Buying in bulk and cooking tamales in large batches is a great way to save money.  But what do you do when you have leftovers that need to be heated up?  Doing it the wrong way can leave your food soggy and tasteless. That’s why learning the best way to reheat tamales can benefit you and keep you from throwing delicious food into the garbage.  This will not only feed you for an extra day, but reduce the waste you and your family are producing.

There are a few different ways to reheat tamales correctly, including reheating your tamales in the microwave, on the stove, or in the oven.  All three are quite easy to do.  Which you choose to try depends on your preferred cooking method and how much time you have in the kitchen. For a bonus, I’ve even included a few tips from the pros, to help you make your tamales the best they can possibly be.

What You Need to Reheat Your Tamales


1 Reheating Your Tamales in the Microwave

  • Microwave-safe plate
  • Damp paper towel
  • Oven mitts
  • Meat thermometer

Though this is the fastest way to reheat your tamales, it is best only used when you’re short on time, or don’t have access to a stove or oven.  This is because microwaving food can leave you with hotspots in the middle of whatever you’re cooking, tamales included.

Microwaving your tamales can also dry out the masa dough, which will alter the taste and the enjoyment you have when eating your tamale.

If you do choose this method, make sure your tamales are completely thawed before you begin, to ensure the most even cooking possible.

2 Reheating Your Tamales on the Stove

Since steaming tamales is the proper way to make them in the first place, it only makes sense that steaming is the best way to reheat tamales.  It takes a bit more time than microwaving, but the result will be much tastier with no chance of drying out.

3 Reheating Your Tamales in the Oven

  • Oven-safe platter
  • Aluminum foil
  • Meat thermometer

Though preparation takes some extra time, this is still a great method to use when reheating your tamales.  They will come out hot and delicious and won’t require too much of your attention when cooking.

Step by Step Instructions on the Best Way to Reheat Tamales

Now that you’ve gathered the necessary cooking items, here are the simple step-by-step instructions on how to reheat your tamales using whatever method you’ve chosen.

Best Way To Reheat Tamales

1 Reheating Tamales in the Microwave

Step 1: Arranging Your Tamales

Take out your microwave-safe plate and place it on your counter. Place your tamales on the plate side-by-side. Be sure to leave a bit of space between the tamales, so they cook thoroughly on all sides.

Though you may want to cook as many as possible all at once, the best way to reheat tamales in this fashion is to cook only two at a time to make sure they cook evenly.

Step 2: Preparing Your Tamales

Dryness is always an issue when reheating anything in the microwave, which is where the damp paper towel comes in. Wrap each of the tamales in one of these.

The heat from the microwave will turn the water on the paper towel to steam, which will then keep your paper towel damp throughout the cooking process, preserving the tamale’s texture without altering the taste.

Step 3: Setting Your Microwave’s Temperature and Time

Some microwaves have turntables inside, while others just have a flat bottom. Either way, place your plate of tamales in the center of the cooking area.

You then need to set your microwave’s heat level to full power and your cooking time to 15 seconds.

Hopefully, your microwave has a windowed door, so you can see your tamales while they are cooking, for easy monitoring.

Step 4: Heating Your Tamales

With your tamales settled and your temperature and timer set, you’re ready to start cooking. Press your microwave’s start button and wait for it to count down. When it is finished, open the door and take the paper towel off your tamales.

Flip each of the tamales on the plate over and replace the used paper towel with a fresh damp one. Set the timer again for 15 seconds, still at full power, and start it again.

Step 5: Checking Your Tamales Internal Temperature

When the second round of cooking is over, use the oven mitts to remove the plate of tamales from the microwave. Take the paper towel off. Insert the meat thermometer into one end of the tamale to see its internal temperature.

If the temperature of the tamales thickest point has reached 165 degrees F, they are finished cooking and ready for you to enjoy. If not, cover them with another damp paper towel and put them back in the microwave for an additional 15 seconds. Then check the temperature again.

Step 6: Testing the Tamales

Because microwaves often heat unevenly, it is necessary to check the tamale at this point. Simply run your fingers along the length of the reheated tamale, to ensure there are no cold areas.

If you find one, rotate your tamales on the plate so they are positioned differently, or cut them in half to give the microwave more surface areas to heat at once. Then cover them again with a damp paper towel, and put them back in the microwave for another 15 seconds on full power.

2 Reheating Your Tamales on the Stove

Step 1: Thawing out Your Tamales

If you like to make large batches and freeze them, then you need to thaw them out before you start cooking them. You can place them in the refrigerator to do this, though it could take up to 24 hours for them to thaw completely this way.

Another option is to defrost them in the microwave, which will save you a great deal of time. Simply remove the plastic or aluminum foil used to store them and discard it. Then wrap a damp paper towel around the tamale, place them in the microwave, and set the timer for 60 seconds.

After the timer has run down and the microwave shuts off, turn the tamales over and repeat the process. Then check them to be sure there are no frozen areas, especially in the middle. If there are, put them back in the microwave for another 60 seconds.

Of course, if you have only stored your tamales in the refrigerator and they have not been frozen, then you can skip this step.

Step 2: Heat the Water

Pour 4 cups of hot tap water into your 4-quart pot. Place the pot on the stove and turn the heat level to medium high. Take your steamer rack and insert it into the pot. Then put the lid on to speed up the heating time. When the water starts to boil, you are ready for the next step.

Step 3: Placing Your Tamales in the Pot

The best way to reheat tamales on the stove is to stand them up on the steamer rack so their open ends are pointing up. There should be about an inch of space between them to ensure even heating.

If you have too many tamales to fit them comfortably and evenly into the steamer, don’t try to stuff extras in there. Leave some out and reheat them separately in a second batch.

Place the lid back on the pot with the tamales inside.

Step 4: Cooking Your Tamales

When your tamales are arranged in your pot and the lid is back on, reduce the stove’s heat to medium and let the tamales simmer. Let them cook for about 15 minutes.

Though you may be tempted to lift the lid and peek at them, don’t do this. The loss of heat each time the lid is lifted will extend the cooking time.

Step 5: Taking Your Tamales Temperature

After your 15 minute timer goes off, put on an oven mitt and remove the lid from the pot. Insert the meat thermometer into one of the tamales. If the temperature reads 165 degrees F at the thickest part of the tamale, they are finished.

If they are not yet at that temperature, put the lid back on the pot and give them another 3-5 minutes to cook. Then check them again to be sure they have reached the safe 165 degree F.

Step 6: Removing the Tamales From the Steamer

When the tamales are finished cooking, turn off the stove and take the lid off the pot. Take them out of the pot using a slotted spoon or a pair of tongs and place each one onto a clean, warmed plate.

They will be very hot, so try to restrain yourself from eating them until they have stopped steaming, so you don’t burn your mouth on them.

3 Reheating Your Tamales in the Oven

Step 1: Preparing the Tamales

Using the aluminum foil, wrap each tamale individually. Make sure the foil is long enough to completely circle the tamale 2-3 times.

Then gently squeeze the foil wrapped bundles to remove any air that may be trapped inside. Place the wrapped tamales into the oven-safe platter, leaving enough space between them so they do not touch each other, to ensure even heating.

Step 2: Cooking the Tamales

Set the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and allow it to preheat. When this is done, put the platter of wrapped tamales into the oven. Set your oven timer to 20 minutes and let them cook.

After about 10 minutes, remove the platter from the oven and flip the tamales over. This will help to heat them evenly all the way through. Then put them back in the oven for the rest of the cooking time.

Step 3: Check Your Tamales Temperature

Put on a pair of oven mitts and remove your platter of tamales from the oven. Choose one, unwrap it, and insert the meat thermometer into the open end, making sure it reaches the thickest part of the tamale.

If the temperature reads 165 degrees F, the tamales are ready to eat. If not, place them back in the oven for an additional 5 minutes. Then check their temperature again. Continue this process until the tamales are at the safest temperature to eat.

Pro Tips on the Best Way to Reheat Tamales

Though the methods above are all great for reheating your tamales, there are a few things you can do to ensure your tamales are the best they can possible be, so you enjoy them as much the second time you heat them as you did when they were freshly made.

Best Way To Reheat Tamales

1 Don’t Thaw the Tamales Out Before Steaming

If you forget to thaw out your tamales before dinner, don’t fret.  You can always try to steam them from their frozen state.  It may take 5 or 10 minutes longer to cook in a steamer this way, but this will not affect their taste in any way.

Keep in mind that steaming frozen tamales means they may not cook as evenly as they would if they were already thawed, because the ends will thaw out faster and start cooking while the center is still partially frozen.

The issue is that this could cause dryness in the ends while you are waiting for the center to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.  If you don’t mind the drier ends, or are rushed for time and just want to get them in the steamer, than this is a suitable option.

2 Leaving the Corn Husks on Your Tamales

Whether using the stovetop or the oven method, the best way to reheat tamales is to leave the corn husks on them.

There are two reasons to do this.  The first is to keep the tamale from coming apart while you cook it.  The second reason is to ensure there is minimal splattering from the filling as the tamale is reheated.

Using the corn husks can also add some flavor to the tamale’s filling as it heats, due to the moistness of the steaming process.  Even the foil-wrapped tamales cooked in the oven can benefit from this added flavor.

When the tamales have been cooked and consumed, be sure to throw them away in your trashcan.  You may be tempted to use them in your compost, but this is a bad idea, because of the meat in the filling.  This will rot away in a compost bin, making the rest of the compost useless.

3 Fry Your Tamales to Make Them Crispy

Though the softness of a tamale is delicious, some people prefer them to have a crispier texture.  Those people may find frying them to be the best way to reheat a tamale.

Simply heat some oil in a frying pan and cook your tamale this way, turning it throughout the cooking process to ensure even heating.

This option can leave the outside of the tamale saturated with the cooking oil you’ve used, which will require you to wrap each tamale in a couple of layers of paper towels to soak up the extra oil. 

Gently squeeze the entire surface of the tamale to make sure you remove as much of this oil as possible.  Then remove the paper towel and serve your tamales.


I hope you have enjoyed reading about the best way to reheat tamales.  With so many methods to choose from, I hope I’ve given you one that will suit your needs and taste. Food costs are rising all the time, which is why wasting food is what I hate the most in my own kitchen.  For this reason, having the food I make taste as delicious the second time it is cooked as it did when it was fresh from the oven or stovetop is so important to me. If you liked this article, feel free to post your thoughts in our comments section below.  And don’t forget to share it with your friends who are as interested in the best way to reheat tamales as you are.