In Central and South America, tamales are a staple dish for dinner and a heartwarming snack in the winter.
They’re usually filled with meat, vegetables, chilies, or even cheese depending on your preference. Whether you’re a spice lover or not, everyone loves a steaming hot tamale fresh out of the pot. But, since it’s a dish that’s mainly made in big batches, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll have leftover tamales for the next day or so.
Unfortunately, most of us are quite familiar with the dread of drying out and ruining once-scrumptious tamales by reheating them in the wrong way.
If that’s the reason you’re here, fear no more! There are a number of different methods you can choose to reheat your tamales properly. I’ve done my research and would like to share everything you need to know about reheating tamales in the right way.
How to Reheat Tamales in a Steamer
You can always rely on your steamer to reheat your leftover tamales. Though a little time consuming, it gives you the best results if you want a succulently moist and delicious tamale.
Another bonus is that you don’t have to keep an eye on them like you would if you were to reheat them in an oven.
There are a few tips to keep in mind if you choose this method. You should always keep them in their husk and do not, under any circumstances, let them be in direct contact with the water. Otherwise, they will get awfully mushy and paste-like.
- Fill the steamer or the pot you will use with approximately 2 or 3 inches of water. Exactly how much water you will need depend on the size of your pot.
- Let the water come to a boil. If you’re using a pot and a steaming basket, preheat your steaming basket in this step.
- When the water comes to a boil, put your tamales into the steamer/pot with a pair of tongs.
- Cover your steamer/pot with a tightly fitting lid and lower the heat to medium. This way, the water will stop boiling but keep simmering and giving off steam.
- Your tamales will be ready to enjoy in about 20 to 30 minutes depending on their size.
How to Reheat Tamales in the Oven
This method has a similar reheating time to the steaming method. However many people claim that this is a better, if not the best method for reheating tamales because it cooks evenly and retains as much flavor as possible. If you prefer a crispier exterior and a moist interior, then the oven is the way to go!
- Preheat your oven to 425°F.
- Take them out of the corn husk and wrap them in aluminum foil individually.
- Line them up in an oven-safe tray or a sheet pan and be sure to leave 1 to 2 inches space between each tamale.
- Bake them for 10 minutes and flip them using a pair of tongs or your preferred utensil.
- Continue baking for another 10 minutes.
- After a total of 20 minutes, take them out of the oven and let them rest for 5 minutes in the aluminum foil if you can. Then carefully unwrap them and enjoy!
Even though it takes about 20 to 30 minutes, it’s definitely worth it as this method provides satisfyingly crispy and golden tamales.
Another bonus of the oven method is that, before transferring to the oven, you can put shredded cheese on top of them if you want a lusciously melty cheese with your tamales.
How to Reheat Tamales on the Stove
If you don’t have much time but don’t want to sacrifice too much, you can always opt for the stove method. It takes much less time than the oven method and yields a similar product; crispy and golden exterior.
One important tip is that you should take the tamales out of their husks, otherwise the husks may burn and ruin the dish.
- Heat your pan or skillet over medium heat until it is decently hot.
- Add just a tablespoon of oil, preferably neutral oil such as grapeseed or sunflower oil because they won’t impart any flavor and have a high smoke point. But olive oil would work too if that’s what you prefer.
- Gently take the tamales out of their husks. It is important to be delicate in this step because the masa around the tamales can easily crumble and deform. Quickly but carefully put your tamale in the pan and cover with the lid.
- Occasionally take a look and flip them once every 2-3 minutes to prevent burning.
- Once the exterior of the tamales turns slightly golden brown and crisp, they are ready to eat!
How to Reheat Tamales in Instant Pot
You can always rely on your Instant Pot to keep your tamales moist and succulent during reheating. Even though it may not the best way, it is one of the easiest ways as you can just put them in the Instant Pot and forget about them.
If you have some leftover tamales and are looking for an effortless tamale fix, this is the way to go. Keep in mind that you will need a steamer basket for this method.
- Add about 2 cups of water into the insert pot of your Instant Pot.
- Arrange your tamales in your steamer basket, preferably perpendicular as this allows more steam circulation around them. If you have a big batch, you can stack them up horizontally.
- The reheating time depends on the size and number of your tamales, but 5 minutes with the steam function is a good starting point. If you have a lot of tamales or very cold ones, you can steam them for up to 15 to 20 minutes until they are at your desired temperature.
- When they’re done, carefully release the steam, take them out of the Pot and enjoy!
How to Reheat Tamales in the Microwave
The microwave method is by far the easiest way of reheating your leftover tamales, but the result will be the lowest quality out of all of these methods.
However, mediocre tamales are always better than zero tamales if you ask me! So, if you’re really hungry and want to chow down on your tamales as soon as possible, this is the way to go.
- First of all, don’t take your tamales out of their husks or they will dry out very quickly.
- Wrap all of the tamales in a slightly damp paper towel individually. This step will keep them moist and prevent drying out.
- Transfer your tamales onto a plate and into the microwave.
- Make sure that you don’t overcrowd the plate. It’s best to just microwave two at a time.
- Microwave them at medium or high heat for 15 seconds.
- Take them out of the microwave, unwrap the paper towels and rewrap in a new slightly damp paper towel. Flip them so that they reheat evenly and transfer to your microwave.
- Microwave them for another 15 seconds.
- After a total of 30 seconds, take them out and feel the exterior of the tamales. If they are not at your desired temperature, rewrap them in a damp paper towel and microwave for another 15 seconds until they are heated all the way.
- Once they’re heated all the way through, unwrap the paper towel and corn husk, and enjoy!
How Should You Reheat Frozen Tamales?
Ideally, tamales should be eaten while hot and fresh.
But if you have too much for some reason and you know for sure that you will not be eating them soon enough, then it is best to freeze them. This is because tamales are very prone to mold growth and should not be left even in the refrigerator for too long.
So, you should always freeze them. When you want to reheat and eat, there are two ways you can go.
Unless you’re using the steamer, Instant Pot, and oven methods I have mentioned above, you should always let them thaw before reheating. But if you’re going to reheat them using these methods, you can skip thawing and just reheat them using the steamer, oven, or the Instant Pot method.
Just be sure to reheat for a longer period of time until they are heated evenly all the way through.