How To Reheat Tamales

How To Reheat Tamales? 4 Simple Ways

Tamales are one of my favorite comfort foods. The masa dough stuffed with savory fillings and wrapped in corn husks is iconic in Mexican cuisine. However, leftover tamales can easily dry out or become soggy when reheated improperly. As someone who regularly cooks tamales at home, I’ve tested different methods to reheat tamales and restore them to their original taste and texture.

In this article, I’ll share the 4 best ways to reheat tamales based on my experience. I’ll also explain what tamales are, give tips for cooking tamales perfectly, and discuss why proper reheating is so important for preserving tamales.

What Are Tamales?

Tamales originate from ancient Mesoamerican and Central American cultures such as the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas. The concept crossed over to Mexico, where tamales are now a traditional holiday and celebration food. They are made from masa dough, which is ground nixtamalized corn mixed with lard or vegetable shortening. The masa is stuffed with savory fillings like meats, cheeses, chiles, or vegetables. Tamales are wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves before being steamed.

Part of the appeal of tamales is customizing the fillings to your tastes. In Mexico, common fillings include shredded pork, chicken, cheese, beans, or chorizo. The masa dough recipe also varies between regions in Latin America, creating a diversity of tamale styles.

Why Proper Reheating Is Essential

When you make a batch of tamales at home or have leftovers from a restaurant, you don’t want to lose the delicious flavor. However, the masa dough can become dried out if you don’t reheat tamales the right way. I’ve found that reheating methods that use steam are best for bringing tamales back to life. The key is to add moisture gently without making the dough soggy.

If you don’t reheat carefully, the tamales may end up with a gummy texture or the fillings can dry out. With the proper technique, you can make those leftovers taste fresh again! Now let’s get into the details of the 4 best ways to reheat tamales.

Method 1: Use a Steamer

My favorite way to reheat tamales is steaming them. This locks in moisture and evenly distributes heat to the interior. Tamales also originally get their cook from steaming, so it makes sense to use this method again.

Benefits of Steaming

  • Retains original flavor and texture
  • Adds moisture back to prevent dryness
  • Tamales come out soft and fluffy


  1. Fill the bottom pot of a steamer with water up to the fill line.
  2. Bring the water to a gentle boil over medium heat. The water should be steaming but not rapidly boiling.
  3. Arrange the tamales upright in the steamer basket, making sure not to overpack them.
  4. Place the steamer basket over the pot and cover. Let the tamales steam for 8-10 minutes until heated through. For frozen tamales, allow them to steam for 12-15 minutes.
  5. Check the water level halfway and add more water as needed to keep the steam flowing.
  6. Carefully remove the hot steamer basket and serve the tamales immediately. Enjoy those perfectly reheated tamales!

Method 2: Reheating Tamales in the Oven

The oven is my second go-to for evenly reheating tamales using dry heat. This works especially well if the tamales were frozen.

Benefits of Oven Reheating

  • Allows you to reheat a batch of tamales together
  • Great for defrosting frozen tamales before serving
  • Keeps the masa dough from getting soggy


  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F.
  2. Wrap each tamale individually in aluminum foil, making sure the foil is tightly sealed.
  3. Arrange the foil-wrapped tamales on a baking sheet without overcrowding them.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes until warmed through. The time will depend on how many you are reheating.
  5. Halfway through, flip the tamales over for even heating.
  6. When done, open the foil and serve the hot tamales.

Method 3: Use an Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker

Modern kitchen appliances like Instant Pots make it convenient to reheat tamales. The pressurized environment helps steam the tamales without drying them out.

Benefits of Using an Instant Pot

  • Functions as a steamer and oven in one appliance
  • Quickly reheats tamales by pressurizing steam
  • Minimal effort required


  1. Add 1-2 cups of water to the Instant Pot container.
  2. Place a trivet or steamer basket in the bottom.
  3. Arrange thawed tamales in an even layer on top of the trivet, spacing them out a bit.
  4. Lock the lid and pressure cook on high for 6-8 minutes, allowing time for it to build pressure. Frozen tamales may need 10 minutes.
  5. Use natural release so the tamales gradually come down from the pressure.
  6. Carefully remove the tamales once pressure is fully released. Serve and enjoy!

Method 4: Microwave Them

While microwaving isn’t ideal, it can work in a pinch to quickly reheat your tamales. Just keep a close eye to prevent drying.

Drawbacks of Microwaving

  • Can dry out the masa dough
  • May heat the filling unevenly
  • Not suitable for a large batch


  1. Wrap each tamale individually in a damp paper towel. This creates steam to add moisture.
  2. Arrange them an inch apart on a microwave-safe plate.
  3. Microwave frozen tamales for 3 minutes to thaw. Then microwave in 30 second intervals until warmed through.
  4. For refrigerated tamales, microwave in 30 second intervals to retain moisture.
  5. Let the microwaved tamales rest for 1-2 minutes before unwrapping.

The microwave can reheat a few leftover tamales fairly well. But I find other methods like steaming always produce better results.

How to Cook Tamales Perfectly From Scratch

While reheating leftovers is great, there’s nothing like piping hot freshly steamed tamales! Here are some tips to cook homemade tamales to perfection:

  • Use dried corn husks soaked in water, removing any broken pieces. This allows them to be pliable for wrapping.
  • Make sure to beat the masa well so it becomes light and fluffy before adding lard or shortening. This makes the dough tender.
  • Don’t overfill the tamales. About 1/4-1/3 cup of filling per tamale is perfect. Too much can cause them to burst open.
  • Wrap the tamales tightly in the corn husks when forming them. Fold up the ends and tie with kitchen string or strips of husk.
  • When steaming, place the tamales upright in the basket with open ends facing up. This helps the dough cook evenly.
  • Steam for 60-90 minutes until the husks pull away slightly from the masa. Check them frequently and add more hot water to the pot as needed.
  • Let the steamed tamales rest for about 15 minutes before unwrapping. Check that the masa has firmed up and cooked through.
  • Serve warm with desired sauces, salsas or toppings and enjoy! Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.

The Takeaway on Reheating Tamales

I hope these tips help you rediscover the joy of tamales, whether they are freshly made or leftover. Proper reheating makes all the difference in bringing out the full flavors and textures. Now that you know the best practices, you can keep enjoying tamales for days after the initial cooking.

In summary, use a steamer or Instant Pot for thorough heating without drying them out. The oven also does a decent job. Only use the microwave to briefly reheat a tamale or two. With the right technique, reheated tamales can taste just as amazing as the first day they were made!

How To Reheat Tamales In The Microwave?


  • Damp paper towel

  • Microwave-safe plate

  • Frozen tamales


  • Wrap each tamale individually in a damp paper towel. This creates steam to add moisture.
  • Arrange them an inch apart on a microwave-safe plate.
  • Microwave frozen tamales for 3 minutes to thaw. Then microwave in 30 second intervals until warmed through.
  • For refrigerated tamales, microwave in 30 second intervals to retain moisture.
  • Let the microwaved tamales rest for 1-2 minutes before unwrapping.

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