Re-Heating Tamales Like a Pro: Choose From These 5 Easy Methods

Re-Heating Tamales Like a Pro: Choose From These 5 Easy Methods 1 #cookymom

When talking about Mexican cuisine, people automatically think of the beany or beefy burrito and crunchy tacos.

I know, those are one 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?

What are Tamales?

Tamale is a classic dish that is derived from the Mesoamerican cuisine. Although there are several of variations on this dish, the usual recipe is made from dough that is 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. Tamales were also used by the Mayas and Aztecs as a means of taking 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 of 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 other seasoning which is one of their popular Christmas food. And in Asia, tamales comes 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, the tamale is a very well-traveled dish which crosses various cultures and 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 than you and your family can eat and have a bunch of leftovers.

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Well, there is no question of what to do to them the next day— you just reheat them. I mean, there is nothing sadder than wasted tamales, right?

Heating tamales, however, is no easy task!


Well, if you are not careful, those precious, yummy tamales may end up starchy and dry, and unappetizing, 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 re-heat those wonderful leftover tamales, so you can enjoy them the second time around!

Get your fiesta face and Mexican hats ready, ‘cause here are 5 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 all the time to cook, but business calls and kids kept you busy to watch it heat.

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  • 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 re-heating and bringing out the tamale’s heavenly flavor like newly cooked!

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  • 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 it being fully submerged in oil. You can try this method to give you the crunchiest tamales everand do not mind the extra calories that come with it.

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  • 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, then there is always the microwave. Re-heating tamales in the microwave are the quickest and easiest option, perfect when you have no time or 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 2 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 properly store and freeze those yummy tamales. 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 6 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!

Final Thoughts


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 wither 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 option in re-heating 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!

Nancy Lee

Nancy Lee

Hey there, I'm Nancy, founder and editor in chief here at Cooky Mom, and I’m absolutely in love with food and health blogs. I'm on a mission to share my insider cooking, food and health tips with all of you...

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