How to Steam Tamales in the Microwave (Best Method)

Tamales taste amazing, don’t they? But they look equally horrifying to cook and reheat.

No one knows where to start from. Should you remove the husk or keep it on? And not everyone has a steamer to steam tamales, making cooking tamales even more challenging.

But if you know how to steam tamales in the microwave, your life would be much easier!

A month ago, I bought tamales from the store and wanted to steam them to revive their glory. But I do not have a steamer.

So, instead, I used my microwave as my mother taught me. And trust me, the tamales come out soft and warm every time.

So, if you want to learn how to steam tamales in the microwave, let’s get started.

Can you steam tamales in the microwave?

Yes, you can steam tamales in the microwave. Microwaving tamales is an easy way to get moist and soft tamales.

Not everyone has a steamer at their house, but the microwave is one of those appliances almost everyone owns. Not only that but steaming tamales in the microwave is easier than other methods.

Tamales are usually steamed at 165 °F or above. And fortunately, a regular microwave gets up to 212 °F hot. So, it is safe to say that a microwave can do the job without any problem.

However, if the tamales are frozen, it is best to thaw them before steaming them. Frozen tamales take more time and more heat to steam, and due to that, the microwave might not be able to do it properly.

You can leave the tamales on the kitchen counter for an hour to let them get to room temperature. And once they are not cold anymore, start to steam them in the microwave.

How do you steam tamales in microwave?

Use a microwave steamer as it helps maintain the moisture level and hence steam tamales quickly. To steam tamales in the microwave:

  1. Place the tamales in the microwave steamer. Make sure there is space between them to ensure even steaming.
  2. Now place the steamer in the microwave and follow the steamer manual. If it says to open the lid to release the pressure, do it! It can save the microwave steamer from exploding.
  3. Next, microwave the steamer for 3 to 5 minutes and let the steamer rest in the microwave for 1 minute.
  4. Check the tamales for doneness.
  5. When the tamales are done, take them out, remove the husk, and serve them.

Does steaming tamales in the microwave seem too difficult? The process is complex indeed, but I have a secret to steaming tamales.

Always use a microwave steamer because it makes the process a lot easier. You can make a makeshift steamer using a microwave-safe container. But the process is not straightforward.

Next up, never remove the husk while steaming the tamales in the microwave. The husk acts as a protective layer that saves the tamales from falling apart.

Lastly, follow the microwave steamer manual as it can save you from a possible hazard.
steam tamales in microwave

Is it safe to steam tamales in the microwave?

As long as you follow the proper instructions, it is safe to steam tamales in the microwave. 

Tamales have meat filling. Hence it needs to have a 165 °F internal temperature to be edible. If the internal temperature has not reached 165 °F, the tamales are not safe to eat.

Furthermore, the tamales need to be thawed before steaming in the microwave. This allows the tamales to reach the 165 °F internal temperature faster and cook safely.

However, keep in mind not to take out the tamales from their husk while thawing. It can not only ruin the tamales but also increase bacterial growth.

How long does it take to steam tamales in the microwave?

The amount of time it takes to steam tamales in the microwave depends on a few factors, such as the process, microwave wattage, etc. But usually, you can steam tamales in the microwave within 6 minutes at a high-power setting.

Most store-bought tamales are already cooked and only need to be reheated. But if your microwave is low wattage, then you might need to steam the tamales for an additional 1 to 3 minutes.

How do you know when the tamales are done steaming in the microwave?

When the tamales are done steaming in the microwave, the most evident sign would be their internal temperature. Once the internal temperature of tamales reaches 165 °F, it is time to get them out of the microwave.

Using a food-grade thermometer when checking the doneness of the tamales can save your time. After tamales are in the microwave for 6 minutes, take them out and open the steamer. Now use the thermometer to check the internal temperature, and if it is 165 °F, you know what to do next.

But what if you do not have a food-grade thermometer?

In that case, you can take one tamale out of the husk and cut it into two halves. Then touch the filling to see if it is warm or not. You should use this method only when you do not have a thermometer.

Tips to Steam Tamales in the Microwave

Steaming tamales in the microwave are more complex than microwaving any other type of food. Because of the complexity of the method, it is easier to mess it up.

Following are some of my best tips to help you steam tamales in the microwave.

  1. Always use a microwave steamer. These appliances maintain the humidity and prevent the tamales from drying out.
  2. When using a microwave steamer, follow the instruction manual carefully. One wrong step and you can cause a hazard.
  3. Do not unwrap the tamales when steaming them. Steaming tamales with the husk help them maintain their structure and steam evenly.
  4. Place the tamales at a distance from each other in the steamer. This way, the tamales will be able to steam evenly from all sides.
  5. If you have frozen tamales, thaw them before steaming them. The thawing process takes a little time, but it makes steaming a lot easier.
  6. The best way to check if the tamales are done or not is by using a food-grade thermometer. So, keep the thermometer near you when steaming tamales.
  7. After the microwaving interval has finished, leave the steamer in the microwave for 1 minute. The residual heat will further steam the tamales and ensure they have warmed up properly.

how to steam tamales in the microwave

How to reheat tamales in the microwave without a steamer?

If you have store-bought pre-cooked tamales or if you steamed them before and want to reheat them, follow these steps.

  • Wrap each tamale separately with a damp paper towel.
  • Then wrap the tamales again with plastic wrap.
  • Place the tamales on a microwave-safe plate. Ensure they are placed at a distance to evenly reheat the tamales.
  • Now microwave the tamales at 70% power for 1 minute.
  • Then flip over and microwave for another 1 minute.
  • Repeat the process until the internal temperature of the tamales reaches 165 °F.

Most of the store-bought tamales are pre-cooked and only need to be reheated. But make sure the tamales you are reheating have already been cooked before. Otherwise, the tamales might not be safe for each.

An easy way to know if the tamales are done reheating in the microwave is by using a food-grade thermometer during each 1-minute interval. And once the temperature reaches 165 °F, you can turn off the microwave.

Final Words

Now you have finally learned how to steam tamales in the microwave. Whether you have a steamer or not, you will be able to warm up the tamales and enjoy them.

But, before you leave, remember to never remove the husk tamales while microwaving them. This will unwrap the tamales and make it difficult to steam them.

Also, the husk allows the tamales to steam evenly, so keep the husk on.

Now turn on your microwave, and let’s start steaming tamales in the microwave.


How to cook homemade tamales?

To cook homemade tamales, first soak the corn husks in boiling water for 30 minutes. Then, spread masa dough on each husk and add your desired filling. Roll up the tamale and place it in a steamer basket over boiling water for about an hour.

What is the best way to reheat leftover tamales?

The best way to reheat leftover tamales is by using a steamer basket or rice cooker. If you’re short on time, wrap them in damp paper towels and microwave them for 1-2 minutes.

Can you steam frozen tamales?

Yes, you can steam frozen tamales by placing them directly into a steamer basket over boiling water for about 90 minutes. Make sure they are fully defrosted before reheating.

How do I reheat frozen tamales without a steamer basket?

If you don’t have a steamer basket, wrap the frozen tamale in aluminum foil and bake it in the oven at 350°F for about 45-60 minutes until heated through.

Is it safe to eat reheated frozen tamales?

Yes, as long as they are properly stored and reheated to an internal temperature of at least 165°F. It’s important not to refreeze previously frozen food unless it has been cooked thoroughly first.

How can I make sure my tamales don’t overcook?

To avoid overcooking your tamales, use a large pot with a steamer rack and fill it with enough water to reach just below the rack. Place the tamales vertically on the rack and cover them with banana leaves or a damp towel. Steam them for about 1 hour and 30 minutes on medium heat.

What is the best way to heat up thawed tamales?

The easiest and practical tip to reheat thawed tamales is by using a microwave-safe bowl filled with water. Place the bowl in the microwave along with your tamales, cover it loosely, and heat for about 2-4 minutes until they are hot.

Can I use a casserole dish instead of a dutch oven when making tamales?

Yes, you can use any covered pot or casserole dish that fits your steamer rack. Just make sure it’s big enough to hold all of your Mexican delicacies without overcrowding them.

What should I consider when choosing savory filling for my homemade tamales?

When making tamales, choose savory fillings that retain their flavor after cooking such as shredded chicken or pork mixed with spices like chili powder or cumin. You can also add vegetables like diced onions, peppers, tomatoes, or cheese.

What is the steaming process for making traditional Mexican food like Tamales?

Steaming is an essential part of making Tamales which are considered staple dishes in Mexico. To steam Tamales properly place them vertically on top of each other inside a Dutch oven filled halfway up its sides with boiling water then cover tightly before placing over medium heat until cooked through (about one hour).

How can I reheat tamales without a steamer?

To reheat tamales without a steamer, you can wrap them in damp paper towels and microwave them for 30 seconds to 1 minute per tamale. Alternatively, you can place the tamales in a colander over boiling water and cover with foil or a lid to steam for about 10 minutes.

Can I heat up tamales on the stove?

Yes, you can heat up tamales on the stove by placing them in a pot with enough water to cover the bottom of the pot. Cover with foil or a lid and steam over medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes.

Is it safe to microwave tamales in the corn husk?

It is not recommended to microwave tamales in the corn husk as it may cause uneven heating and potentially start a fire. It is best to remove the husks before microwaving.

How do I cook tamales in the oven?

To cook tamales in the oven, preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Remove all husks from each tamale and wrap tightly with foil. Place wrapped tamales on baking sheet and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes until heated through.

Can I reheat tamales in their husks using an oven?

Yes, you can reheat your leftover cooked TAMALES by wrapping them individually into aluminum foils then put inside an oven preheated at around 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius) for about twenty-five minutes or until they are hot throughout.

Leave a Reply