How to Heat Frozen Tamales

How to Heat Frozen Tamales (Image: bhofack2/iStock/GettyImages)

Having precooked frozen tamales on hand lets you enjoy delicious Mexican flavors without all the work. Whether you make them yourself and freeze them or buy them frozen, tamales are easy to reheat using a variety of methods. Heat them quickly in the microwave or give them more time in the oven, steamer or cooking appliance.

Preparing Frozen Tamales for Heating

Frozen tamales can go straight from the freezer to any of these cooking methods. However, they'll heat faster if you thaw them first. Put them in the fridge for the safest thawing. Never leave frozen food at room temperature to thaw because it can cause bacterial growth to increase rapidly.

Keep the tamales in the corn husks to help hold in the moisture. The husks keep the outside of the tamales from getting crusty and hard. If you use water for reheating, make sure the tamales don't sit in it, or they'll get mushy.

Steam Frozen Tamales

Steaming is the traditional way to cook fresh tamales. It also works to reheat your already-cooked frozen tamales. Steaming works well because it heats them through and keeps them moist.

All you need is a steamer basket and a large pot to hold the tamales. Fill the bottom of your pot with water, making sure the water doesn't get into the steamer basket. Arrange the tamales still in the husks so the open end points toward the top of the pot.

Turn on the burner to medium to get the water steaming. Heat them for about 20 to 30 minutes. Since they're already cooked, you just need to steam the tamales long enough to heat them through the middle. Use a thermometer to check for an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat in the Oven

If you don't have a steamer handy, you can pop the frozen tamales into an oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Wrap each tamale in a piece of aluminum foil before heating in the oven. Put the wrapped tamales in a single layer on a baking sheet or baking dish. Heat them for about 20 to 25 minutes from frozen.

Microwave Your Tamales

The microwave is a quick way to reheat your tamales. Be careful not to leave them in the microwave for too long, as they can dry out easily. Letting them thaw first can help the centers heat better in the microwave without overcooking and making the outside crusty. Microwaves vary, so you may need to adjust your cooking time.

Help the tamales stay moist by wetting a paper towel and placing it over the tamales. Heat the tamales for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Flip them over and heat them for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Check the internal temperature to make sure they're hot and add time as needed.

Boil Vacuum-Sealed Tamales

If you buy premade tamales, they may come vacuum packed with special packaging that can withstand heat. Check the packaging instructions before boiling vacuum-sealed tamales to avoid ruining them.

If the package indicates that it is safe, put the sealed tamales into a pot of boiling water. The bag needs to be airtight, or water will get in and ruin them. Boil the tamales for about 20 minutes. If they're not quite hot when you open the package, finish heating them in the microwave or oven.

Use Other Appliances

Pull out your slow cooker to heat up your frozen tamales. Arrange them in the cooker with the open sides up. This method takes the longest, usually about an hour on the high setting.

Use the steamer basket in your Instant Pot or other pressure cooker along with water. Keep the tamales out of the water to keep them from getting soggy. Cook the tamales in the pressure cooker for about 15 minutes or until they're heated completely. You can also use an air fryer for tamales.

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