Wondering how to reheat tamales? Whether you’ve made them yourself or got them from your favorite Mexican restaurant, there are ways to reheat tamales if you have some leftovers.
But first, what are tamales?
Tamales are a popular dish made from corn dough (masa harina) and a savory or sweet filling.
The dough is wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf and steamed.
While they originated in Mexico, several other regions and countries, such as the Caribbean, USA, and Philippines, have their own versions.
Tamales are best eaten right away. But in case you have leftovers, it’s essential to know how to reheat them properly. One misstep can dry out this tasty dish!
There are several ways to reheat tamales, each having its own set of pros and cons.
With the handful of tips I have in store, you’ll be able to reheat your leftover tamales perfectly using any method.
Enjoy yesterday’s tamales as if they were made today! Let’s get the show on the road.
How to Reheat Tamales in the Microwave
This is the best method if waiting isn’t an option. Reheating tamales in the microwave is the fastest out of all the methods.
It takes no time, but the catch is, you won’t get that brown and crispy outer crust. There’s also a slight chance for your tamales to end up dry.
No worries, though! If you follow along, your tamales will stay wonderfully moist.
1. Remove the aluminum foil wrappings, if any. Wrap each tamale with a damp paper towel. This will prevent them from drying out in the microwave.
3. Place a maximum of two tamales on a microwave-safe plate, allowing enough space in between.
4. Microwave them on 70% power (medium-high) for 15 seconds. Take the plate out and unwrap the tamales. Flip the tamales over and wrap them with fresh damp paper towels.
5. Microwave them again on 70% for 15 seconds. Feel the surface to check if the tamales are heated through. If not, microwave them at 15-second intervals until hot to the touch.
For thawed tamales, the process will take about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Frozen tamales will need about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Damp paper towel alternative: moisten the husks with cold water each time you pop the tamales in the microwave.
- Handle microwaved tamales with care. Since they’re wrapped in paper towels, the hot steam is trapped inside, making them extremely hot.
- Don’t microwave more than two tamales at once. This will prevent them from heating evenly.
Do You Microwave Tamales in the Corn Husk?
Yes. While you won’t be eating the husks, these wrappings give the tamales a wonderful aroma and flavor.
Don’t remove them until right before you eat the tamales.
Reheating Using a Steamer
The steamer is hands down, the most superior means to reheat tamales.
Think about it: tamales are cooked in a steamer, so it only makes sense to reheat them using the same tool.
With the steamer, you are ensured that your tamales are relaxing in a moist environment. The results are remarkably fresh and moist tamales.
The drawback is that it’ll take 30 minutes to reheat.
Some are also turned off by the hassle of taking out the infrequently used appliance from wherever it’s stored just for this purpose.
But if you’re particular about retaining that perfect tamales texture, this method is worth it. Here’s how:
1. Fill the steamer’s pot with 2 to 3 inches of water. The bottom of the steaming basket shouldn’t touch the water.
2. Top the pot with the steamer basket and put the lid on. Boil the water on high heat.
3. Reduce the heat to medium. Using a pair of tongs, place the tamales into the basket, allowing space in between. Do not overcrowd the steamer to ensure even cooking.
4. Let the tamales steam for 20 to 30 minutes – 20 for refrigerated while 30 for frozen.
Reheat Tamales in an Oven
If you want your tamales with a brown and crispy outer crust, the oven is the way to go.
It’s also super easy and convenient when reheating a large batch of tamales.
Most people think they know how to reheat tamales in the oven, but truthfully, only a handful know how to do it correctly. Be one of those people! Here’s how:
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Tightly wrap each tamale with aluminum foil 2 to 3 times. Make sure there’s no air trapped in between the layers.
3. Place the tamales on a sheet pan, allowing space in between.
4. Bake the tamales for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the pan halfway through. For frozen tamales, bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
How to Reheat Tamales in an Air Fryer
This versatile kitchen appliance can fry foods with little to no oil, bake goods, and yes, reheat leftovers.
Another great thing about it is that it does the job of a conventional oven at lightning speed.
The time it takes to reheat food in the air fryer is almost the same as doing it in the microwave, but with significantly more impressive results. Neat, isn’t it?
Reheating tamales in an air fryer couldn’t be easier! Here’s how:
1. Place the tamales with the husks intact in the air fryer basket, allowing at least an inch of space in between.
2. Air fry them at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, flip the tamales over. Air fry them for 8 minutes more.
- Don’t remove the husks when reheating tamales in the air fryer. The hot air will dry out the tamales without them.
- Do not overcrowd the air fryer basket to give the hot air enough space to circulate. Allow at least an inch of space in between the tamales.
- If you’re reheating frozen tamales, air fry them for 11 to 12 minutes on each side.
Reheating Tamales Using a Crockpot/Slow Cooker
I love using the Crockpot when reheating the tamales because it requires no babysitting.
Just throw the tamales in the pot, set the timer, and go on your merry way.
The disadvantage is that they take a while to reheat. But considering how effortless this method is and how fantastic its results are, I say it’s worth it.
1. Set your Crockpot or slow cookers temperature on high.
2. Place the tamales, husks intact, in the pot. Arrange them such that the open ends are facing up. Don’t overcrowd the pot to ensure even reheating.
3. Spritz some water over the tamales.
4. Cover the pot and reheat for an hour. Check their status after 30 minutes. If they’re not yet hot at this point, rearrange them to ensure they’re reheating evenly.
5. Once the timer goes off, check the internal temperature using an instant-read thermometer – it should hit at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Reheating Tamales in the Instant Pot
Bet you didn’t think you could reheat food in the Instant Pot! But yes, you can, and you definitely should.
Reheating in the Instant Pot results in remarkably moist and tender tamales. It works the same way as the steamer, but quicker.
1. Pour 1 cup of water into the insert pot of your Instant Pot. Place the steamer basket inside. Be sure the basket doesn’t touch the water.
2. Add 4 pieces of tamales into the basket in a standing position. Stacking them upright ensures a more even cooking. Cover the pot with the lid and seal the vent.
3. Click on the steam option and set the timer to 5 minutes. For frozen tamales, set it to 15 minutes.
4. When the timer goes off, perform a quick release and remove the lid. Remove the basket and carefully unwrap the tamales.
- If you don’t have a steamer basket, just arrange the tamales on the trivet that came with your Instant Pot. It’ll be a challenge to set the tamales upright, but it’s possible.
You can also just lay the tamales flat. Depending on the number of tamales you’re stacking up on the trivet, you may need to reheat longer.
How to Reheat Tamales in a Skillet
Don’t have any of these kitchen appliances? Don’t worry, if nothing else, you can always count on the skillet.
In fact, in Mexico, it is common to toast tamales in a skillet.
It reheats the tamales beautifully and even gives them a wonderfully crisp crust. It does the job quickly, to boot.
The only downside is that this method only works for thawed tamales.
If you forget to defrost your frozen tamales, unfortunately, you’ll have to use a different method.
Here’s how to reheat tamales in a skillet:
1. Preheat the skillet over medium heat.
2. Pour a tablespoon of vegetable oil into the preheated pan. Other oils with a neutral flavor and a high smoke point work, too, such as peanut oil, canola oil, and corn oil.
3. Remove the corn husks and carefully place the tamales into the skillet. Tamales are very delicate. Handle them with care, otherwise, they’ll fall apart.
4. Reheat the tamales and carefully flip them over every 1 to 2 minutes. Cook until the outsides are light golden brown. Remove the tamales from the skillet and serve them right away.
How to Keep Tamales Moist when Reheating
If keeping leftover tamales moist is your primary goal, then the best reheating methods for you are either the steamer or the Instant Pot.
The hot water at the bottom of the pot creates a moist environment, which helps the tamales stay moist while reheating.
- While it’s okay to reheat tamales straight from the freezer, it’s better to thaw them first. Transfer the tamales into the fridge and let them defrost overnight.
- Do not overcook the tamales, otherwise, they’ll dry out. That said, it’s essential to know whether they’re thawed or frozen so you can set the timer appropriately.
- Check the tamales’ internal temperature to test for doneness. The instant thermometer should read at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
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