How to Air Fry Frozen Tamales

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Our air fryer frozen tamales recipe is a breeze. All you need is a little oil, your favorite frozen tamales, and about 25 minutes for piping hot tamales every time!

Plate of tamales heated in the air fryer.

Air Fryer Frozen Tamales

John and I love a good tamale recipe. John is more reserved with his tamale making skills, so his batches aren’t as large as mine. 

When I make tamales, there are a lot of them! Sometimes there are leftovers that we’ll freeze and reheat later. 

During our last move, we were trying to eat some of the food stored in the freezer. I forgot to thaw the leftover tamales and we needed a quick dinner.

The steamer basket and the Instant Pot were both packed, but the air fryer was still out. We decided to get it a shot, and it worked great. 

The air fryer works a little differently than a steam basket or pressure cooker, so the tamales come out a bit dryer. But they still taste amazing and are great in a pinch. Here’s how we do it.

How to Air Fry Frozen Tamales

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 375°F.
  2. Leave the tamales in the corn husks, and coat the husks in layer vegetable oil.
  3. Arrange the tamales in the air fryer basket and cook for 18-22 minutes, flipping halfway through. 
Oil being brushed onto tamales.
Frozen tamales placed in an air fryer basket.
  1. Cook until they’re hot and warmed through.
  2. Serve with your favorite side dishes.
Tamales arranged in an air fryer basket.
Cooked tamales in an air fryer basket.

Air Fryer Frozen Tamales Tips

  • If possible, use tamales that are wrapped in corn husks at both ends. This helps them retain moisture and keeps them from drying out as easily.
  • Use pre-cooked tamales. The goal is to reheat tamales where the dough, chicken, beef, cheese, and other ingredients has already been cooked.
  • Place the tamales in an even layer and work in batches. This allows the warm air to circulate and heat them from all sides.


Refrigerator: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Taco sauce drizzled over tamales.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the texture of air fryer tamales?

When you air fry frozen tamales, it tends to dry them out a bit. Since you’re using dry heat instead of steam to cook them, it’s going to change the texture.

How do I keep tamales from drying out in the air fryer?

We recommend using oil on the husks before adding them to the air fryer. If the tamales are exposed at one end, add oil to that end, too. Consider adding oil during the cooking process as well.

Make sure not to overcook the tamales, because that will increase the likelihood that they’ll dry out.

What are some other ways to heat frozen tamales?

If you’d rather not use the air fryer, there are other options for reheating frozen tamales.

  • Microwave: Wrap them in a damp paper towel and heat for 3-4 minutes or until warmed through.
  • Steam basket (stove top option): Place water in the steamer so that it’s not touching the tamales. Stand the tamales upright, and close the steamer. Bring the water to a boil, and steam the tamales for 20-25 minutes. You’ll need to add more time for 5 or more tamales.
  • Instant Pot: Place water in the Instant Pot along with a steamer basket. Add the frozen tamales, and use the “steam” function. Steam for 15 minutes and perform a quick release of the pressure.

What can I do to fix dry tamales?

If the tamales turn out dryer than you’d like, there are a number of toppings you can add to make them more palatable. Here are some suggestions:

  • Melted Cheddar Cheese.
  • Guacamole.
  • Hot Sauce.
  • Taco Sauce.
  • Salsa.
  • Sour Cream.

What are some serving suggestions?

We love to serve a Tex-Mex side alongside our tamales. Here are some of our favorite side dishes:

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Close up view of sauce on a plate of tamales.

How to Air Fry Frozen Tamales

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Author: Kimberly
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 22 minutes
Total Time: 27 minutes
Servings: 6 Servings


  • 6 frozen tamales, any variety
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil


  • Preheat the air fryer to 375°F.
  • Leave the tamales in the corn husks, and coat with a layer vegetable oil.
    6 frozen tamales
    ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • Arrange the tamales in the air fryer basket and cook for 18-22 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  • Cook until the tamales are hot and warmed through. Times may vary depending on your air fryer.
  • Serve with your favorite sides! Scroll up and see the post for tips, storage information, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Suggested Equipment


*The calories listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card and a serving size of 1 tamale. Actual calories will vary.
*For more information, tips, and answers to frequently asked questions, please refer to the post.
*The information in this article is based on previously cooked, frozen tamales. They can be store bought or homemade.


Serving: 1tamale | Calories: 377kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 539mg | Potassium: 120mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 149IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 122mg | Iron: 2mg
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