How to reheat tamales

how to reheat tamales

Tamales are a delicacy enjoyed everywhere, especially in central and southern parts of America. These delightful husk-wrapped treats provide a filling meal because of the high starch content.

There is no right or wrong way to prepare this dish. Traditional recipes call for meats, veggies, cheese, etc. But there is always room for creativity when it comes to the fillings. The only thing to keep in mind is the masa wrapping.

This wrapping is made of corn dough which holds the various fillings together. The final touch includes the corn husk or banana leaf wrapping, which is steamed and served.

Like any savory dish, tamales taste best straight out of the steamer. But when you have leftovers, you can leave them in the freezer and enjoy them later. If you want to know how to reheat tamales, this article is for you. Keep reading below.

Reheating tamales: Seven easy ways

  1. Using a steamer

Steaming is perhaps the benchmark for reheating your tamales. Moreover, you will use one to cook your fresh tamales as well. It is quick, easy, and gets your tamales warm and ready to eat in minutes.

If you do not have those traditional bamboo woven steamers, you can always go for an electric one. Besides, both utensils will do the same job. Although, the basket one is an economical solution and gives a rustic feel.

To steam your tamales, add water to your steamer and bring them to a boil. Make sure the water level doesn't contact the sieve base. You do not want to eat soggy tamales, do you?

Once you place the tamales, you want to reduce the heat to medium. This keeps the water temperature stable, enough to steam the tamales to perfection. Cover with the lid to trap the steam.

20-30 minutes should be enough to get the refrigerated tamales ready. If they are frozen, give it an additional ten minutes or so. Use a spoon or tongs to feel the texture. You can take them out accordingly.

This method is basically how you would make dumplings. Steaming should be your first option as it helps retain the flavors. Your tamales will pretty much come out the way they were cooked initially. The steam keeps them fresh and softens the frozen contents.

  1. Pop it in the oven

If a steamer is not an option, a regular kitchen oven will do just fine. You should be careful with the temperature settings if you use an oven. You do not want to burn your tamales to a crisp.

To do this, you want to preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, wrap your tamales in several layers of aluminium foil, and place them inside. In this case, you want to flip the tamales after ten minutes to ensure even cooking or reheating.

If you want to keep the husks on, place the tamales inside at a slightly cooler temperature. You can preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for this option. However, with the husks, tamales will develop a crispier edge, which is not entirely bad.

The only disadvantage of using an oven is that you cannot eyeball it. But with the correct temperature settings, you are good to go.

  1. With a microwave

Microwaving is the quickest method of reheating tamales if you're in a hurry. It takes 3-4 minutes to get them steaming hot and ready to eat.

To do this, you can use damp paper towels to wrap your tamales. This provides a bit of steam and prevents the contents from drying out. If the husks are still on, you can dampen them instead.

Make sure to leave space between each piece if you're reheating multiple tamales. This ensures even cooking throughout. You also want to let the tamales defrost before tossing them in the microwave.

This method is the quickest and sounds like the obvious choice. But keep in mind it can suck out the moisture from the tamales, leaving them dry.

  1. Air frying works too

Air frying your tamales is another way to get them steaming. Using an air fryer provides a similar feel to an oven. Both methods use dry heat to soften and warm your tamales.

To do this, you want to follow the microwave method. Dampen the husk or outer covering with a touch of water. Place them inside the fryer compartment at a medium temperature. Your tamales will be ready in less than ten minutes.

Using an air fryer has its perks. The fryer compartment's air circulation spreads evenly, quickly heating the tamales. Make sure to leave enough space between each piece to get enough heat.

  1. Heat them in a pan

Using a frying pan also works well to get your leftover tamales ready to serve. However, you have to remove the covering for this method.

Heat your pan and drizzle in a little olive oil. Remove the husks and place the tamales carefully, so they don't crumble. Use a non-stick pan to prevent tamales from burning or sticking as it cooks.

Cover your pan with a lid to trap the heat and bring the heat down to medium. Flip your tamales once in a while to ensure even cooking.

The result will be different from steamed tamales. Frying your tamales gives an outer crust. This adds an extra crunch, which is always a welcome addition to the texture.

  1. Toast them over the coal

If you want to go peasant style, toss your tamales in hot coal. It doesn't get more rustic than that.

Since you're toasting them in the bare coal heat, you want to add an extra layer. Wrap your tamales in a layer of aluminum foil with a small opening. This gap allows the beat to pass into the contents and get them warm.

The outer foil cover also stops the inner husk layer from burning. But you can also remove the husk and go with the aluminum foil. Make sure to use at least two layers.

Remember that this method will add a smoky flavor to the tamales. You can also use a grill or smoker if you don't have a fireplace.

  1. Recook them in a pressure cooker

Using a pressure cooker is another option. Dampen your tamales and set them for cooking.

You want to heat the cooker and place the tamales in. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid, and let the heat and moisture do their job. Eight to ten minutes will be enough to prepare the tamales.

Using a pressure cooker should be your last option. It's very easy to overcook them. But if you take them out at the right time, it will work just fine.


Tamales always taste better when they are fresh. But when you have leftovers, there is no option but to refrigerate them overnight.

Although reheating them always works, we lose that fresh smell and texture. Nevertheless, it's still better than having them cold and frozen hard.

Next time you have frozen tamales in your fridge, refer to the tips. Try each one and see which one works best for you.