Eight Easy Ways to Reheat Frozen Tamales for Perfect Taste and Texture

Tamales! There is nothing quite like them, with their perfect combination of delicate, slightly sweet corn dough and rich, savory, spicy fillings. Whether you bought prepared frozen tamales, or froze leftover homemade tamales, they are easy to reheat. This article explains eight ways to reheat tamales and the advantages of each. Use any one of these methods for hot, delicious tamales in no time.


Steaming is the traditional way tamales are cooked, and it ensures that they stay soft and moist. You will want to watch your tamales carefully while steaming, since over steamed tamales can absorb too much moisture and get quite mushy.The cooking time will vary based on how hot your steamer is and how many tamales you are heating. For a single layer, it could take as little as 20 minutes, but for more tamales arranged or a cooler steamer, it can take up to 45 minutes. Just check the tamales after the first 20 minutes and you should have a pretty good idea of how fast they are going. At that point, you can also rearrange them to ensure even heating.

Photo from wikihow.com
  1. If you have a countertop steamer, preheat it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Otherwise, heat a few inches of water in a large pot with a steamer basket inside or on top.
  2. Place the tamales, with the corn husk wrapper on, in a single layer in the steamer basket, with the open end facing up. Ensure that the tamales are not touching the water, and cover tightly.
  3. Steam until the tamales are very hot throughout, 20-45 minutes.


Frying is one of the tastiest ways to cook frozen tamales, since it gives them a lovely golden brown crust and a slight crunch.Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, remove the corn husk wrappers from the tamales.

Photo from icookstuff
  1. When the skillet it hot, add 1 tbsp vegetable oil or lard. Allow the fat to heat up for a few seconds before adding the tamales.
  2. Carefully place the tamales in the hot skillet. Fry the tamales for 3-4 minutes per side, until they turn golden brown. Keep cooking, turning occasionally, until the tamales are very hot inside.


Baking is a convenient way to heat up a large batch of tamales. The only downside is that the tamales can start to dry out a little bit. To prevent this, wrap them tightly in foil to seal in moisture before putting them in the oven.
Baking tamales

  1. Preheat the oven to 325F.
  2. Wrap the tamales (leave corn husks on) tightly in aluminum foil and place them in asingle layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tamales are very hot in the center.


Some prepared tamales come frozen in microwave and heat-safe vacuum-sealed bags. This makes cooking super easy with the boiling method. You can also use this method if you have heat-safe sous vide cooking bags.
Boiling tamales

  1. Heat a large pot of water to a steady boil.
  2. Meanwhile, get out the bag of frozen tamales, if you bought it like that, or place thetamales, with the corn husk wrappers, in a sous vide bag and seal it.
  3. When the water is boiling, immerse the bag fully, being careful not to let it touch thesides or bottom of the pot (the bottom especially can get too hot and melt the plastic).Setting a steamer basket on the bottom of the pot can help.
  4. Boil for about 22 minutes for 4 tamales. If you think they’re not done yet, err on the sideof caution and cook them a few minutes more. A little extra heat won’t hurt, but you can’t put them back in the water after opening the bag.


It’s clear by now that tamales reheat well with many different methods. What’s extra great is that, unlike many foods, they reheat well in the microwave, without losing taste or getting tough. This makes them a convenient option for lunch at work or meals on the go, since they will be hot and ready in minutes.

  1. If you bought the tamales in a microwave-safe bag, you can leave them in it, simply snipping a small hole for steam to escape. If not, place the tamales on a plate and cover them with a damp paper towel. Or, put the tamales in a glass bowl and sprinkle a few drops of water over them. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap
  2. Heat the tamales on medium or 50% power for 3 minutes, to ensure even defrosting. Then, turn the tamales over and heat for 1-2 minutes more at full power, until they are very hot.


Using this method, you can reheat tamales in a pan without oil, or in a pinch, on the grill. This technique gives the tamales a slightly crunchy exterior and grilled flavor. It’s perfect if you’re serving tamales at a barbecue or outdoor party.
Grilled tamales

  1. Preheat a griddle or grill to medium.
  2. Leave the tamales in the corn husks and place them on the griddle. If using a grill, youcan lay a double layer of aluminum foil on the grill and place the tamales on that toreduce charring, or put them directly on the grates.
  3. Heat the tamales, turning occasionally. The husks will start to blacken – that’s ok, sinceyou will take them off to eat anyway.
  4. Keep cooking until the tamales are very hot, then peel off the wrappers and eat.

Slow Cooker

Using your slow cooker is another easy way to heat up a big batch of tamales, since it can basically function as a steamer. This method is handy for bringing tamales to potlucks or other gatherings where you need a portable heat source.

  1. Set the slow cooker to high. Arrange the tamales standing up with the open end facing upwards, and sprinkle with water.
  2. Cover the slow cooker and cook for about 1 hour, rearranging the tamales after 30 minutes to ensure even heating.

Deep Frying

It’s true, you can deep fry anything, tamales included. For this method, it is best if you defrost the tamales for 2-3 minutes at low power in the microwave first, so they’re not totally frozen. Don’t fully cook them in the microwave though, as softer tamales are harder to fry. Just take the chill off.

deep fried tamales

  1. Set your deep fryer to medium.
  2. Remove the husk from the tamales, and pat them dry with a paper towel if there is any excess moisture.
  3. Slowly lower them into the oil and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  4. When the tamales are golden brown, remove them gently from the oil to a paper-towel lined plate or a wire rack.

Pro Tips

  • The FDA recommends that all leftover and prepared foods be heated to at least 165F. This ensures that any potentially foodborne illness-causing bacteria are killed. Use a cooking thermometer to check that your tamales have reached an internal temperature of 165F, especially if you are preparing a large batch that could have heated unevenly.
  • When steaming tamales, be careful not to let them touch the boiling water. If this happens, they will get mushy and start to dissolve.
  • Tamales can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They go well with fried eggs, queso fresco, pico de gallo, hot sauce, and mole sauce.
  • You can get tamales with many different types of fillings, so it’s easy to meet everyone’s tastes and dietary needs. Chicken, beef, pork, beans, cheese, vegetables, and sweet corn are common options.I hope this article has given you good information about all the possible ways to reheat frozen tamales. With eight different options, there’s no reason to wait – heat up some tamales for dinner tonight!

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