9 Tips on How to Cook Premade Tamales

9 Best Ways to Reheat Frozen Tamales

Tamales! There is nothing quite like them, with their perfect combination of delicate, slightly sweet corn dough and rich, savory, spicy fillings. Whether you buy pre-packaged store-bought frozen tamales (Costco, anyone?), or freeze leftover homemade tamales, they are easy to reheat for a delicious and quick meal. Read on for the 9 Best ways to easily reheat tamales from frozen (including the fan favorite, Reheating Frozen Tamales in the Instant Pot.)  None of the following methods require the first step in the reheating process to thaw tamales at room temperature, saving you time. We will explore the advantages (and disadvantages) of each method. Use any one of these reheating processes for hot, delicious tamales in no time.

How to Steam Pre Cooked Tamales

Steaming is the most traditional and well-known way tamales are cooked and for good reason. Steaming leftover tamales is the best way to reheat them since it ensures that they stay soft and moist. You will, however, want to watch your tamales carefully while steaming. Overly steamed tamales can absorb too much moisture and get quite mushy fast.

Cooking times will vary based on how hot your steamer is and how many tamales you heat at once. For a single layer of tamales, it could take as little as 20 minutes, but for additional tamales, or a cooler steamer, it can take up to 45 minutes. Steaming works for both corn husk tamales and ones wrapped in a banana leaf. For the best results, check the tamales after the first 20 minutes to get an idea of how quickly they cook. At this point, you can also rearrange them to ensure even heating. This might not be the fastest way, but it is a great way to get moist tamales the next day.

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 steameing basket inside or on top for a stovetop steamer.
  2. Place 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 (this can create a mushy texture), and cover tightly.
  3. Steam until the tamales are very hot throughout, typically ranging from 20-45 minutes.Although it takes a little longer, these are so much better than microwave tamales. Serve them with fresh homemade guacamole for even better results!

Want to learn how to cook frozen tamales without a steamer? Keep on reading!

How to Reheat Frozen Tamales with a Frying Pan

Frying is a reliable alternative to steaming and is one of the tastiest ways to cook frozen tamales, giving them a lovely golden brown crust and a slight crunch. This is an excellent option if you want a little extra flavor! Plus, you don’t have to deal with excess water.

Photo from icookstuff
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. While the pan is heating, remove the corn husk wrappers from the tamales.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 steaming hot inside.

How to Steam Pre Cooked Tamales

Baking is a convenient way to heat up a large batch of tamales. The downside is that the tamales can dry more easily in an oven than with other methods. To prevent over drying, 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 individual tamales (leave corn husks on) tightly in aluminum foil and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tamales are very hot in the center.

How to Reheat Frozen Tamales by Boiling

Some pre-packaged tamales come frozen already in microwave and heat-safe vacuum-sealed bags. This makes boiling frozen tamales to “reheat and eat” super easy. This is the best method to save you time since you won’t have to be as watchful over them. You can also use this method if you have heat-safe sous vide cooking bags to use.

Boiling tamales
  1. Heat a large pot of water to a steady boil.
  2. Meanwhile, get out the prepackaged and wrapped bag of frozen tamales (if this step was already done for you), or place the tamales, with the corn husk wrappers in tact, in a sous vide bag and seal it.
  3. When the water reaches a steady boil, immerse the bag fully, being careful not to let it touch the sides or bottom of the pot. If the bag comes in contact with the metal pot (the bottom especially) the plastic can melt. Setting a steamer basket on the bottom of the pot can help give some separation.
  4. Boil at a high heat for about 22 minutes for 4 tamales. Check the tamales carefully, because once removed from the bag, they can not be placed back in the pot to reheat. You might consider giving the tamales a couple extra minutes for good measure.

How to Reheat Frozen Tamales in a Microwave

It’s clear by now that tamales reheat well using many different methods, making them a convenient and delicious option anytime. What’s extra great is, unlike many foods, they even reheat well in the microwave without losing flavor or getting too tough. This makes tamales a clear winner for lunch at work or meals on the go!

  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 (or follow manufacturer instructions if different.) If the tamales do not come with a bag to heat them in, 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.
  3. Then, turn the tamales over and heat for an additional 1-2 minutes at full power, until they are very hot. Cooking times may vary by brand or size, so check the directions if you are unsure for the store bought versions.

How to Reheat Frozen Tamales using the Griddle or Grill

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


How to Reheat Tamales in a Crock Pot

Slow cookers are known to use time and moisture to create savory meals without the fuss and energy of other cooking methods. Many of us really want to know how to cook tamales in a crock pot and whether you can steam tamales in a crock pot. This is a great question, and the answer is yes!

Steaming tamales in a crock pot is another easy way to heat up a big batch of frozen tamales, since the crockpot can essentially function as a steamer. This method is handy for bringing tamales to potlucks or other gatherings where you need a portable heat source that won’t dry out the tamales.

  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 (or halfway through) to ensure even heating.

How to “Deep Fry” to Reheat Frozen Tamales

It’s true, you can deep fry anything, tamales included. For this method, it is best if you first defrost the tamales for 2-3 minutes at low power in the microwave. Don’t fully cook them in the microwave however, as softer tamales are harder to fry. Slightly defrosting the tamales will just take the chill off, making the deep frying process easier.

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, gently remove them from the oil and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate or a wire rack.

And now for the one method, you have all been waiting for…

How to Reheat Frozen Tamales in the Instant Pot

The instant pot has taken over the internet and kitchens everywhere due to its quick and easy usability and versatility.  The instant pot has a wide following for cooking thousands of recipes, including heating/cooking foods from frozen. Reheating frozen tamales is a task the Instant Pot is more than up for.

So how do you go about reheating/cooking frozen tamales in the Instant Pot? You’ll start by:

  1. Place the Instant Pot Trivet on the bottom of the instant pot.
  2. Line the instant pot with a steamer basket made for the Instant Pot and place on top of the trivet.
  3. Pour around 2 cups of water in to the pot.  The water will drain to the bottom and not directly touch the tamales, which is important.  If the tamales sit in the water they will become mushy and inedible.
  4. Place the tamales (husks on with the openings pointing up) in a circle pattern around the edges of the steamer.
  5. Some people will place an Instant Pot safe item (like a small circular dish) in the center of the tamales to keep them in place.  If you don’t have one, just make sure to arrange the tamales in a way that keeps them secure.
  6. Close the lid, set the toggle to the center, and set the Instant Pot on the “Manual” setting.  Set the timer for 15 minutes and let it cook.
  7. When the timer goes off, you will let the Instant Pot “natural release”, meaning wait for it to release the pressure on its own and don’t move the toggle switch to “quick release” the pressure.
  8. When removing the tamales, take care and use tongs or another heat safe instrument.  They will be hot!

To reheat frozen tamales in a pressure cooker (a brand different that an Instant Pot), times should be similar to that of the instant pot.  Just ensure that the middles of the tamales are piping hot before serving and always follow safety instructions for your device. Trader Joe’s tamales in the Instant Pot are especially delicious!

Pro Tips

  • The FDA recommends that all leftover and prepared foods be heated to at least 165F. This ensures that any food-borne 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 potentially 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.
  • If you decide to microwave them, be sure to us a microwave-safe plate.
  • 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.

Using one of these 9 easy ways to reheat frozen tamales, there is no reason you can’t have a hot and delicious dinner ready in minutes tonight! Better yet, experiment with all 9 and find your favorite go to way to reheat and eat. Enjoy!

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