredients in Hormel chicken tamales include:

  • Water
  • Tomatoes
  • Mechanically separated chicken
  • Corn meal
  • Corn flour
  • Modified cornstarch (contains erythorbic acid)
  • 2% or less of: chili powder, masa flour, salt, paprika, spice

It’s interesting to note that the corn dough in these canned tamales is primarily corn meal, unlike authentic tamales that use masa flour.

Cooking Methods

Skillet Method

To cook canned tamales on the stovetop, place a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Pour the sauce and tamales into the pan in a single layer, leaving the papers on the tamales. Since canned tamales are already cooked, heat them until simmering, which should take about 3-4 minutes. Use tongs or a spatula to turn the tamales occasionally. Before serving, carefully remove the papers with tongs.

Oven Method

For a tamale casserole, preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C). Remove the tamales from the can and discard the paper wrappers. Pour the chili sauce into a glass baking dish. If desired, add a can of Hormel chili to the dish. Place the unwrapped tamales in a single layer on top of the sauce and sprinkle 3 ounces (85 grams) of shredded cheese. Bake on a middle rack for 25-30 minutes.

Microwave Method

To microwave canned tamales, arrange the tamales and sauce in a microwave-safe dish in a single layer. 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.

Filling Options

Tamales can be filled with a variety of sweet or savory ingredients. In the U.S., common fillings include beef, pork, chicken, cheese, and jalapenos or other chiles. Depending on your location, you may also find tamales filled with tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, potatoes, rice, herbs, and even fruits like pineapples and blackberries.

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Serving Suggestions

You can enjoy canned tamales as a snack on their own or incorporate them into various dishes. For a tamale bake, serve them with some vegetables on the side, such as a garden salad. If you’re in the mood for carb-loading, add some cilantro-lime rice to your plate.

Shelf Life and Nutrition

Open cans of tamales and heated tamales are safe at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Cooked tamales and opened tamale cans can be refrigerated for 3-4 days in a covered container. Unopened cans of tamales are non-perishable and can be stored in a cool, dry area. However, it’s best to consume the product within the printed expiration date for optimal quality.

Regarding nutrition, one serving of Hormel tamales with sauce (3 tamales) contains calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate, fiber, total sugars, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. The chicken tamales are 99% fat-free and have lower fat and calorie content compared to the beef tamales. Both types are high in sodium.

Expert Tips

As a dietitian, I consider canned tamales to be ultra-processed and high in sodium. While they can be incorporated into a healthy meal on occasion, there are likely healthier options available. If you follow a low-sodium diet, canned tamales may not be suitable for you, as half a can already provides 41% of the daily value of sodium. Serving the tamales without the chili sauce can help reduce the sodium content. Eating less highly processed foods is a simple way to lower your overall sodium intake.

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Each serving of canned tamales only provides around 4-6 grams of protein. To make it a more substantial meal, serve them with cheese and beans for extra protein. Adding vegetable side dishes not only adds flavor but also increases the meal’s volume without many additional calories.


Canned tamales are a quick and easy option for satisfying your tamale cravings. While they can’t compare to homemade authentic tamales, they can still bring joy and comfort in a pinch. Remember that they should be enjoyed in moderation, and there are healthier choices available. So go ahead, indulge in a can of deliciousness and let your taste buds reminisce!

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