How To Reheat Tamales: 3 Best Ways To Save Rich Flavors

If you are a Mexican food aficionado, you must love tamales. Their flavorful fillings and delicate texture are very hard to resist.

Although they are best to eat straight off the steamer, leftovers can be reheated to preserve their freshness. Reheating tamales is surprisingly easy – unlike tacos and burritos that need to be disassembled and reheated separately.

This article will walk you through the ultimate ways to reheat tamales – both cold and frozen ones. The best option is reheating in a steamer, just like how it was cooked. Of course, we also give other options in case you don’t have a steamer.

What is Tamale?

Tamales (plural form for tamale) are an authentic Mexican dish made of corn-based dough (masa dough) filled with various meats, chicken, beans, chili, or cheese. They are wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves and steamed on a stovetop.

Aside from Mexico and other Central American countries, tamales are incredibly popular in the United States. Although the cooking preparation is relatively easy, it is time-consuming. Therefore, they are often cooked in a big batch and stored for later.

When it comes to reheating, there are a handful of options to choose from. You can choose one that suits you best, depending on the availability of the tools, the quantity, and your time. More on that below!

Reheating Tamales in A Steamer

Heating up tamales in a steamer is considered the golden standard. Doing so produces the best result to preserve their initial flavors and texture. You can reheat both refrigerated and frozen pieces with this method.

If you are a newbie with steaming food, it is surprisingly easy! Here is how to do it.

1. Fill your steamer with enough water. Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the steamer basket.

2. Arrange tamales in the basket. Don’t remove the husks/ wrappers.

3. Cover with the fitting lid and steam for approximately 15 to 30 minutes until thoroughly heated. To heat up from frozen, add an extra ± 10 reheating time.

4. Once ready, remove them from the basket and let them stand for a few minutes before serving.

Reheating Tamales in An Oven

If you don’t have a steamer, no need to worry. You can reheat this corn-based dish in an oven. In fact, it is also perfect when you have to deal with a large quantity. We will use a little trick to ‘steam’ leftover tamales in the oven, so we don’t risk them getting dried out.

1. Preheat your oven to 425 to 450 °F.

2. Wrap each piece in aluminum foil – no need to remove the husk. By wrapping in foil, the moisture is trapped inside and steams the tamale.

3. Arrange wrapped tamales in an oven-safe dish or a baking sheet.

4. Bake for approximately 20 minutes and flip them halfway through so both sides are heated evenly.

5. Once ready, remove from the oven immediately. Be careful when removing the foil since they are piping hot.

Reheating Tamales in An Microwave

The third method is to heat them up in a microwave. Although it might not be the best approach, it works pretty well to warm up a small portion whenever the craving strikes or when you have little time.

Here are the instructions to heat up tamales in a microwave.

1. Place them in a suitable container, leaving enough space between them.

2. Pour a few drops of water and cover the container with a damp paper towel. This way, they will be steamed as they reheat.

3. Microwave over low to medium power for 1 to 2 minutes.

To warm up frozen pieces in the microwave, they should be thawed in advance. Follow the similar procedure above.


Can you steam tamales the next day?

Yes. You can place them in a well-fitting airtight container, ideally a rectangular one. You can also keep them in a resealable plastic bag. Make sure not to overcrowd the container and remove excess air. Either way, don’t forget to seal the container tightly and refrigerate.

How long can you keep cooked tamales in the fridge?

Pre-cooked tamales keep well for a few days to a week in the refrigerator. The freshness of the ingredients also determines how long this dish stays fresh. To bring back their lovely flavors and consistency, reheat them shortly before serving.

How do you freeze cooked tamales?

Freezing cooked tamales is incredibly easy. After cooking them, let them cool quickly before packing them into freezer bags. Seal the bags tightly and freeze for up to 2 to 4 months.

How can you tell if tamales have gone bad?

There are some telltale signs to check whether tamales have spoiled, such as rotten smell and mold growth. The exact smell might be different depending on the ingredients used for the fillings.

The Bottom Line

Tamales are not only tasty and comforting. They are also a popular make-ahead Mexican dish. Whether you have a cold or frozen leftovers, you can reheat them quickly in a steamer, microwave, or oven!

Check our ultimate guide in reheating tamales, so they are as delectable as freshly made!

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