How to Reheat Tamales

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Written By Acacia Crossley


Tamales are a much-loved Mexican treat. Unfortunately, they’re a treat because tamales are very time-consuming to make. Making tamales is easy once you know how, but even those who have been making them all their lives need patience.

That is why making tamales in one large batch and freezing the leftovers is easier to save time the next time there is a birthday or graduation event. So how do you reheat your batch of tamales when it comes time to serve the delicious treat? 

To reheat tamales, the best option is to pop them into a steamer for 15 minutes until hot through. Tamales can also be reheated in the oven, taking around 20 minutes or so.

How to Reheat Tamales

There are two main factors to consider when you are reheating your leftover tamales. Firstly, how can you get the centre fillings hot enough to eat safely? And secondly, how can you maintain that signature masa texture? 

The best way to answer both of these questions is by steaming your tamales to reheat them. But you can also use the oven for a quick, effortless reheat.

We have outlined both of these reheating methods below: 

How To Reheat Tamales In The Steamer 

Tamales are traditionally cooked in a steamer. The slow cooking with the steam gives the masa its signature spongy but firm texture. 

Trying to regain that texture is difficult once the tamales have already been cooked and stored in the fridge for a few days. However, because tamales are usually cooked in a steamer in the first place, it is best to use the steamer again to reheat them: 

  1. Set Up The Steamer
    Plug in your steamer and fill the steamer with water to the recommended amount. 
  2. Boil Water
    Then set your steamer to high until the water starts to boil. 
  3. Organise The Tamales 
    Once the water has boiled, turn the steamer’s heat down to medium and fill the steamer with tamales. Do not layer the tamales as they will not reheat evenly. 
Tamales in a Steamer Basket
  1. Reheat
    Close the steamer and set a time for 15 minutes. 
  2. Check 
    After 15 minutes, grab a knife and carefully pierce one of the tamales through to the centre. You will need to move the husk out of the way to do so. 
  3. Reheat (Again) 
    If the tip of the knife is still cold when you remove it, leave the tamales to reheat for a further 5 – 10 minutes until the knife comes away hot. Then serve. 

How to Reheat Tamales In The Oven 

Okay, so your Mexican grandparents and relatives may think you a little odd for using an oven to reheat tamales.

But is it a quick and effortless way to ensure that the tamales’ meat filling is hot enough to eat without ruining the texture of the masa. 

All you need to do is follow this method for reheating your tamales in the oven, and nobody will be able to tell that you skipped out on the more traditional cooking methods: 

  1. Preheat The Oven
    Before you get started, set your oven to 220 C. You need the oven to be hot enough to prevent the masa from turning soggy. 
  2. Wrap In Foil 
    Though the oven’s intense heat is necessary, the direct heat can burn your tamales. So wrap each tamale in tin foil with the husks still on to protect the tamales. Make the wrappings as tight as possible for the best results. 
  3. Reheat
    Place the tamales evenly apart in the middle of the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes. 
  4. Turn Around
    After the tamales have reheated for 10 minutes, open the oven and use an oven glove to turn the tamales around for an even reheat. 
  5. Reheat (Again) 
    Close the oven and allow the tamales to cook for a further 10 minutes. 
  6. Check And Serve
    Check to see if the centre of the tamales is piping hot with a knife. Once it is, serve the tamales immediately. 
Can You Freeze Tamales?

Yes, tamales can be frozen for up to 6 months if cooked. If not cooked, you can freeze the masa filling and other ingredient individually for around 8 months.

How to Reheat Tamales Successfully

Despite the initial process of making and cooking tamales being a lot of effort, reheating the tamales is pretty simple. 

However, the last thing you want to do is mess up reheating your leftover tamales when they take much time and skill to make in the first place. To avoid disaster, here are a few tips you can keep in mind for a successful reheat: 

  • Steam In The Microwave – Not everybody has a steamer they can use to reheat tamales. But you can always recreate the effect of a steamer using a microwave. This can be done by placing a lightly damped paper towel or kitchen towel in the microwave along with the tamales. 
  • Cook Frozen Tamales For Longer – If you have stored your tamales in the freezer and want to reheat them, allow at least another 10 minutes for them to reheat, no matter which method you use. This will give any ice enough time to melt and evaporate without making the tamales overly soggy. 

Is It Safe to Reheat Tamales?

Yes, tamales are more than safe to reheat, whether stored in the fridge or freezer. 

However, you should only reheat meat tamales when they have been in the fridge for less than 3 days. Even then, you should ensure that the meat is piping hot before the tamales are served. 

Reheating Tamales FAQs

Reheating tamales isn’t too complicated. But if you have further questions, these FAQs might help out:

Can You Reheat Tamales in the Microwave?

You can reheat tamales in the microwave by wrapping them in paper towels and then reheating them for a few minutes. You may find that they reheat unevenly, however.

Can You Reheat Tamales in an Air Fryer?

We would avoid using the air fryer to reheat tamales. You’ll find the corn husk burns before the centre of the tamale has had a chance to come up to temperature.

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