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Reheating Tamales to Perfection

Tamales are a delicious Latin American dish made with masa dough and filling that is steamed inside a corn husk or banana leaf wrapper. While best when freshly made, leftover tamales can easily be reheated to serve again. There are several methods for reheating tamales to restore their texture and flavor.

How to Reheat Frozen Tamales

If you have leftover tamales that were frozen, the key is allowing time for them to thaw before reheating. Here are some tips for reheating frozen tamales:

  • Thaw frozen tamales overnight in the refrigerator. This slower thawing helps prevent the masa from getting soggy.
  • You can also thaw frozen tamales sealed in a zip top bag submerged in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until thawed.
  • Do not microwave frozen tamales on high power or the filling can overheat and burn while the masa remains cold.
  • Once thawed, use the oven, stovetop, or microwave to reheat using the same methods as fresh tamales.

How to Reheat Tamales in the Oven

The oven provides an even, gentle heat that reheats tamales well. Here is how to reheat tamales in the oven:

  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Remove tamales from husks and place unwrapped on a baking sheet.
  • Heat tamales for 15-20 minutes until thoroughly warmed through.
  • Wrap them back up in the husks or a damp paper towel and place in a covered dish to steam for 10-15 minutes more. This extra steaming helps restore moisture.

How to Reheat Tamales in the Microwave

The microwave provides a quick method for reheating tamales. Follow these steps:

  • Remove tamales from the husk and place unwrapped on a microwave-safe plate.
  • Microwave in 30 second intervals until heated through, checking and rearranging after each interval.
  • Wrap tamales back in the damp husk or paper towel and microwave 1-2 minutes more to steam.
  • Take care not to overheat or tamales can become rubbery.

How to Reheat Tamales in an Air Fryer

An air fryer is a great way to reheat tamales to a crispy texture:

  • Remove tamales from husks and place unwrapped tamales in air fryer basket.
  • Air fry at 325°F for 6-8 minutes until heated through.
  • For extra crispy texture, brush masa with oil before air frying.
  • Turn tamales over halfway for even reheating.

How to Reheat Tamales in an Instant Pot/Steamer

An Instant Pot/Steamer is a convenient hands-off way to reheat tamales:

  • Place tamales unwrapped or still in husks in a steamer basket or on a trivet in the Instant Pot.
  • Add 1-2 cups of water to the Instant Pot base. Select the Steam function and set time for 8-10 minutes.
  • Use the Natural Release method before opening the lid.
  • The tamales will reheat evenly and absorb moisture from the steam.

How Long to Steam Tamales to Reheat

Steaming is a traditional reheating method that keeps tamales moist.

  • Place unwrapped tamales in a steamer basket or colander over 1-2 inches of simmering water.
  • Cover and steam over low heat for 15-20 minutes until fully heated through.
  • For best results, wrap tamales back in husks or a damp towel and let sit 5 minutes before serving.


Here are a few tasty recipes for reheating tamales:

Oven-Baked Tamales

12 tamales removed from husks
1/4 cup chicken or beef broth
1 tbsp butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place unwrapped tamales in a baking dish.
  2. Pour broth over tamales and dot with butter.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes until heated through.

Microwave-Steamed Tamales

6 tamales removed from husks
Damp paper towels


  1. Wrap tamales individually in damp paper towels.
  2. Microwave in 30 second bursts, rearranging and rotating after each interval, until hot, about 2-3 minutes total.
  3. Let sit 1-2 minutes before unwrapping.

Instant Pot Tamales

16 tamales in husks
1 cup water


  1. Place tamales in a steamer basket and set in Instant Pot. Add water to pot.
  2. Seal lid and select Steam setting on high pressure for 8 minutes.
  3. Use natural release, then unwrap and serve tamales.

Stovetop Steamed Tamales

8 unfrozen tamales unwrapped
2 cups water


  1. In a steamer pot, bring water to a simmer. Add tamales to basket.
  2. Steam covered for 15-20 minutes until fully heated through.
  3. Remove basket and serve immediately.


Should you reheat tamales in or out of the husk?

You can reheat tamales either in or out of the corn husk. Leaving them wrapped in the husk helps retain moisture but can make them take longer to heat through. Removing the husk allows for quicker, more direct heat transfer.

How do you keep tamales from drying out when reheating?

Wrap reheated tamales back up in the corn husk or damp paper towels once heated through. The residual steam will rehydrate the masa. You can also drizzle on a little chicken or beef broth before serving.

What temperature should tamales be reheated to?

Heat tamales to an internal temperature of at least 165°F to ensure safety and optimal texture. Use a food thermometer to check.

More Tamales Reheating Tips:

  • Add a small amount of broth or water to the dish when reheating tamales in the oven or microwave to add back moisture.
  • Turn tamales over halfway during reheating for even heating.
  • Do not boil or deep fry tamales to reheat, as this can make the masa soggy.
  • Reheated tamales will never be quite as moist as freshly steamed ones. Enjoy them soon before they dry out further.
  • Leftover tamale filling makes a great taco or tostada topping.
  • Freeze extra tamales soon after making them for longer storage.

Here are some recommended appliances and cookware for reheating tamales:


  • A microwave with a rotating turntable and power settings from low to high (700-1100W) will allow you to reheat tamales gradually and evenly. Look for a size of 1.2 cubic feet or larger to fit a plate of tamales.


  • Any standard size home oven will work for reheating tamales. Conventional ovens heat tamales more gently than a microwave.


  • A bamboo or metal stackable steamer basket is perfect for steaming tamales over a pot of simmering water. Choose a size that will fit your amount of tamales.
  • An electric steamer like the Aroma 6-Cup Rice Cooker can conveniently steam tamales. Select a size to fit your batch.


  • For stove-top steaming, a 2-3 quart pot with a tight fitting lid allows you to heat tamales suspended over simmering water.
  • A dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot works well to envelop tamales in steam heat.
  • An Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker with a steamer attachment can steam tamales by setting to high pressure for 8-10 minutes.

The right container is key for even moist heat distribution. Look for ones with steaming holes or a basket and a lid to contain the steam. With any reheating method, be sure to use a food thermometer to check tamales reach 165°F internally.

Tamales are a tasty food that can easily be reheated using a variety of methods. The oven, stovetop, microwave, air fryer, and Instant Pot are all options for reheating tamales to serve again. Choose the reheating method that fits your time availability and texture preferences. Just be sure to reheat thoroughly until hot all the way through before serving. Now enjoy your tamales a second time around!

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