How To Cook Frozen Tamales – The Perfect Guide

If you’re a fan of Mexican food, the chances are that you have eaten tamales in the past. These are delicious parcels of food, usually a selection of meat and vegetables, wrapped in masa, which is a steamed corn or banana leaf.

How To Cook Frozen Tamales – The Perfect Guide

These are very handy and delicious food parcels, not only are they quick to cook but they are easy to eat, coming in an edible sachet that you can devour before discarding. But what happens if you are taking tamales out of the fridge? How can you eat them without making yourself ill?

Well, there are a few methods that you can use to eat a frozen tamale, most of which involve using equipment that you already have in your own home. You don’t even need to have a tamale steamer for this one, you can use an ordinary microwave or an oven. But how? Keep reading to find out more.

What Is A Tamale?

A tamale is a Mexican dish that originated during 8000 BC amongst indigenous cultures around the Guatemala and Mexico areas. There is even evidence of tamales being made during the ancient Aztec period.

In fact, different regions of South America do their tamales in radically different ways. You can get black or red tamales from Guatemala or you can Nicaraguan tamales that are much larger than all of the others.

Tamales made the leap across to America in 1893, where they were showcased at the first Columbian exhibition. During this time, tamales were extremely popular and the Mexican food brand XLNT started exporting them across the country.

To make a tamale is very simple. First you need some corn husks, which you can often get at the Mexican section of your local supermarket. You will then need to make some masa, which is the dough.

To make the masa, you will need some masa harina (a finely-ground corn flour), corn or avocado oil, stock (chicken or beef, the choice is yours), some baking powder, salt and ground cumin.

Then all you need to do is pack it with the filling of your choice. You can fill it up with whatever food that you want. Some of the most popular fillings include beef, chicken, pork, beans, cheese and vegetables.

You can also add plenty of sauce to your tamale. This could include red or green salsa, enchilada sauce or mole. You can also include toppings to enhance the deliciousness, this includes things like salsa, chopped cilantro, avocado and sour cream.

Whatever you choose to have in your tamale, the fact that you can customize it to your specific tastes shows you what a great dish it is. You can either use the corn husks as a plate or you can use them as a parcel to keep the food wrapped up. Let’s look at some of the methods you can use for heating up tamales from frozen.

The Methods You Can Use To Cook Frozen Tamales

There are various ways to cook frozen tamales, some of which require cooking equipment that you might already have in your house whereas others will require more specific equipment designed for heating up tamales.

It is worth noting that not all of the methods are suitable for cooking all types of tamales. You can get pre-cooked tamales from the store, which will require certain methods of reheating that do not apply to tamales that have not been cooked at all.

You’ll often have to check the package of your tamales to ascertain whether they are raw or have already been cooked. Now that we’ve outlined this, let’s have a look at some of the best methods of reheating a tamale.

How To Cook Tamales In A Tamale Steamer?

This is one of the best methods of reheating a tamale, as it is specifically designed for that task. This is a great way of heating multiple tamales at any one time. Once you have popped your tamales in the steamer, then it won’t take long for them to get fully cooked.

A tamale steamer will also ensure that your tamales retain a lot of moisture and do not turn out too dry. If you are having a Mexican-themed party and you have a large tamale steamer, then you can make dozens of these Mexican treats in large batches.

When you are transferring your tamales, then you can use the built-in steamer rack that comes with the tamale steamer. You can also use a crock pot to transfer your tamales, as this will keep them heated and retain a lot of moisture.

A tamale steamer will ensure that each one of your tamales is heated evenly right the way through. One of the main problems with heating your tamales from frozen is that you will have hot and cold patches that make them very hard and potentially hazardous to eat afterward.

One of the main drawbacks of using a tamale steamer is the fact that you’ll have to keep an eye on the water level, as this will drop the more tamales that you steam. You also won’t be able to transport that many tamales in your steamer.

Cooking Tamales In A Tamale Steamer – A Step-By-Step Guide

Here’s how to cook tamales in a tamale steamer:

  1. Add around 1 cup of water to the pan of your tamale steamer. You might have to add another half a cup to a larger steamer. Make sure that no water comes into contact with the tamale pan.
  2. Take the tamales from the wrapper and place them in the steamer basket. Make sure that they are vertical and that you have the open end facing upwards. You might have to use one tamale to prop up another.
  3. If your basket is too large for the tamales and they cannot stay upright, then we would suggest that you place a ball of aluminum foil in the center to ensure that they do not fall over.
  4. Make sure that you do not put that many tamales in the basket, otherwise, this will result in an uneven cook.
  5. Once the steamer is inserted into the steaming pan, then place the lid over the top.
  6. Bring the water inside to boiling point.
  7. If you are heating your tamales from frozen, then you’ll probably need to keep them in for around 25 minutes. If they have already been thawed, then steam them for around 20 minutes.
  8. Once you feel that the tamales have been cooked, turn down the steamer.
  9. Open the lid away from your face to avoid the steam burning you.
  10. Take out each tamale with some tongs and then place them on a place. Serve them to your guests but allow them to remove the corn husks themselves.

How Can You Heat Your Tamales Without A Tamale Steamer?

There is a method you can use to steam your tamales without using an official tamale steamer. Here are some of the things that you will need:

You’ll need a crock pot for the heating and a steamer basket to place all the tamales. If you are without a steamer pot, then you can also use a bamboo steamer, as long as it can fit on the top of your pot.

When you are using this method, make sure that the tamales are spread out in one layer. If you stack your tamales, then this might result in them cooking unevenly.

The DIY method of cooking tamales might not be the best way to do it, but if you are camping or stuck for the right equipment, then doing it yourself is a great option.

How Do You Cook Tamales With An Instant Pot?

How To Cook Frozen Tamales – The Perfect Guide

An Instant Pot is a great way you can cook a frozen tamale. This kind of pot will usually heat up around a dozen tamales, although if you have a bigger pot then you will be able to fit more in (although you’ll always need to make sure they are stacked).

This is also a hand-free method of cooking your tamales. All you need to do is put your tamales in the pot and turn the heat up. It really is that simple. An Instant Pot also has a ‘Keep Warm’ function, which will help you to keep the tamales warm until it is time to serve them.

The Instant Pot is designed for cooking things evenly, so you shouldn’t have that much trouble warming them up right the way through. There are one or two drawbacks to the Instant Pot.

You’ll have to make sure that you have a steamer basket that fits in with your Instant Pot. You’ll also need to regularly check the water levels of your pot. If the water evaporates, it could lead to the tamales getting stuck to the sides of the pot.

How To Cook Tamales In An Instant Pot?

  1. 1Pour a cup of water into your Instant Pot, maybe even more than a cup of water if you have a larger Instant Pot. You should make sure that the water does not touch the tamales and that the water pressure level is just right.
  2. Take your tamales out of their packaging and put them upright in the Instant Pot.
  3. Place the tamales in a circle with the open end of the corn husk facing upwards. You might have to insert an object in the center to keep them upright. This could be a ball of aluminum foil or a steel ramekin.
  4. Close the lid on your Instant Pot and cook the frozen tamales for around 15 minutes. If your tamales are thawed, then you may have to cook them for only 5 minutes.
  5. You can either take the tamales out once they have finished cooking or you can keep them in your pot on the ‘Keep Warm’ setting until they are ready to eat.

How Can You Cook Frozen Tamales Using A Microwave?

This is one of the quickest methods of heating up a tamale, but you’ll still need to be aware of certain things and there will be drawbacks to this method. A microwave is ideal if you are looking to quickly heat a tamale for your lunch.

Cooking in a microwave is extremely convenient. There are many settings on a microwave that you can use to defrost your tamales. You can also use a microwave to cook your tamales from raw if you need to.

You will also have to keep your tamales wrapped in a wet tablecloth or towel when you are cooking them in the microwave. This is to keep the moisture sealed in, as it will evaporate if you are cooking your tamales at a high temperature.

Using a microwave will result in a little drier tamale, but if you don’t mind this slight texture difference, then a microwave is a great method of cooking.

Cooking A Tamale In The Microwave – A Step By Step Guide

Here is a brief guide on how to cook a tamale in the microwave properly:

  1. Take your tamales out of the packing, ensuring that the husks of corn on the outside are kept intact.
  2. Wet 2 paper towels under cold water and squeeze out the excess.
  3. Take one of the pieces of paper towel and place it on a plate under the tamales. Make sure that the plate is safe to put in the microwave.
  4. Place the tamale and the plate in the microwave. Place it on 50% power for around 3 minutes.
  5. Once they have cooked, then turn them over and cook them at full power for another minute or two.
  6. Take the tamale out of the microwave, removing the paper towel. You should notice that they are moist and ready to eat.

If you are worried about your tamales getting too dry using this method, then you should make sure to check them intermittently during the whole cooking process.

How To Cook Tamales In The Oven?

Oven-cooking tamales might be a tricky business, especially when you know how powerful they can get. If you put your tamales under too high a heat, then you might see them having too much moisture escape from them. This will lead to a dry and tasteless tamale.

If you are going to cook tamales in the oven because you don’t have a steamer, then you should make sure that you wrap them in tin foil before placing them in the oven. You can cook a lot of tamales using this method, although make sure you are not stacking them.

The one drawback of cooking your tamales in the oven is that you won’t be able to cook them as quickly as you would in the microwave. This will require a lot of prep, as wrapping the tamales beforehand will be essential to stop them from drying out.

Cooking Tamales In The Oven – A Step-By-Step Guide

Here is how you can cook your tamales in the oven:

  1. You’ll need to pre-heat the oven to a decent temperature, around 325 degrees should do it. Take the top rack of the oven and place it in the middle, then take the middle rack and place it at the bottom.
  2. Take the tamales from the packaging, making sure that you keep the husks of corn intact.
  3. Take a baking pan and place a layer of tamales in them, making sure that you do not overload it. Cover them with aluminum foil, making sure there are no gaps to allow the moisture to escape.
  4. This is an optional step, but you can place a pan of water in the oven too. This will help to circulate moisture in the oven and to keep your tamales from drying out. You should put the water pan on the middle rack of the oven.
  5. Bake the tamales for around 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Take your tamales out of the oven as soon as you feel they are cooked sufficiently enough. If you have a water pan in there too, then you should wait for this to cool completely before you take it from the oven.
  7. Remove the foil gently, taking care not to burn your face on the steam. You can then transfer them to a plate, or you can have your guests take them directly from the baking pan itself.

Make sure you keep an eye on your tamales when they are cooking in the oven, as this method has the highest risk of them burning or drying out.

How To Cook Tamales In A Toaster Oven?

These toaster ovens are great for warming up smaller batches of tamales. This is another great option if you want to precook your tamales and have them ready to eat the next day. We would certainly recommend a toaster oven for those with less kitchen space.

Again, there are issues with this method of preparation as there are with a lot of others. It will take you a little longer than putting it in the microwave, as you will have to wrap each tamale in a layer of foil.

Also, these tamales will not be as moist as they would be in the steamer. This is why you’ll have to make sure they are wrapped tightly in foil when you are baking them. This will also take the longest time to bake, around 45 minutes.

Cooking Tamales In The Toaster – A Step-By-Step Guide

  1. You’ll need to preheat your toaster oven to a certain level; we would recommend around 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Take your tamales out of the packaging, making sure that the husks on the outside are kept intact.
  3. Take the tamales and double-wrap them. Make sure that there are no holes and that no moisture can escape.
  4. Once you have done this, then you can place them in the toaster oven. We would recommend that you cook your tamales for around 25 minutes on one side and then 20 minutes on the other side.
  5. You might have trouble cooking these tamales on both sides, so try flipping them over and cooking them on both sides for 2 minutes toward the end of cooking.

This is a great way of cooking your tamales, although you’ll have to make sure that they do not turn out dry and that your food does not burn or stick to the inside of the toaster oven.

How To Cook Tamale On A Panini Grill?

How To Cook Frozen Tamales – The Perfect Guide

There is another way that you can cook a tamale without burning it – that is using a panini grill. You might be surprised to hear that this is a pretty decent method of cooking a tamale. It is not only quick, but it keeps a lot of moisture in the tamale itself.

The tamale also retains its shape when it is put under the panini grill, although you might want to make sure that the lid of your panini grill is not too heavy, otherwise, it might get squashed as it cooks.

This will take roughly the same time as steaming, which is not that very long. This will also keep the masa dough very moist and will allow you to cook around 2 tamales at the same time, which is perfect if you are making them for yourself or you and someone else.

However, cooking this way might require you to get your hands stuck in, as you might have to flip over the tamale to make sure it is cooked equally on both sides. If you have tongs, you can use these, but make sure you do not shred the outside.

Cooking A Tamale With A Panini Griddle – A Step-By-Step Guide

Here is a quick guide to cooking a tamale on a panini grill:

  1. Turn the heat up on your panini griddle. Make sure it is set to a medium level of heat.
  2. Take your tamales out of the packaging, once again, ensuring that you do not shred the corn husks that they come in.
  3. Close the panini grill and cook the whole thing for around 10 minutes.
  4. Once you have cooked it on one side, open up the griddle, turn over the tamale and then close the panini again. Cook it once more on the same heat for around 10 minutes.
  5. Once you are sure that it is cooked on both sides, you can then take it off the grill and put it on the plate until it is ready to cook.

How Can You Cook Frozen Tamales On A Rice Cooker?

Rice cookers are still cookers and they are more than capable of cooking up a tamale, whether it is frozen or raw.

As with our Instant Pot method of cooking, you should make sure that you monitor the water levels of your rice cooker, as this will determine how moist the tamales really get. This is a really quick method of getting your tamales cooked quickly.

You’ll need to make sure that you have a steamer basket, as this will allow you to keep the contents nice and moist for the entirety of the cooking process.

Cooking Tamales On A Rice Cooker – A Step-By-Step Guide

Here is a quick guide for cooking tamales on a rice cooker:

  1. Take a cup of water and add it to the bottom of your rice cooker. You can add as much water as you want, although obviously the bigger the rice cooker, the more water that you will need.
  2. Take your tamales out of their plastic wrapping, making sure not to split the corn husks that they are wrapped in.
  3. Take each one of your tamales and insert them into your rice cooker facing upright with the corn open end facing upwards. If you have fewer tamales, then we would recommend putting an aluminum ball in the center to keep them vertical.
  4. Sometimes you might have put less water in than you needed, so make sure that you have a cup on standby just in case you have to use it.
  5. Place your steamer on high heat for around 20 – 25 minutes.
  6. Halfway through the cooking time, you’ll need to check that the water level is adequate. You should make sure that the water is kept topped up throughout the process and that none gets on the tamales themselves.

How Can You Cook Tamales With A Slow Cooker?

A slow cooker might not be the quickest method of cooking your tamales, but it is worth noting down just in case you are out of other options, or a slow cooker is all you have to hand. A tamale will cook well in a slow cooker, whether in its raw state or frozen.

This is also a great method of heating lots of tamales for transportation. If you are having a Mexican-themed party and you want to ship your tamales without taking them out of the pot, then you should try the slow cooker method.

You can leave them to cook for a few hours and then carry your tamales fresh to your event. Once you have arrived, you can plug your slow cooker into the wall and wait for a few minutes while your tamales reheat.

This is a great cooking method as it is hands-free, however, you might want to use tongs to flip them over. These tamales will stay warm for the duration of the cooking time, and you will be able to keep them moist throughout.

However, one of the main drawbacks is obviously how long they will take to cook. You might be expected to wait for at least 2 hours for your tamales to get even remotely warm on a slow cooker.

You’ll also need to make sure that your tamales come with a steamer that will allow you to lower them into the slow cooker. Your tamales might have to be smaller than usual too, as they will have to fit comfortably into your slow cooker with the lid securely on.

Cooking Your Tamales With A Slow Cooker – A Step-By-Step Guide

How To Cook Frozen Tamales – The Perfect Guide

Here is a short guide to cooking your tamales with a slow cooker:

  1. Make sure that your slow cooker is filled with enough water first. We would recommend putting your heat on high for around 10 minutes before you put in the tamales.
  2. Take the tamales out of the plastic wrapping, making sure the corn husks do not get broken as you do.
  3. Place the tamales in a circle inside your slow cooker, making sure they are all upright, with the open ends facing towards the lid. If you do not have enough tamales to keep them upright, then place a ball of aluminum foil in the center.
  4. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook your tamales slowly for around 45 minutes.
  5. As the tamales cook, open the slow cooker, and keep an eye on them throughout. This is to ensure that they cook evenly. You can cook them for an additional 15 minutes after the initial 45-minute cook. Altogether, your cooking time can take up to an hour.

How Can You Cook Tamales With A Sous Vide Machine?

What is a sous vide machine? Well, this is also known as a water oven and you can use it to cook your tamales, although it might be one of the longest methods.

You’ll probably only be able to put 2 or 3 sous vide bags in your machine at a time, but this is perfect if you are only looking to feed a small party of people.

If you are looking for your tamales to be moist at the end of the cooking procedure, then this is a great method. As it contains plenty of water, you won’t have to worry about it overheating or burning and sticking to the inside of the oven.

This type of oven is also highly temperature controlled, so you won’t have to worry about it burning and you can always change the heat if you feel like your tamales are roasting too quickly.

One of the main downsides of cooking your tamales in a sou vide machine is that it will take upwards of an hour just to cook a few. If you want tamales before you go to work, then you might want to try another method of cooking them.

You’ll also need to keep checking the sous vide bags to make sure there is no leaking inside the bag. The packaging that your tamales come in is not designed to be waterproof, so you will have to keep checking that they are not wet.

Cooking Tamales In A Sous Vide Machine – A Step-By-Step Guide

Here is a brief guide to cooking your tamales in a sous vide machine:

  1. Take your tamales out of the plastic packaging that they came in, making sure that you don’t break the corn husks that they come in.
  2. Take a few tamales and place them in your sous vide bag. Make sure that you can seal the bag and that there is enough room for them to move.
  3. Preheat your sous vide cooker to around 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Take the sealed back and drop it into the water bath.
  5. Cook for around 1 hour, taking care to check that the bag has not broken and that nothing has leaked into the bag with your tamales in.

How Can You Cook Tamales When You Are Out Camping?

If you are out camping, then there’s no better food to enjoy than tamales. They are just enough to give you a hearty meal and will fill you up before going on a hike or kayaking for a few hours. So how can you warm your tamales when you are in the great outdoors? It’s simple.

All you need to do is take a few sous vide bags with you. The bags that your tamales come in are not fit for the purposes of cooking, as they will leak. So, take them out of their original wrapping and place them in some sous vide bags.

These bags are great for camping, as they will serve to keep your tamale moist and ensure that they do not dry out too quickly. However, you’ll need to make sure that your bags are not leaking. Make sure to check them for puncture holes and keep a constant eye on how these tamales are doing.

Cooking Your Tamales When Out Camping – A Step-By-Step Guide

Here’s how you can cook your tamales when you are camping:

  1. Take a large stock or steel pot and fill it with water. Bring this water to a boil.
  2. Take the tamales out of the plastic packaging, making sure that you are keeping the corn husks intact.
  3. Take 1 or 2 tamales and put them in a sealable sous vide or another heatproof and waterproof plastic bag. If you are using a ziplock bag, then we would suggest that you double-bag the tamales to prevent leaking.
  4. Take some tongs and drop your tamales into the boiling water.
  5. You need to make sure that the tamales do not settle to the bottom of the stock pot. You’ll need to keep stirring them and making sure they are always moving as they are cooking. Do not stir too firmly, otherwise it will burst the bag.
  6. If you are cooking your frozen tamales, then you should boil them for around 20 to 25 minutes. If your tamales are thawed, then cook them for around 20 minutes.
  7. Take the bags out of the boiling water using your tongs.
  8. Leave the tamales to cool on the side. Open the bag away from your face so that the heat does not burn you.


We hope that some of our methods of cooking frozen tamales have helped you cook up your own. Make sure that you are not cooking your tamales so much that they break apart.

Mark Williams
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