How to Warm Tamales

By LeafTV Contributor

Tamales are a Mexican food made with a mixture of corn meal (masa), meat, red or green sauce and spices and wrapped in a corn husk. Proper warming of the tamales prevents them from getting too soggy or not being heated all the way through. Warming thawed tamales works more quickly, but frozen tamales can be reheated with a little extra time. Tamales make good fast meals and are filling on their own, but serve with rice and pinto beans for a complete meal.

Homemade Corn and Chicken Tamales
credit: bhofack2/iStock/GettyImages
How To Warm Tamales

Place a steamer basket into the stockpot or saucepan and add water until the water just reaches to the bottom of the basket. Do not overfill – you do not want the tamales sitting in the water, as this will cause them to get soggy and possibly fall apart.

Heat the water to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer. It is not necessary to keep a rolling boil going the entire time; a simmer will keep the steam rising and the water will not cook out as quickly.

Place the tamales in the pot, end up, and close the lid. If you only have one or two, you can lay them down lengthwise. Be careful of the steam when placing the tamales in the pot. It is best to use tongs or a spatula to place them in. Also, unless the tamales are very well wrapped, be aware that the husks could open and spill the filling.

Heat the tamales for 20 minutes. If the tamales are frozen, they will require approximately 10 more minutes. Check to make sure you have enough water in the bottom of the pot for additional steaming time and add some in if need be. Tamales are cooked when the corn husk cleanly pulls away from the masa.

Carefully remove the lid and watch for escaping steam. Remove the tamales carefully with tongs. You may want to hold a spatula underneath in case the corn husks begin to open.


  • Tamales can be heated in a microwave but have a tendency to dry out. Wrap the tamale in a damp paper towel and heat for 3 to 5 minutes.