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How to Steam and Reheat Tamales in the Microwave (easy ways)

Tamales are amazing, but what happens when you have a stack of leftover tamales sitting in your fridge? Throwing them in the microwave might seem like a quick solution, but they can end up dry and rubbery. So here’s how to steam tamales in the microwave:

To steam tamales in the microwave, wrap them in damp paper towels, place in a microwave-safe dish, cover with plastic wrap, and heat on high for 4-5 minutes, checking for desired warmth and moisture.

In fact, with a touch of steam and some microwave magic, those tamales can taste as fresh and delicious as when they were first cooked. Whether you’re new to the world of tamales or a seasoned pro looking to revive last night’s dinner, this guide will walk you through the steps to steam and reheat tamales in the microwave as well as some different methods to achieve great results.

So, grab those tamales, and let’s make them mouth-wateringly perfect again!

Does a Microwave Fully Cook Tamales?

The short answer is yes, a microwave can fully cook tamales. However, it requires some attention to detail to ensure they are cooked evenly and reach the desired temperature.

The key to achieving perfectly cooked tamales lies in understanding how microwaves work. Microwaves utilize high heat from electromagnetic waves that penetrate food from all angles.

This means that as long as your tamale is properly heated and reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), it will be safe to consume. To ensure even cooking, avoid overcrowding the microwave with a large batch of tamales.

It’s best to cook them in smaller batches or use multiple microwave-safe dishes if needed. Placing too many tamales together can result in uneven heating patterns, leaving some parts overcooked while others remain undercooked.

The cooking time for microwaving tamales may vary depending on your microwave’s wattage and the number of tamales being steamed. As a general guideline, start by microwaving a dozen tamales for approximately 2-3 minutes on high heat.

If you’re reheating leftover tamales from the fridge, add a minute or two. While microwaving can fully cook your tamales, there are alternative methods if you prefer different textures or flavors.

Steamer methods like stovetop steamers or steamer baskets provide more traditional results by allowing steam to circulate around each tamale gently. Alternatively, slow cookers or pressure cookers can also yield deliciously tender tamales.

But if time is of the essence, microwaving remains the fastest way to enjoy a steamy plate of tamales. Microwaving tamales can indeed fully cook them.

By following a few guidelines such as avoiding overcrowding and ensuring they reach an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), you can enjoy perfectly cooked tamales in a matter of minutes. Whether you choose to microwave your tamales or explore other cooking methods, rest assured that with attention to detail, your corn husk-wrapped delicacies will be ready to devour in no time.

How Long Do You Cook Tamales in a Microwave?

For about four average-sized tamales, it usually takes around six to eight minutes on high-power settings.

However, if you have more or larger tamales in mind or prefer a softer texture, you may need to adjust your cooking time accordingly. Remember that microwaves vary in wattage levels, so it’s always advisable to keep an eye on your precious tamales while they steam away.

Now let me enlighten you on an essential tip: ensure that there is enough water present during the cooking process to create sufficient steam. Place a microwave-safe dish filled with about half an inch of water at the bottom of your microwave before adding your tamale-filled plate or steamer basket on top.

This way, your little bundles of joy will be surrounded by moisture during their transformation into culinary perfection. If you find yourself facing limited time or simply cannot wait any longer for those delicious morsels of joy, fear not!

You can opt for shorter cooking times without sacrificing taste. In fact, using bursts of microwaving combined with resting periods between each burst can yield excellent results.

For instance, try microwaving your tamales for three minutes and then letting them rest for a minute before repeating this process until they are fully cooked. For those who wish to venture beyond the traditional method and experiment with different ways of steaming their beloved tamales in the microwave, I have something exciting to share.

You can create a makeshift steamer by using wet paper towels. Simply dampen a few sheets of paper towel, wring out excess water, and place them over your tamales before microwaving.

This helps to retain moisture and mimic the traditional steaming process. So, my tamale-loving comrades, whether you’re preparing homemade tamales or reheating store-bought ones, the microwave can be your ally in achieving speedy satisfaction.

Just remember to keep an eye on cooking times based on the quantity and size of your tamales, ensure there is enough water for steam, and don’t be afraid to get creative with alternative methods such as using wet paper towels. With these tips in mind, you’ll soon be enjoying a plateful of perfectly steamed tamales in no time!

Best Way to Steam Tamales in the Microwave

One good way to steam your tamales in the microwave is by using a microwave-safe dish with a lid. Fill the dish with about half an inch of water, ensuring there is enough water for steam to circulate properly.

Placing a damp paper towel or two on top of the tamales before covering them with the lid will help create additional moisture during microwaving. Another easy way to get those tamales perfectly steamed is by using wet paper towels instead of water.

Wet three or four paper towels and wring them out slightly so they’re damp but not dripping. Carefully wrap your batch of tamales in these moistened paper towels and place them on a microwave-safe plate.

The moisture from the towels will create steam as they heat up in the microwave, resulting in tender and flavorful tamales. If you have a rice cooker with a steamer basket, this can be an excellent tool for steaming a large batch of tamales efficiently.

Simply fill the bottom of your rice cooker with enough water according to its instructions, place your tamales on top of the steamer basket, and set it to cook. The steam generated from boiling water underneath will gently cook your tamales to perfection.

Now, let’s talk about everyone’s favorite cooking vessel – Dutch ovens! These versatile pots can be used not only for slow-cooking and braising but also for steaming various types of food, including our beloved tamales.

To use this method, fill your Dutch oven with boiling water until it reaches about an inch below a steamer rack or heatproof insert. Place your tamales on the rack, cover the pot with its lid, and simmer over medium heat for about 30 minutes.

The result will be beautifully steamed tamales with a slightly crispy exterior – the best part! So there you have it – several different ways to steam your tamales in the microwave, each offering its own unique advantages.

Whether you opt for the convenience of using a microwave-safe dish or get creative with Dutch ovens and rice cookers, these methods will ensure your tamales turn out moist, flavorful, and perfectly cooked every time. Experiment with these techniques to find which one works best for you and enjoy this delicious traditional dish in the easiest way possible!

Tips to Steam Tamales in the Microwave

Now, let’s delve into some valuable tips that will help you achieve perfectly steamed tamales using your trusty microwave. These suggestions will ensure that your tamales come out tender, moist, and bursting with flavor. First and foremost, it’s essential to have the right equipment.

While there are various ways to steam tamales in the microwave, using a specially designed microwave steamer container like this one on Amazon is highly recommended. These containers are specifically designed to trap steam and provide even heat distribution.

They often come with a built-in venting system or a perforated tray to keep the tamales elevated above any excess liquid. If you don’t have a microwave steamer container, don’t worry!

You can still achieve excellent results using makeshift alternatives. A microwave-safe plate covered with a damp paper towel or plastic wrap can act as an impromptu steaming surface.

Just make sure the plate is large enough to accommodate your desired number of tamales without crowding them. To prevent your tamales from drying out during the cooking process, it’s essential to add some moisture.

One easy way to do this is by adding a small amount of water into your microwave-safe container or on top of the damp paper towel covering your plate before placing the tamales on it. This added moisture helps create steam within the enclosed environment and keeps the tamales moist throughout.

It’s crucial to consider cooking time when microwaving tamales. The exact duration may vary depending on factors such as quantity and size but generally falls between 2-3 minutes per tamale when using high heat settings.

Remember that cooking times can differ based on wattage differences in microwaves, so keep an eye on them during the process and adjust accordingly. By following these helpful tips, you’ll be well-equipped to steam delicious tamales effortlessly in no time at all!

Whether you have a microwave steamer container or need to resort to a makeshift method, the principles remain the same – add moisture, choose the right cooking time, and ensure even heat distribution. With practice, you’ll discover the method that works best for you and be able to enjoy a steaming hot batch of tamales whenever you desire.

Do You Microwave Tamales In The Corn Husks?

Some folks swear by microwaving their tamales with the corn husks (or a banana leaf) intact. This method allows the tamales to retain their moisture and infuse them with that characteristic corn flavor.

To try this approach, simply place your tamales (husk and all) on a microwave-safe plate and pop them into your trusty microwave oven. Make sure to arrange them in a single layer for even cooking.

However, there are others who prefer removing the corn husks before microwaving their delectable bundles of joy. By doing so, you can achieve a slightly different texture and taste.

Once you’ve delicately shed those cozy corn husks from your tamales like a seasoned tamale whisperer, place them snugly on a microwave-safe plate. Now that we’ve covered both sides of the coin – husk-on versus husk-off – let me share with you a crucial piece of advice: regardless of which method tickles your taste buds fancy, do add some water to keep things steamy inside that microwave chamber.

After all, steaming is what we’re aiming for here! Add just enough water to the plate without drowning your precious tamales; we wouldn’t want them getting soggy or excessively hydrated during their half-hour spa session.

So now you know that whether or not you choose to microwave your tamales in their corn husks is entirely up to personal preference. Some find that leaving the husks on imparts an earthiness while others opt for a slightly firmer texture by removing them altogether.

Whichever path you choose, remember to add a bit of water to maintain that steamy environment. Stay tuned as we embark on the final leg of our tamale steaming journey – discovering the best method for reheating those glorious leftovers!

What Is The Best Method To Reheat Tamales?

One of the most popular methods for reheating tamales is by using a steam-based approach. This method helps retain moisture and ensures that your tamales won’t end up dry and rubbery.

To do this, you can either use a steamer basket or a pot with boiling water. If you’re using a steamer basket, make sure to add enough water but not so much that it touches the tamales directly.

Allow the water to reach a gentle simmer and steam the tamales for about 10-15 minutes. If you don’t have access to a steamer basket, fear not!

Another efficient way to reheat your tamales is by utilizing your trusty microwave. Simply place your tamale on a microwave-safe plate and cover it with a damp paper towel – this will prevent it from drying out during the reheating process.

Set your microwave on medium-high heat and warm up one tamale at a time for about 2-3 minutes. Remember, every microwave is different, so be sure to check its progress after each minute or so.

For those who prefer an extra crispy exterior on their reheated tamales without compromising the moist interior, using an oven may be the way to go. Preheat your oven to around 350°F (175°C) and place your tamales in an oven-safe dish with about half an inch of space between each one.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and let them warm up for approximately 20-30 minutes. This method allows for even heating while maintaining that desirable crispy outer layer.

If you happen to own an Instant Pot (or any brand of pressure cooker) or a Dutch oven, you can achieve some of the best results in terms of texture and flavor. In an Instant Pot, add about a cup of hot water and place a trivet (or a large steaming basket) inside.

Arrange your tamales on top of the trivet, ensuring they’re not touching the water directly. Close the lid and set the pressure to high for about 10-15 minutes. Moist tamales are yours in minutes!

Similarly, in a Dutch oven, fill it with enough hot water to cover the bottom inch of the pot, place a steamer basket or rack above it, arrange your tamales on it, cover tightly with a lid, and steam them over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes. Ultimately, finding the best method to reheat tamales depends on your preferences and available kitchen equipment.

Whether you choose to steam them using various steamer methods or opt for the convenience of a microwave or oven, make sure that your tamales are heated through until they reach an internal temperature above 165°F (74°C). With these techniques at your disposal, you’ll be able to enjoy mouthwatering tamales time and time again!


So, there you have it! Steaming and reheating tamales in the microwave isn’t just a swift solution; it’s a method that can preserve the flavor and texture of those tasty wrapped delights.

Remember, the key here is to be patient, utilize moisture, and monitor the tamales to prevent overcooking.

By following these simple guidelines, you can transform those leftovers into a meal that rivals freshly made tamales. No more settling for dry, chewy remnants; with these techniques, your microwave becomes a tool for culinary success. Next time you find yourself with a batch of cold tamales, don’t hesitate to bring them back to life with this convenient microwave method.

Your taste buds will thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you reheat tamales in an air fryer?

Yes, reheating tamales in an air fryer is not only possible but also an excellent method for retaining their flavor and texture. Start by preheating your air fryer to 370°F (190°C).

Place the tamales inside, ensuring they’re not overcrowded, and cook for about 8-10 minutes.

You might want to flip them halfway through the cooking time for even reheating. This method helps maintain the moisture in the tamales, and the outer corn husk can even get a little crispy, adding to the texture. Just be cautious not to overcook, as that can dry them out.

Utilizing an air fryer for reheating tamales is a convenient and effective method that many people prefer.

How do you steam frozen tamales in the microwave?

Steaming frozen tamales in the microwave is a quick and straightforward process.

First, place the frozen tamales in a microwave-safe dish, and add a couple of tablespoons of water to help create steam. Cover the dish with a microwave-safe lid or damp paper towel to trap the moisture.

Then, microwave the tamales on high for 3-4 minutes. You may want to check them halfway through and rearrange if needed. Afterward, carefully remove the cover (watch for hot steam!), and check the tamales. If they’re not heated through, continue to microwave in 1-minute intervals until done.

This method provides a speedy way to enjoy tamales without needing to thaw them first.

Are frozen tamales precooked?

Yes, most frozen tamales are indeed precooked before being packaged and sold.

The cooking process typically includes steaming the tamales, which cooks the masa dough and any fillings inside. When you buy frozen tamales, they are generally ready to eat once reheated.

This is a great convenience, as it means you don’t have to cook them from scratch. However, it’s always wise to check the packaging or consult with the vendor just to make sure, as there may be some variations or unique products out there.

If the tamales are precooked, reheating them in a steamer, microwave, or even an oven is all that’s required to have them ready to enjoy.

Should you thaw frozen tamales before cooking?

Thawing frozen tamales before cooking is generally not necessary, and you can steam them right from the freezer.

However, some people prefer to thaw them first to ensure even heating and reduce the cooking time. If you decide to thaw your tamales, you can do so in the refrigerator overnight or use the defrost setting on your microwave for a quicker option. Thawing might also make it easier to separate tamales if they’re stuck together.

Whether you choose to thaw them or not largely depends on your personal preference and the amount of time you have. Cooking them directly from frozen may require a little more time, but it’s usually not enough of a difference to make thawing mandatory.

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Jeff Campbell