When talking about Mexican cuisine, people automatically think of the beany or beefy burrito and crunchy tacos.
I know. Those are some of my favorites!
However, if you would ask me, there is one Mexican dish that I truly believe to be even better than those two— the traditional Tamale!
And for those who are quite unfortunate not to know what this yummy dish is, grab a seat and drool from this culinary lesson!
What are Tamales?
Tamale is a classic dish that is derived from Mesoamerican cuisine. Although there are several variations on this dish, the usual recipe is made from dough steamed inside a banana leaf or corn husk, giving the dough a distinctive flavor and delicious banana or corn aroma.
Tamales Through Time and Cultures
Tamales originated thousands of years ago where the first reference to it was from 100AD Guatemala. The Mayas and Aztecs also used tamales to take food with them on their long journeys.
Tamale gradually evolved over the years. In Mexico, the dough is filled with lard and sweet and savory chicken or pork fillings. Mexicans take their Tamale seriously, and making them is almost like a ritual to them. This savory dish also plays an essential role in some Mexican fiestas and festivals.
In Spain, on the other hand, tamales are filled with tomato sauce which they like to call a “green corn tamale”. Meanwhile, in Tobago and Trinidad, their Tamale is known as “pastille”, filled with raisins, meat fillings, and another seasoning, one of their popular Christmas foods. And in Asia, tamales come with seafood, meat, or even coconut milk fillings!
Re-Heating Tamales Like a Pro: 5 Easy Methods to Choose From
So, as you can see, Tamale is a very well-traveled dish which crosses various cultures and is very popular.
And today, I wish to help those of you who love snacking on Tamale (me too, of course). Maybe because of your love for tamales, you cooked too much, then you and your family can eat and have a bunch of leftovers.
Well, there is no question of what to do to them the next day— you reheat them. I mean, there is nothing sadder than wasted tamales.
Heating tamales, however, is no easy task!
Well, if you are not careful, those precious, yummy tamales may end up starchy and dry, and distasteful, and unappealing, and unsavory… (Should I continue?)
But today is your lucky day! Being the tamale lover I am, I shall teach you how to reheat those wonderful leftover tamales so that you can enjoy them the second time around!
Get your fiesta face and Mexican hats ready because here are the five best methods to reheat tamales like a pro!
1. Steaming Hot!
If you want your Tamale moist, then steaming them is the best way to go. Use this method if you have to cook, but business calls and kids keep you busy to watch it heat.
- Fill the steamer with water ¼ of the way. In case you do not have a steamer, you can use a pot with a steaming rack.
- Set the heat of your stovetop or steamer to medium. Leave it for 10 minutes and allow the water to heat up.
- Place your leftover tamales on top of the rack. Make sure that they are not submerged in the water.
- Cover the steamer or pot and steam the tamales. If they are chilled, steam them for 15 – 20 minutes. If they are frozen, leave it alone for 20 – 30 minutes.
2. Your Oven is Your Best Bud
The almighty oven is probably the best way to heat your tamales perfectly. Although it may take a bit longer than the other methods, the wait is well worth it— evenly reheating and bringing out the Tamale’s heavenly flavor like newly cooked!
- Preheat the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wrap each tamale in tin foil 3 – 4 times. Make sure to squeeze the bundles in order to remove any air inside.
- Arrange the wrapped tamales on an oven-safe tray or dish.
- Place it in inside the oven and cook for 10 minutes. After that, flip the tamales and cook for another 10 minutes in order to evenly heat the tamale.
3. Get the Crunch with a Pan
Using the pan and the stove will give you that desirable crisp and crunch in every bite!
- Peel the husks of the tamale.
- Add a teaspoon of olive oil into the pan and allow it to heat for 2 – 3 minutes on medium heat.
- Carefully place the tamales in the pan. Cover the pan with a lid to heat faster.
- Cook the tamales and make sure to flip them over every 2 – 3 minutes.
- Continue this until the tamales are crispy with its outside completely browned.
4. Pull-Out the Deep Fryer
If you wish for the crispiest tamales, then the deep fryer is your option. However, know that it also comes with additional calories and fat due to being fully submerged in oil. You can try this method to give you the crunchiest tamales ever, and do not mind the extra calories that come with it.
- First, defrost the tamales. Frozen tamales can cause the deep fryer oil to pop and bubble.
- Pre-heat the deep fryer.
- Peel the husks of the tamale and pat down the tamales with a paper towel. This should remove extra moisture that can cause the oil to bubble and pop.
- Using tongs, slowly submerge the tamales.
- Cook for 2 – 3 minutes. The tamales need to be golden brown.
- Remove it from the oil and allow to cool.
5. Zap in the Microwave
If you feel a bit lazy and want some tamales without doing too much, there is always the microwave. Reheating tamales in the microwave is the quickest and easiest option, perfect when you have no time or are just feeling sluggish.
- Defrost the tamales.
- Wet down a piece of paper towel and wrap it around the tamales. This should prevent the tamales from drying out.
Pro Tip: When heating tamales using the microwave, do not heat for more than two at a tie.
- Place the tamale in the microwave and cook them for 15 seconds in high heat.
- Once the time is up, pull out the tamale and unwrap the paper towel.
- Wrap the tamale in another wet paper towel. Then, flip it over and put it back into the microwave. Cook it for another 15 seconds.
- Once finished, pull out the tamale and remove the outer husk. Make sure that it has been heated evenly. If not, then you can re-wrap it again with a wet paper towel and cook for another 15 seconds.
Freezing and Saving Leftover Tamales
You put a lot of effort and made too much. Now, you have some leftovers. Or maybe you want to save a stash for tomorrow or this weekend. So, you will need to store and freeze those yummy tamales properly. How?
- First, make sure that the tamales completely cooled down before you wrap them.
- To freeze tamales, leave the tamales in the husks and wrap them tightly with a foil or plastic wrap. Place them in freezer bags or airtight food storage containers.
A properly packaged tamale can stay in your freezer for at least six months. However, if your tamales come with beef, pork, or chicken, then you might want to eat them between 2 and 6 months later, but no later than that!
There is absolutely nothing like them— with their perfect combination of rich, spicy, savory fillings and delicate, slightly sweet banana or corn dough. They are a delicious treat, whether in winter as hot comfort food or during summer with a cookout!
And whether you froze leftover homemade tamales or brought prepared frozen tamales, you got a variety of options in reheating them and bringing back their deliciousness.
So, what are you waiting for? Take those tamales out of the fridge and get ready to hold a Mexican-themed snack party today!
Got any questions? Suggestions? Feel free to share your insights and fire up the comment section below!
Until then, have a lot of tamale fun!