A tamale is a Mesoamerican dish made with masa, a dough created from nixtamalized corn. The product is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf, which can be used as a plate or discarded.
Tamales contain a filling such as meat, cheese, vegetables, or fruit, depending on the recipe. These dishes can be sweet or savory, and they can be eaten as a main course or as a side.
Dating back as far as 8,000 to 5,000 BCE, the tamale originated in Latin America. The dish is thought to have been introduced by indigenous cultures in Mexico and Guatemala before spreading throughout the continent.
There are different ways to reheat fresh and frozen tamales for optimum results, including in a steamer or an oven.
The Best Way to Reheat Tamales
The best way to reheat leftover tamales is to steam them in a basket. Because this is the way tamales are cooked originally, using a steaming basket helps retain the original flavor and texture of the dish.
Here’s how to reheat your tamales in a steamer:
- Fill the steamer to just below the steamer base with water and turn the heat to medium
- Steam the tamales in their husks for 15 to 20 minutes by placing them in a steamer basket over the steam. If you’re using frozen tamales, increase the cooking time to 10 to 15 minutes
- Remove the tamales from the steamer and serve
7 Best Simple Ways To Warm Up Tamales
Here are seven alternative ways to reheat tamales if you don’t have a steamer:
How to Reheat Tamales in an Oven
Reheating frozen tamales and fresh tamales in the oven is easy and helps conserve the product’s texture, when done correctly.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F
- Squeeze the tamales to remove trapped air
- Cover each tamale with aluminum foil
- Place the tamales in an oven-proof dish, leaving space between each tamale, and then put the dish in the oven
- Flip the tamales onto the other side 10 minutes into the baking process
- Bake the tamales for 10 minutes more (20 minutes total) if fresh, or 20 minutes more (30 minutes total) if frozen
- Remove from the oven and enjoy
Using aluminum foil to reheat tamales in the oven is crucial because reheating the tamales without foil can damage the texture of the tamale.
How to Reheat Tamales in an Air Fryer
Reheating fresh or frozen tamales in an air fryer is quick and easy.
- Switch on the air fryer and set it to a medium heat
- Moisten each tamale’s corn husk with cold water
- Place the tamales in the air fryer basket, and air fry them for 5 minutes. Add an extra 3 to 5 minutes for frozen tamales
- Remove the tamales carefully from the fryer basket and leave them to cool before serving
How to Reheat Tamales in a Microwave
Reheating tamales in a microwave is quick. However, reheating tamales in a microwave can cause the tamales to lose their original texture, so it’s not the ideal method. Microwaving tamales is the best method for when you’re in a rush and not concerned about the tamales drying out.
- Wrap each tamale in a damp paper towel
- Arrange each tamale on a plate or dish that’s microwave safe, making sure there’s adequate space between each tamale
- Reheat the tamales for 1 to 2 minutes on medium-high heat
- Remove the tamale from the microwave and enjoy
If you’re using frozen tamales, thaw them in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours before microwaving them.
How to Reheat Tamales on the Stove
Reheating your tamales on the stove brings out their flavor and can give the outside a crispy texture, so it’s a great method for people who prefer their tamales crunchy.
- Discard the corn husks from the tamales
- Add a teaspoon of vegetable oil such as olive oil or rapeseed oil to a pan
- Heat the pan for 2 minutes until the oil is warm
- Put the tamales in the pan and cover the pan with a lid
- Remove the lid and flip the tamales every couple of minutes
- Remove the tamales from the pan after 10 minutes, or when the tamales look golden
How to Reheat Tamales in an Instant Pot
If you’re short on time, you can reheat the tamales in a pressure cooker such as an instant pot.
- Put your Instant Pot on a high heat
- Dampen your tamales with water
- Place the tamales in your Instant Pot with adequate space between each tamale
- Let the tamales heat for 10 minutes
- Remove the tamales from the Instant Pot and allow them to cool before serving
How to Reheat Tamales in a Slow Cooker
If you’re not in a rush, you can reheat tamales in a slow cooker. This method of cooking is easy and requires minimum effort.
- Set the slow cooker to a high temperature
- Sprinkle each tamale’s husk with water
- Place the tamales in their husks in the pot with the open ends facing up. Make sure there’s space between each tamale
- Cover the pot and reheat the tamales for an hour
- After an hour, check the internal temperature before eating. The temperature should be at least 165°F
How to Reheat Tamales on the Grill
Reheating tamales on the grill gives them a crispy texture and smoky flavor. This method works best with thawed tamales and isn’t suitable for frozen tamales
- Heat the grill to medium
- Wrap the tamales in aluminum foil for extra moisture (optional)
- Place the tamales on the grill with adequate space between them
- Grill for several minutes on one side
- Flip the tamales and grill them on the other side for several minutes. Once the husks are blackened, the tamales are ready
FAQs About Reheating Tamales
Here are some commonly-asked questions about tamales and their answers.
How to Keep Tamales Moist When Reheating
The best way to keep your tamales moist when reheating is to use a steamer. If you don’t have a steamer and you’re reheating your tamales in the microwave, wrap each tamale in a damp paper towel before placing it on a microwave-safe plate.
When reheating tamales in the oven, cover the tamales in foil, or dampen the tamales if using an air fryer or instant pot. If you want your tamales to be moist, not crispy, avoid reheating them on the stove.
Can You Steam Tamales the Next Day?
You can steam tamales the next day. Once you’ve cooked the tamales, place them in the refrigerator for up to a week. During this week, you can reheat the tamales using any of the methods listed above.
Do You Microwave Tamales in the Corn Husk?
You should microwave tamales in the corn husk. However, you should wrap the corn husk in a damp paper towel or dampen the corn husk before microwaving the tamales.