Chef Explains How to Reheat Frozen Tamales [Thawed or Not]

6 mins read
How to Reheat Frozen Tamales
Mexican Tamales from Above in a row on white background

This publication is a chef’s perspective on how to reheat frozen tamales the right way. Perhaps, you thaw frozen tamales and try steaming them but they come out dry and crumbly. Instead of enduring more bad tamales, follow this guide to do it right.

To reheat frozen tamales the correct way, you want to steam them from frozen without defrosting. Alternatively, you could wrap tamales in a damp paper towel and add them to the microwave to replace the moisturizer.

If your tamales still come out dry and crumbly, you might just have bad tamales because all you need to do is “thaw and steam”.

How long to heat frozen tamales?

You want to heat frozen tamales for about 20-30 minutes. However, this is determined by the number of tamales, size of tamales, method of heating, and whether you thaw the tamales or not.

Exceeding the proper heating time will give you dry and crumbly tamales, far from what you expect. Sometimes, this could mean your tamales are bad.

How to reheat frozen tamales

This section of the publications shows you should reheat tamales for the best result. We focus the reheating on as many different cooking methods as possible to help your needs. Simply scroll to the cooking method applicable to you for the steps.

Meanwhile, below are the various ways to reheat frozen tamales:

Microwave

If your tamales arrived in a microwave-safe bag, do not remove them. Texas Lone Star Tamales recommends just cutting a small hole in the bag for steam to escape. You could just follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which may be different from this expert’s advice.

If your frozen tamales do not arrive in a bag, put them on a plate and cover them with a damp paper towel.

An alternative option is to put the tamales in a glass bowl, then sprinkle a few drops of water over them. Next, cover firmly using a lid or plastic wrap.

Finally, heat your frozen tamales on medium or 50% power for up to 3 minutes for even defrosting in the microwave.

Turn over the tamales and heat again for another 1-2 minutes at full power, then take them out.

Steaming

You need a steamer to place the tamales in it. Keep the water level below the tamales. The Tamale Store suggests standing the tamales upright while you steam several at a time.

If you have 1-4 frozen tamales, cover and steam them for about 25-30 minutes. If you have up to 5 or more tamales, cover and steam them for up to 35-40 minutes.

However, if your tamales are thawed, you would have to cover and steam them for 20 minutes, irrespective of the number.

Frying

Frying tamales makes them tasty, giving them that touch of golden-brown crust and a slight crunch.

If frying frozen tamales, heat your skillet over medium heat and remove the corn husk wrappers while the pan heats.

When the skillet gets hotter, add 1 tablespoon of lard or vegetable oil and allow the fat to heat for some seconds.

Now, add the tamales by carefully placing them in the hot skillet. Fry the frozen tamales for up to 3-4 minutes per side until you get the golden brown. Continue cooking and turning the tamales over until they steam hot inside.

Oven baking

If you have a large batch of tamales, perhaps, you want to bake them for the crunchy, flavors bite. However, baking frozen tamales can cause them to dry more easily in an oven.

You may be able to prevent faster drying by wrapping the frozen tamales in a foil to seal them in moisture before placing them in your oven.

Do the following to bake frozen tamales:

  • Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Wrap the tamales individually in an aluminum foil without removing the husks.
  • Place tamales in the oven in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Oven-baking frozen tamales should take about 20-25 minutes. The tamales should be very hot in the center.

Boiling

If your pre-packaged tamales come frozen in the microwave and heat-safe vacuum-sealed bags, you want to reheat the frozen tamales by boiling them.

Note that boiling frozen tamales to reheat works best if the tamales come in heat-safe cooking bags.

Follow the steps below to boil to reheat frozen tamales:

  • Heat a pot of water to boil.
  • Place your tamales in the heat-safe bag and seal them, without removing the corn husk wrappers.
  • Immerse the bag of tamales in the boiling water. Ensure to keep the bag from making contact with the heating metal pot, especially the bottom, to avoid melting. You can set a steamer basket on the pot bottom to help with the separation.
  • Boil the tamales for up to 20 minutes (for 4 tamales) or up to 30 minutes for 5 or more tamales.

Be decisive when taking out the tamales because once removed from the heat-safe bag, you do not replace them in the pot to reheat.

Griddle or grilling

If you prefer to heat your frozen tamales in a pan without oil, or in a pinch, you want to reheat them on the grill. You would get a slightly crunchy exterior and grilled flavored tamales though.

Steps to heat frozen tamales on a griddle:

  • Preheat the grill/griddle to medium heat.
  • Place tamales in the griddle, without removing the corn husks.
  • On your grill, you may lay a double layer of aluminum foil and place your tamales on the top to minimize charring. You could alternatively put the tamales directly on the grates to heat.
  • While heating frozen tamales, turn the sides occasionally.

The husks may blacken, which means it is time to take off the tamales. However, you should keep cooking until the tamales get very hot.

Instant pot

It seems more chefs and kitchens are getting to use the instant pot for their tamales since they are quick, easy to use, and versatile.

To reheat frozen tamales with an instant pot, do the following:

  • Place the trivet on the bottom of your instant pot. Line a steamer basket on the instant pot and place it on the trivet.
  • Add about 2 cups of water to the pot. The water should drain to the bottom but should not touch the tamales. If your tamales sit in the water, they will come out mushy and inedible.
  • Line the tamales in a circle pattern around the steamer edge, with the husks on. The openings should point upward.
  • If you have an Instant Pot safe item such as a small circular dish, place it in the center to keep the tamales in place. Alternatively, ensure to arrange your tamales in a pattern that secures them in one place.
  • Cover the lid.
  • Set the toggle to the center,
  • Set the Instant Pot to Manual.
  • Set the timer for 15 minutes and allow it to cook the tamales.

After the timer goes off, allow the Instant Pot “natural release”, which releases the pressure itself. Do not set the toggle switch to “quick release” the pressure.

Frozen tamales brands

Having known how to reheat frozen tamales, here are recommended tamales brands you should buy:

Nalley Beef Tamales in Chili Sauce, 15-Ounce (Pack of 6)

Thousands love the Nalley beef tamales, but we did not pick them because people love them. We recommend you buy Nalley tamales because they are traditional Mexican tamales.

Comes with a blanket of stone-ground corn surrounding its spicy, meat-filled center. We also love how the tamales are covered with chili sauce.

Nalley wraps each tamale individually in parchment to maintain their shape.

What we don’t like

Nalley tamales may be a little bland for your taste. We microwaved them following the instructions but they came out a little soft. Cooking them on a stovetop gave a better result.

 

Hormel Beef Tamales, 15 Ounce (Pack of 12)

Hormel beef tamales are probably not a new name to you if you are a consistent fan of prepackaged tamales.

These tamales savor the flavor of corn wraps covered in the familiar HORMEL Chili. Make sure to prepare them with creativity and spice with one of your delicious recipes.

Hormel’s tamales heat up really quickly in a skillet. We added a little oil to the hot skillet and fried a couple dry. Added chopped hot red peppers and the hot seeds. We allowed the tamales to cook for a few minutes on medium-high until the red turned dark.

These tamales are quite fragrant. Make sure you add the entire pan contents and simmer for some minutes.

Remove the paper coverings after moving tamales to your plate and pour the sauce from the skillet over them—hot, delicious tamales are ready in a few minutes.

Hormel’s tamales are wrapped in what seems like wax paper and smothered in a watery chili sauce. We sometimes use the sauce like gravy or pour it off.

Final thoughts on How to Reheat Frozen Tamales

Reheating tamales frozen keeps them from drying out and also retains their flavor and freshness. Of course, tamales can be heated either frozen or thawed.

However, a frozen tamales reheating method such as frying requires you to thaw them until they defrost before cooking.

You would also want the tamales wrapped tightly in their corn husks before placing them in your pan, griddle/grill, or related methods, over high heat. The husks should blacken before flipping over.

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