Wondering how to reheat tamales? Whether you are starting with fresh tamales that just need to be warmed up or straight from the freezer, I’ve got 8 easy methods for getting leftover tamales to the table piping hot and delicious.
Homemade tamales are a labor of love, so therefore are typically made in large batches at tamale-making parties called Tamaladas and reheated later. If you’ve been wondering what the best way to reheat them might be, I’ve got all the answers for you!
This list has you covered no matter what sort of equipment your kitchen is stocked with. I have methods for reheating tamales in everything from the microwave to a skillet on the stove. Just follow these simple steps and you’ll have moist tamales every time.
Even though all these methods are different, there are some basic principals to follow for achieving hot tamales:
- Always reheat tamales in the corn husk or banana leaf. Do not unwrap them before reheating.
- The easiest way to know when they are ready is to use an instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the tamal. The internal temperature should be 160°F.
- The biggest problem during the reheating process is drying out the masa. This corn-based dough can get tough and hard, so a moist environment is essential when reheating.
- If you are starting from scratch, learn how to cook tamales with one of these 5 methods.
How To Reheat Tamales- 8 Methods
1. Instant Pot
Reheating tamales in an Instant Pot ensures they will be moist and tender since the moisture is trapped inside the pressure cooker. This is the best option when reheating between 8-12 tamales. That is too many to do in the microwave or skillet but too few to drag out my tamalera (tamales steamer).
Step one: Pour about 1 cup of water into the Instant Pot insert. Place the steamer basket or trivet inside.
Step two: Place the tamales vertically with the open-side-up on top of the trivet. Lean them against the side of the pot so they don’t fall over. If they are too tall to place upright you can also lay them down horizontally.
Step three: Close the lid, seal the steam valve, and pressure cook set to high pressure for 5 minutes followed by natural pressure release for at least 5 minutes before a quick release. This timing works for frozen or cold, leftover tamales.
Step four: Remove with a pair of tongs to a serving plate.
2. In The Oven
This method again, works best if you are reheating 8-12 tamales but don’t have an Instant Pot. They come out a bit dryer in the oven. For best results, add water in the bottom of the baking dish so they won’t get too dried out.
Step one: Heat oven to 350°F.
Step two: Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Lay the tamales in the baking dish and cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil. You can stack them in the dish if you’d like.
Step three: For thawed tamales bake for 20 minutes. For frozen tamales increase the time to 45 minutes.
3. In the Microwave
This is the best method for reheating just one or two tamales quickly with very minimal clean up. This works for tamales wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves. The downside however are that microwave tamales tend to be on the dry side.
Step one: Place tamales in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with a damp paper towel then loosely with plastic wrap to prevent them from becoming too dry.
Step two: Heat for 30 seconds at a time until hot. Cold tamales shouldn’t take more than 1-2 minutes. Frozen tamales will take more like 3-4 minutes.
4. Slow Cooker
This method is a good idea if you are reheating tamales for a party and want to set it and forget it. You can warm them in the slow cooker then just leave them to stay warm on the “warm” setting.
*CHEF’S TIP: By the way, if you are wondering how many tamales to make for your next party, get my tamales guide.
Step one: Cover the bottom of the insert with a couple inches of water. Place a rack in the bottom of the insert or a thick layer of leftover corn husks if you have them.
Step two: Layer the tamales in the slow cooker and reheat on high for 1 hour for frozen tamales or 30 minutes for cold, leftover tamales from the fridge.
5. Steamer Method
This is the best method when the number of tamales you are reheating is large, like at least a dozen or more. Use a tamalera or tamales-steaming pot for best results. You can find a pot like this at your local Latin grocery store.
Step one: Fill the bottom of the tamalera with water to the insert line. Place the steamer insert in the pot and line the bottom with leftover corn husks if you have them.
Step two: Place the tamales in the pot upright with the open-side-up. Lean against the side of the pot so they don’t fall over.
Step three: Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once a lot of steam is going in the pot, reduce the heat to medium and steam until hot, 30 minutes for frozen and 15 minutes for cold, leftover tamales.
6. In The Air Fryer
The good news with reheating tamales in the air fryer is it is super fast. The bad news is they tend to dry out.
Step one: Spray the outside of the corn husks with drops of water and heat the fryer to mid-range temperature.
Step two: Place the tamales in the air fryer basket but don’t crowd, there needs to be space for the air to circulate.
Step 3: Cook for cold tamales for 5 minutes and frozen tamales for 12 minutes then flip and cook for another 5 minutes for cold tamales or 12 minutes for frozen.
7. Frying Pan Method
Step one: Cover the bottom of a large frying pan with enough water to come up about an inch.
Step two: Cover with a lid and place on the stovetop over medium heat. Bring the water to a boil and let cook, steaming in the boiling water until hot all the way through, about 5-10 minutes for cold tamales and 15 minutes for frozen. Check occasionally to make sure all the water has not evaporated. Add more water as needed.
8. On the Grill
Grilling tamales may not offer the best texture. Grilling tends to dry them out. On the upside, it does give them a deliciously smoky flavor. This only works with cold, thawed tamales not frozen.
Step one: Heat grill to medium-high heat. Clean the grates and oil them.
Step two: Place tamales on the grill. Cover the grill. Let the tamales cook until grill marks form, about 6 minutes. Flip and grill on the other side until hot all the way through, about another 6 minutes.
- Store leftover tamales covered in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- Serve tamales topped with salsa, sour cream, a sprinkling of your favorite Mexican cheeses like Cotija or queso fresco and arroz blanco and my sofrito black beans.