How to Reheat Tamales: On a Comal and More Ways

Want to know how to reheat tamales without losing their original flavors and textures? Whether you have leftovers from a homemade tamale batch or store-bought, I’ve got all the details on how to reheat them just right.

Two tamales that were reheated on a griddle pan and the corn husk charred, placed on a brown plate.
Tamales Reheated on Comal

Leftover Tamales

Tamales are delectable stuffed corn masa pockets wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves, they are truly a treasure of Mexican cuisine treasure.

Whether you have leftover homemade tamales or grocery store tamales knowing how to properly reheat them is very import so your tamales don’t go to waste. 

The tamales reheating methods I’m sharing below are going to give you the best results and as always feel free to reach out if you have any questions. I’m happy to help and delighted to make you a tamales expert too! 

Remember that I have a delicious tamales cookbook loaded with tips and recipes as well as many recipes and tips here on the blog. Check out my tamales archives here.

A brown ceramic bowl with  uncooked tamales standing up inside of it and ready to be refrigerated. How Long do Uncooked Tamales Last

Why Reheat Tamales?

Reheating tamales isn’t just about warming them up; it’s about reviving their moisture, preserving their texture, and of course conserving their delightful flavors and taste. 

Additionally it’s very important to reheat tamales the correct way because no one wants a soggy or dried-out tamale, right? 

Make sure to read through my article “How to Store Tamales” so that before you can even being to think about reheating your tamales, you know how to properly store them and guarantee you always end up reheating the freshest tamales.

So I have good news and I’m going to share various ways for reheating tamales – from my favorite traditional methods to more modern methods. At the end it’ll be up to you to decide what the best option is for you.

Steamer basket and steam rack for cooking tamales.
Vegetable Steaming Basket and Steam Rack

What You’ll Need

You need a leftover cooked batch of tamales. They can be sweet or savory tamales and either banana leaf or corn husk tamales. 

Depending on the method you choose you will need:

  • Traditional tamalera or large pot with a steamer basket.
  • Comal or griddle or large frying pan. 
  • Large non-stick frying pan or skillet.
  • Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker.
  • Microwave-safe plate
  • Air Fryer
  • Slow Cooker
  • Rice Cooker
Steamed tamales in a tamalera steamer pot.
Steamed Tamales in Tamalera

Reheating Tamales in a Steamer Pot or Tamalera

The steamer method is perhaps the most popular and also the traditional way of reheating tamales. 

You need a Mexican tamalera pot or a steamer pot or a regular pot with a steaming basket. For this method you can use frozen tamales or cooked cold tamales. Savory and sweet tamales work great for this method. 

  • Pour water into the tamalera pot to the indicated line, then place the steamer shelf inside. (Make sure the tamales don’t touch the water to avoid soggy tamales.)
  • Arrange some hydrated corn husks around the bottom of the pot if desired, then arrange the tamales inside with the open end facing up.
  • Cover with more hydrated corn husks or with aluminum foil and make a small hole, then place the lid on the pot. 
  • Steam frozen tamales for 35 to 40 minutes, and cooked cold tamales for 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure to refill if the boiling water level goes down. 
  • Carefully remove one tamale to make sure the internal temperature is warm enough – specially if reheating meat-filled tamales.  

If you don’t have a tamalera pot you can also use a regular large pot or stock pot. Just fill it with a couple of inches of water and use a steaming basket. You can get the detailed instructions on this reheating process on my article “reheating process on my article “How to Steam Tamales Without a Steamer.

Two tamales wrapped in corn husks on a hot comal griddle.

Reheating Tamales on a Comal

This reheating method is a popular alternative and also one of my favorites – I also feel that it’s one of the easiest way to reheat leftover tamales the next day. The corn husk chars and it gives the tamales a crispy texture and slight smokiness.

Reheating two Mexican tamales wrapped in corn husks on top of a hot cast iron flat grill.

For this method you need cooked cold tamales – frozen tamales won’t work for this method, thaw them out first. Additionally this method works fine for both savory and sweet tamales, but the savory taste better this way. 

  • Place the comal or a flat griddle on your stove and heat until hot. You can test it by dropping a few drops of water onto it and if the water bounces around and evaporates quickly then it’s hot enough and ready. 
  • Take several wrapped tamales and place them on the hot comal. 
  • Allow to reheat for about 8 minutes. The corn husk will turn black and char nicely. 
  • Flip over and warm on the opposite side for another 8 minutes. 
  • You can carefully remove one tamale from the griddle, unwrap and test to make sure the center is warmed through.
  • Serve still wrapped or unwrap the tamales and serve with your desired tamales side dishes or salsa on the side. 
Reheating a tamale on a frying pan.
Reheating a Tamale on The Stove

Reheating Tamales on The Stove

Reheating tamales on the stove and in a pan is one of one of the fastest way and just like the comal, it will take you less time than the tamalera method. The tamales will still be moist inside but have a crispy outer texture that’s quite delicious!

For this method you’ll need cooked or thawed our tamales, a non-stick frying pan and a little bit of olive oil for savory tamales and butter for sweet tamales. 

  • Heat a large frying pan or skillet and add the oil or butter.
  • Unwrap the tamales and place them onto the hot oil (or melted butter).
  • Allow to heat through and for the outer layer to get a little crispy. 
  • Remove one tamal to check that it’s warmed through. 
  • Carefully remove the hot tamales from the pan and serve as desired.
  • For me, the best part of reheated tamales on the stove is that crispy outer texture they get that’s so delicious with the tender center of the tamale. 

If you’d like to make a quick meal with the savory tamales, you can add a fried egg and salsa on top. It’ makes such a delicious and filling breakfast. Check out that full recipe here: Breakfast Tamales.

Steaming tamales inside an Instant Pot pressure cooker.
Vegan Instant Pot Tamales

How to Reheat Tamales in an Instant Pot

Reheating tamales in the Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker is another good option. Just like the tamalera our tamales will have moist tamales that are soft on the inside and outside. 

For this method you can use sweet or savory tamales and either cooked or frozen and thawed tamales will work fine. You can use the steamer basket or rack that come with your pot, or use a regular metal vegetable steamer basket.

  • Add cold water to your IP’s pot making sure that the water doesn’t reach above the steamer rack or basket. You’ll need to add at lease one cup.
  • Arrange hydrated or softened corn husks around the bottom of the steamer basket.
  • Then place the tamales, open end up, onto the basket. Cover with some more hydrated corn husks or tin foil, then place the lid on the pot. 
  • Set valve to Sealing, select High Pressure cooking and set the temperature to 10 minutes for cooked and thawed cold tamales, and set to 15 minutes for cooked frozen tamales.
  • If reheating cold tamales do a quick release of the pressure, if you used frozen tamales then let it naturally release for 5 minutes before doing a quick release. 
  • Carefully remove the tamales from the pot or leave inside the pot until ready to serve to keep them warm. 

How to Reheat Tamales in The Microwave

This method works best for cooked, cold tamales. The microwave isn’t a good way to reheat frozen tamales. If you thaw them out first in the microwave then heat them, they will most likely turn soggy. It’s a good idea to thaw the frozen tamales on the counter before reheating in the microwave.

Either savory or sweet tamales can be reheated in the microwave.

  • Cover the wrapped cold or thawed tamales with damp paper towel then place them on a microwave-safe plate but don’t overcrowed. (If you remove the corn husk or banana leaf you don’t need to use the paper towel.)
  • Set your microwave to medium heat and microwave tamales for 2 minutes.
  • Carefully check the tamales for temperature to make sure they’re heated thoroughly inside. If not microwave another minute at a time.
One vegan mole tamale on top of a banana leaf and drizzled with mole sauce.

Reheating Tamales in The Air Fryer

The air fryer is not a kitchen gadget commonly used in Mexican food. But it its another great way many people enjoy using for reheated foods. 

When using the air fryer to reheat tamales it’s best to use cold and thawed tamales. Frozen tamales will take longer and you risk uneven heating as well as the corn husk or banana leaves burning before they warm through. The air fryer is not one of my favorite methods for reheating tamales but it is just as easy as the microwave method.

You can reheat sweet tamales or savory tamales in the air fryer.

  • Preheat the air fryer to 300F. 
  • Unwrap place tamales in the air fryer basket in a single layer, making sure not to crowd them and leaving some space between tamales.
  • Air Fry for 8 minutes then flip and cook for another 5 minutes. 
  • Remove one tamale from the airy fryer and check that it’s warmed all the way through. If not air fry for another 3 minutes. 
  • Serve with your favorite side dishes or toppings for Mexican tamales. 
One vegan birria tamal on a plate. How to Make Vegan Birria Tamales
Birria Tamales

Expert Advice for Reheating Tamales

As you can see in these 6 different ways to reheat tamales, all are simple steps that you can follow to all will result in delicious reheated tamales. It’s up to you to choose the best way or best method that works for you – additionally depending on the number of tamales  you have leftover, one method will work better than the other. 

For me the best bet for reheating medium or large batches of tamales is either the tamalera steamer pot or the Instant Pot

Now if you only have a couple of tamales to reheat then either the comal, frying pan or air fryer are the better options. 

Make sure you add just enough water to the pots,  we don’t want the water to touch the bottom of the tamales as they’re being reheated. If water gets into them then the dough will get soggy and the tamales will fall apart. 

It’s important that you don’t overcrowd the tamales when reheating them. This will ensure better results. 

Only reheat the tamales you are going to eat in that meal. A reheated tamale that’s been repeatedly cooled and heated will loose it’s soft texture and dry out – not to mention the possibility of the tamale going bad and becoming unsafe to eat.

Two reheated tamales with salsa verde served on a decorative terracotta Mexican plate.
Mexican Tamales Made Meatless
Mexican Tamales Made Meatless Cookbook

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