How to Reheat Tamales: Best Ways to Heat Them Up

Nicole Austin

If you have leftover tamales you still want to enjoy, try one of these methods.

Learning how to make tamales, a classic and ancient Mexican food (with roots across Latin America), is simpler than you might imagine, which is one of the many reasons why tamales are easy to make in bulk and store in the fridge. That just leaves one wondering how to reheat tamales.

The good news is it’s far easier than you may imagine and definitely worth the effort!

It's no secret by now that tamales are a delicious dish that can be made from just about anything you want — adding various ingredients and mixing things up is one of the many things modern-day tamales are known for.

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That is, aside from the extensive and rich cultural tradition of preparing them together as a family for holidays such as Christmas, which, as a mom, really hits me in the heart. I cherish the traditions that my family shares every year because that, to me, really makes the holiday season special.

Of course, tamales are for any time of the year for people of any ethnicity, but I really like to remind everyone to take a minute to think about the time-honored Mexican-rooted ritual that you’re part of when you make tamales! The kitchen is the heart of the home, and thinking about all the families just like yours that made this delicious dish together over the centuries really helps to keep things in perspective.

All that said, we are here to help you with any and all information about how to reheat your tamales — and while you’re at it, check out what to serve with tamales for a flavorful feast!

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How to Cook Tamales That Are Frozen

Freezing a tamale is an excellent way to save them for later. Because tamales are so easy to make in large batches, it only makes sense to put in the effort to freeze some of them for later.

However, frozen leftovers are only as good as their ability to be reheated, and thankfully tamales are perfectly delicious when cooked from frozen. In fact, many people who make them in bulk to sell fresh tamales opt for freezing the product to preserve them.

The simplest, best way to cook frozen tamales is to steam them, as the traditional way calls for. The steamer method is still the most common method used to resurrect cold tamales, and while it may not technically be the fastest way, there's a reason it may be your best option.

Frozen tamales can be steamed by placing them inside a steamer basket with the water level below the tamales, so as not to boil them. If you’re cooking more than one, be sure to stand them upright for even cooking.

Up to four frozen tamales can be prepared at one time by steaming them for about 25 minutes.

If you wish to steam more than 4 frozen tamales, I suggest leaving room for as much air circulation as possible and adding more time. I would suggest about 35 minutes of steaming for 5-7 tamales and 40 or more minutes for more than seven. For better results, don’t overfill your steamer or it will take longer and the product will not cook evenly.

If these have already been cooked, you will be looking to reach an internal temperature of 165°F for your reheated tamales.

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How to Cook Frozen Tamales Without a Steamer

While a steamer might be the traditional method for cooking tamales, that doesn’t mean it is readily available to all.

Thankfully, you can also microwave frozen tamales.

While the microwave method is not my personal preference in general, it is faster and easier, especially if you don’t have a steamer. It’s also safer to use a microwave if a child is reheating tamales — I know I am personally more comfortable with my kids using a microwave.

Wrap a single frozen tamale in a damp paper towel and heat in the microwave (on a microwave-safe plate) for 3-4 minutes. For two frozen tamales, wrap each individually in a slightly wet paper towel and increase the cooking time to 7 minutes. I like to turn them over halfway through to ensure even cooking.

You can also cook, and reheat, tamales in an oven using our comprehensive guide.

There are also a few other methods of reheating tamales!

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How to Steam Tamales in a Rice Cooker

A rice cooker has a steam function that is perfect for cooking or reheating Mexican tamales. It's an easy way to resurrect the original flavor!

Add a cup of water to the inner pot and place the tamales inside. Cook on the steam setting for half an hour or until the interior reaches 165 degrees for leftover cooked tamales and 200 degrees for freshly steamed, raw tamales.

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How to Reheat Tamales in an Instant Pot

Instant Pots are known for their versatility and speed in preparation, and this quick meal is no exception.

Tamales can be reheated in an Instant Pot on high heat, and it's a popular alternative to steaming.

Expect the reheating process to take 15 minutes of reheating time (not including prep and set-up) if frozen and 10 if thawed or fresh.

These simple steps will maximize your leftover tamales in no time at all!

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How to Reheat Tamales in Air Fryers

To reheat tamales in the air fryer, preheat the fryer to 350°F.

Place tamales in the air fryer basket in a single layer and leave room for the air to flow and circulate — you do not want to stack them or cram them in. Mist them with water to avoid losing moisture. (If you don't have a good way to do that, your best bet is to add a few drops of water on top.)

Heat for 8 to 10 minutes, turning them halfway through so the tamale dough cooks evenly. It's a great option — and arguably the best way — to reheat your tamales quickly.

Air fryers are an excellent way to reheat a tamale as the exterior crisps up well but the interior remains tender and flavorful.

Tip: try some of our other favorite air fryer recipes!

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Can You Freeze Uncooked Tamales?

Yes!

Raw tamales, or homemade tamales that have been assembled but not yet cooked, are often frozen for simple storage as it skips the lengthy cooking step and saves it for a future date.

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How to Cook Frozen Uncooked Tamales

You can cook frozen uncooked tamales very easily, but you do have to factor in some extra time to bring them up to temperature, and then cook them thoroughly.

Frozen and raw tamales should be steamed for about 90 minutes — check the water level every 30 minutes to account for evaporation.

At the 90-minute mark, check the internal temperature of your tamale to see if it has reached at least 200°F. If not, continue to steam until it does.

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Can You Freeze Masa for Tamales?

You may wish to freeze components of the tamales for future use, rather than whole tamales — and it’s simple to do!

Masa can be frozen and saved for later.

You can refrigerate it for up to 3 days in a tightly sealed container, or freeze it for up to 6 months.

Preparing masa in bulk and thawing it in the fridge for 24 hours before making tamales will cut back significantly on your time spent making tamales. Consider freezing and saving masa for a tamale-making Christmas party to have more time that day or week to enjoy other holiday activities and people!

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How Long Can You Freeze Tamales?

Tamales can be frozen for about 3 months using average freezer methods, and for about 6 months if vacuum sealed

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New to tamales? Don’t be embarrassed by one of the most common questions: How do you eat a tamale?

Also, take a moment to learn what a tamale is and why you should love this key part of Mexican cuisine that's made with masa harina and generally wrapped in banana leaves or a corn husk! (Oh, and find out if tamales are gluten free.)

Is all this tamale talk getting you in the mood for some Tex-Mex foods? Check out my friend Ryan’s list of our 11 most popular Tex-Mex recipes.

Nicole is a self-published author of fiction novels, and a lover of food and spending time in the kitchen with her six children. She lives in coastal Maine where she loves exploring new recipes especially those that can save time, money and wow a crowd.

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