How to Reheat Tamales in the Microwave (5 Easy Steps)

Categorized as Microwave Cooking
how to reheat tamales in microwave

Stuffed with cheese and chicken or decadent, sweet chocolate, tamales make an excellent ready-made meal. But, whether you’re traveling or just want to have some homemade tamales on the go, it can be frustrating if your tamales aren’t as fresh as they could be.

Today, we will look at one of the many ways you can reheat a tamale: using the microwave.

Can You Reheat Tamales in the Microwave?

Yes, you can reheat tamales in the microwave. However, although it is a quick and easy method to reheat leftover tamales, you’ll lose out on some of the crisp texture. Another thing you should be aware of is that the microwave does carry with it a risk of drying out the tamales.

Here’s a short guide on how to reheat tamales in the microwave.

Wrap 1 thawed tamale in a wet paper towel and place it in the microwave. Heat on high power for about 1-2 minutes and check for doneness.

How To Reheat Tamales in the Microwave

Reheating frozen or thawed tamales can be done in a couple of ways. While the most common way is to use a steamer or oven, you can also reheat tamales using your microwave. It is a good option if you’re in a rush and can’t use the steamer.

One potential drawback is that microwaves can dry out the tamale. The best way to avoid this is by leaving the tamale completely wrapped up in its husk and wrapping it in a damp paper towel before microwaving.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to reheat tamales in the microwave.

What you’ll need:

  • Tamales
  • A damp paper towel
  • Microwave-safe plate


  1. Thaw the frozen tamales in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for 2-3 hours.
  2. Wrap a damp paper towel around each tamale.
  3. Place tamales on a microwave-safe plate.
  4. Heat at full power for 1 to 2 minutes, until heated through.
  5. Unwrap and enjoy!

1. Defrost the Tamales

If your tamales are frozen, the first thing you need to do is defrost them. If you’re not in a hurry, I would recommend transferring the entire container or bag to the fridge and letting it sit there overnight. Then, in the morning, your tamales will be ready to be reheated.

If you need it in a couple of hours, you can put your tamales on the counter and let it get to room temperature. While this will get the job done, you need to pay attention so that your tamales don’t start growing bacteria due to being left out at room temperature for too long. Ideally, you should aim to defrost your tamales in 2 hours.

Some instructions recommend microwaving the tamales while still frozen. Although this is possible, it dramatically increases the risk of them ending up being unevenly heated, which is why I won’t recommend it.

But hey, this is one of the many ways you can reheat tamales, so if microwaving while frozen works for you, then feel free to go ahead and give that method a shot.

2. Wrap the Tamale in a Damp Paper Towel

The next step is to wet down a paper towel under the faucet and squeeze out the excess water. After that, wrap your paper towel around your tamales. This helps keep the moisture contained within the package that you are wrapping it in, which helps minimize any drying effect.

3. Place the Tamales on a Microwave-Safe Plate

Take a microwave-safe plate and place your tamales on top of it. Don’t place more than two tamales on the same plate, and make sure that each tamale has its own space so that they are not touching each other.

4. Heat for 1 to 2 Minutes

Put your microwavable plate into the microwave and then set it to high. The tamale should be done after 1 or 2 minutes. Once the microwave beeps, keep your tamales in for another minute and then check to see if it is done.

If it isn’t, then heat the tamales again for another 15 seconds and continue doing this until you’re satisfied with the results. In the second round, you may want to unwrap the old damp towel and wrap a new one around the tamale to make sure it stays moist.

5. Unwrap the Tamale and Serve

After the microwave beeps for the second time, pull them out and let them cool down for a couple of minutes. Then, remove the corn husk and enjoy.

How Can Tamales Be Kept Warm?

If you’re reheating a large batch of tamales for a gathering, you may be worried that they will get cold while sitting in the open air. Wrapping them in aluminum foil or putting them in an insulated cooler bag can work. If you need to keep them warm for longer, you can also put them in a crockpot on a low setting.

How Long Do Tamales Last?

When refrigerated, tamales can last up to 1 week. If you’re freezing them, they’ll last for about 6 months. This applies to both cooked and uncooked tamales.

You can use an airtight container or resealable plastic bag to fridge or freeze the tamales. Just make sure to use a container that is large enough to store them without being crammed together.

If you plan to store them for more than a month, I would recommend only storing cooked tamales since freezing raw or uncooked tamales will increase the chances of them going bad while in the freezer.

Another thing you can try to preserve the taste and texture of your tamales as much as possible is by vacuum-sealing them.

How To Tell If Tamales Are Bad

Last but not least, you need to know how to tell whether your tamales are bad or not. If they have been exposed to room temperature for more than 2 hours, it’s likely that they have gone bad.

When tamales go bad, they may start having an off-putting smell and even mold growing on them. The color may also change from a normal yellowish color to more of an orange or pink tinge.

A good rule of thumb is to always check the tamales first before reheating them. If even one of them looks weird in any way, then you should consider throwing them out for your own safety.


If you’re in a hurry and want your tamales reheated as fast as possible, the microwave is probably your best bet, albeit not the most suitable approach.

If you want to try the more conventional way of reheating them, I recommend using either a steamer or an oven. Whichever method you use for reheating your tamales is ultimately up to you and depends on what you feel comfortable with.

Looking for delicious Mexican-inspired dishes to cook in your microwave? Check out our other posts about microwaving Mexican dishes, including guacamole, taco bell burritos, and tortilla chips.

By Rosie Elliott

I’m Rosie. I’m a professional chef with experience in Western, Mediterranean, and Italian cuisine. I’ve been cooking for over 15 years, and I have two daughters that keep me busy!