What to serve with tamales?

Tamales are usually eaten as a main dish in Mexico rather than an appetizer, so they’re not typically served with a side dish. However, the only thing about tamales is that you need to have a lot of them for everyone to have their fill. Here are some ideas for what to serve with tamales, so everyone will get to try something different and maybe even fill up on one of the other items too.

You can always serve salsa, rice and beans, black beans, guacamole, and many more with tamales. 

What to serve with tamales?


Salsa is a good accompaniment for tamales. It is even better if served with leftover tamales. Salsa is a combination of tomatoes, onions, garlic, cumin, and other spices. Some people like spicy salsa, so they include jalapeños.

Rice and beans

Traditionally, tamales are eaten with rice and beans. They are perfect. But when eaten with rice and beans, it is no longer a side dish, and it is a complete meal.

Black beans

Black beans are very versatile, and they can be eaten with any Mexican dish. You can prepare it by yourself, or you can buy the canned one. If you decide to cook black beans from scratch, it is important to know that it is time-consuming. However, an instant pot would be a good option for cooking black beans as well as pre-soaking them.


Guacamole is also a very good side dish for tamales. It is in the form of a dip. It is made with ground/ blended avocado, vinegar, cilantro, and salt. Guacamole also goes well with salsa.

Tamales can be served along with other traditional Mexican dishes or with more American-style fare. Consider serving a fresh salad and cornbread to your guests for a well-rounded meal. Corn chips are also a staple as they are eaten with every single Mexican dish to be had.

They can also be topped with crema or crumbled queso fresco (a mild Mexican cheese). A side dish that is often served with tamales is pinto beans or tacos.

What is tamale?

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish consisting of meat or vegetables and corn dough wrapped in indigenous corn husks. They are usually eaten on special occasions and holidays. Although tamales can be made year-round, they are mostly associated with Christmas and New Year’s, when families gather together to celebrate the holidays.

Furthermore, it’s filled with meat, wrapped into a neat little package, and then sealed shut by being tied together with corn husks or banana leaves. Tamale dishes are based on different types of tamale fillings such as chicken, beef, and cheese. 

In addition, tamale is a main source of food in Mexican cuisine, and even today, it remains one of the most worshipped foodstuffs in Mexico. Tamale can be eaten on its own or along with some lovely salsa. For preparation, tamales are steamed or cooked in an oven for about three hours.

What to serve with tamales?

How to eat tamales?

Tamale etiquette is a technique of receiving and sharing tamales that preserves the flavor and freshness of the tamales while avoiding spills, splatters, and pinches. The following instructions describe the easiest way to eat a tamale without making a mess.

  • Remove a corn husk from around the tamale 

First, you have to know how to open them up. The most important part is that there is a layer of corn husk wrapped around them. You have to take the corn husk off without breaking the other part. Sometimes you can tell if a person has never made tamales before because they will try to pull them off and end up tearing half the tamale. This will not work, and if you do this, your tamales will fall apart. So use caution when removing the husks, especially if they’re wet. 

  • Eat your tamale with a fork and knife.

After you take off the husk, you will see the thin yellow layer of corn dough that is surrounding the masa and filling of your choice. Eat the tamale with a fork and knife. This will help cut the tamale into smaller pieces, and this makes it easy to feed kids. You can also eat it with your hands, but this method is messier than a fork and knife.

  • Add side dishes for extra flavor.

If it is steamed, serve it with a side of broth and garnish with a squeeze of lime. You can also mash the center of the tamale (we suggest a potato masher) and combine it with broth to make a gravy, perfect for serving over rice or potatoes.

Are tamales healthy?

The answer is yes; tamales are healthy. Tamales contain the essential carbohydrates that we need for our bodies. Tamales are rich in dietary fiber and low in sodium, calories, saturated fats, and cholesterol. In addition to being a good source of antioxidants, lean protein, and B vitamins.

In addition, tamales have a unique taste and texture that you can find nowhere else. Healthy omega three essential fatty acids make up 10 percent of the fat in corn and are found in corn oil. These essential fats are important role players in the body, especially for brain development and heart health.

One thing that’s beautiful about tamales is that there is an endless combination of ingredients inside the dough, which makes them a delicious way to pack a whole lot of nutrition into one dish. Each tamale is packed with about 120 calories on average.

This can vary greatly depending on what types of fillings are used: shredded chicken or bean filling, for example, would be lower in calories than meat-filled camote (sweet potato), which has around 30% more.

What to serve with tamales?

Here are some of the things you can always serve with tamales.

● Mexican rice

Mexican rice is great with tamales, made with tomato sauce, the cooked rice and served within minutes. Made with 100% whole grains, the Mexican rice dish is an excellent source of fiber and contains one serving of vegetables per serving. Its assorted seasonings are a mix of traditional Mexican classic flavors with a hint of the Southwest, so it can be served on its own as a side dish or used as a filling for tamales and other cornmeal pieces of bread.

● Cucumber tomato avocado salad

Cucumber tomato avocado salad is so refreshing. This refreshing salad combines fresh ingredients, and lemon dressing is used with a hint of cilantro or dill. To add more taste, add salt and black pepper. 

This salad can be prepared and served in less than a half-hour.

● Black beans

Traditionally, there is no tamale without black beans. These two meals are like siblings. Black beans are even perfect because it is easy to make, and it makes four servings but can be doubled if there are more people at the gathering. Spices like cumin, garlic, onions, and cilantro can be added to give more flavors.

● Pinto beans

Pinto beans are also a good side dish to be eaten with tamales. This dish can be customized and made anyhow you want it to be. You can add spices that you like or your family also likes. The best way to cook pinto beans is to soak them first; this makes it easier to cook and makes it more flavorful.

● Refried beans

This dish is made with pinto beans, but the cooking method is different. Instead of soaking it like you would soak pinto beans, cook it directly but use a pressure pot or instant pot to make it faster. Also, dry pinto beans taste superior to canned ones. You should also use different spices according to your taste.

● Cilantro lime rice

Cilantro lime rice is a dish packed with flavors, but it is not overwhelming. It makes the perfect side dish for tamales. The ingredients include lime juice, lime zest, and cilantro. You can make this dish in advance and store it in a refrigerator. 

● Jalapeño cheddar cornbread

Nothing goes with tamales which are cornmeal like cornbread. The ingredients for making this dish are flour, cheese, cornmeal, frozen corn, sour cream, baking powder, egg, and buttermilk. After mixing all these ingredients, pour into a skillet and bake. You can also add jalapeños if you want more heat in this dish.

● Corn chowder

This dish is a complete meal on its own; all you need is to bring your tamales. It contains bacon, potatoes, and sweet corn. The secret ingredient to this dish is a paste made from a combination of flour and softened butter. This mixture is called beurre manie.

● Cucumber and avocado soup

Cucumber and avocado soup is a very fast soup, and it’s good with tamales. It is made with avocado, cucumber, lime juice, and Greek yogurt. These ingredients are blended together to make the soup. However, this soup needs to be chilled for three hours, so it is advised to make it in advance. You can add toppings as you like. If it comes out too thick, you can add a few tablespoons of water.

● Cilantro lime crema

This soup/dip is also creamy, like cucumber and avocado soup; they are just made with different ingredients. This is a blend of cilantro, sour cream, mayonnaise, and lime. It serves as a good dip for tamales. You can add jalapeños for heat if you want to.

● Guacamole salad

Guacamole salad is one of the popular summer salads. It is easy to make and very tasty, which is why it doesn’t last long because people can’t get enough of it. To make your guacamole salad more irresistible, add grape and Italian dressing, and your guests or family will come back for more.

What to serve with tamales?

What salad goes well with tamales?

Many different salads go well with tamales. Since tamales come with many ingredients, you may be left wondering what salad would go well with them. Tamale salads can be made from just about any type of fruit, vegetable, or cheese.

There are quite a few different types of salads perfect for serving alongside your tamales, so we put together a list of 3 favorite salad recipes that will surely taste delicious when paired with a plate full of warm tamales.

Tomato salsa with cilantro and lime juice, also called tart tomatillo salsa, complements tamales, especially savory tamales. The tart has an acidic taste that isn’t overpowering, and it is a nice blend with tamales.

Avocado salad has flavors that make a delicious meal when eaten with tamales. It has the creaminess that tamales need.

Salsa Verde has amazing flavors, and these flavors combined with the flavors of tamales make a very delicious meal. Salsa Verde is less spicy, unlike tomato-based salsas. However, you can add more spice if you want. The taste is not overwhelming too.

Different kinds of tamales

There are infinite varieties of tamales, which can be boiled, steamed, baked, or grilled. This meal is complete in itself and contains proteins, sugar, wheat flour, and very few fats. Tamales in the northern areas are more limited in ingredients and preparation, while tamales take on more elaborate presentations in the south. Here are some kinds of tamales:

Steamed pork tamales: These are steamed tamales stuffed with tender, braised, and shredded pork.

Fresh corn tamales with shrimp in roasted garlic sauce: In this dish, shrimp is the star ingredient, and it is a special dish made by Chef Bobby Flay.

Chicken tamales with tomato and cilantro salad: This is a normal tamale with chicken filling but with tomato-cilantro salad as a side dish.

Can you freeze tamales?

You can freeze tamales. Although they are best eaten freshly made, if you have leftovers, you can keep them in the freezer for later consumption. However, they will dry out after they’ve been frozen.

 It is important that you wrap them properly and allow them to fully thaw before serving. To make sure that your tamales do not get freezer burned, keep them in a watertight container. It is best to double wrap it in foil and then put it into a ziplock bag. When you are ready to reheat, wrap each tamale in a wet paper towel. Put them in the microwave for about 25-30 seconds and then unwrap the towel and serve.

Can you reheat tamales?

You can reheat tamales. You can even do it in the microwave, though that rarely works out well, and you’re better off using a skillet or heating them in a steamer.

Reheating homemade tamales is easy. Tamales are already cooked before they are frozen. You can defrost and reheat them in a steamer or saucepan on the stovetop. When you reheat them in the microwave, set them on a plate with 1-2 tablespoons of water to prevent your plate from cracking.

Also, if you want to reheat tamales in the oven, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place tamales inside a baking dish for about 15 minutes until the masa is crispy again.

Is tamale safe to eat?

Tamales are safe to eat if you prepare them properly. The best way to prepare tamales is by steaming them or boiling them in water. The meat can be either chicken or pork and comes in many different seasonings ranging from mild to spicy. Tamales have different versions, but most are safe to eat so long as precautions are taken, such as storing them properly in a refrigerator.

In addition, if you are worried about the wrapper of the tamale, it is customary in Mexico to wrap tamales in banana leaves. Banana leaves are considered very safe as they come from a tree. If you are referring to the meat filling, there is no reason to be concerned about eating pork or beef filling if they are properly prepared and cooked.

How long can tamales last in the fridge?

When you have leftover tamales, you need to know how long they last in the fridge. They could stay in the fridge for a week if they were packaged properly. Of course, this depends on how the tamales were prepared and stored after cooking. Using aluminum foil and plastic packaging will keep them fresh longer. If they are wrapped tightly, it will prevent air from getting inside the wrap and cause them to spoil quicker.

In addition, tamales that were cooked with preservatives will last longer than others that did not have any added chemicals or preservatives added during preparation.

Also, each tamale is stuffed with a different combination of meat, vegetables, and other ingredients that can change the freshness by the hour. So the shelf life of tamale also depends on the type of filling used. Pork tamales can last at least five days in the fridge if left unopened.

How long can tamales sit out?

Tamales can stay out for up to 24 hours if they are wrapped well, and there is a source of heat nearby. But don’t leave them out for more than that. When left out, the moisture from the interior will cause the pastry to dry out and become less flavorful.

In addition, the USDA recommends removing tamales from the steamer within 2 hours, but they can last longer if the steam remains inside. If you do not plan to eat them right away, take them off the husk and place them on a plate, and put them in the refrigerator. They can stay up to four days wrapped in aluminum foil in the refrigerator.

How do you eat tamale?

 There are different ways to eat a tamale. You can eat it like a local or with a fork and knife. The rules to eating tamale like a local are pretty simple; all you have to do is use the leaves as eating utensils for the tamale. So be sure that when you’re preparing your tamale, you don’t cut off the top of the leaf. Just pull it off. The following are ways to eat tamale:

  • You can tear off a little piece of the tamale, dab it in your mole, and pop the whole thing in your mouth. 
  • You can pick up a fork or spoon and eat the tamale slowly, dipping it into the sauce, so you get little bites from time to time.
  • While still in its husk, you can break off little pieces and snack on them as you wish.
  • If you are eating with others, you can all dip into the same big bowl of mole and keep passing the tamales around.

How to serve tamales?

If you’re planning a Mexican dinner party, it’s important to know how to serve tamales correctly. Because they are wrapped, everyone can enjoy the creamy filling without eating all the cornhusks. Here are some tips to make your dinner party or fiesta better.

  • Peel back the husks from each tamale. 
  • Place a warm corn husk on each plate, and place 3-5 hot tamales in the center of each corn husk. 
  • Top with tamale sauce and crumbled cheese. 
  • Be sure not to put any seasoning inside the tamale, as you will taste the flavor. 
  • Serve them with rice, beans, potatoes, and a fresh vegetable salad.


There are many options for what to serve with tamales. Tamales are good for mixing with other dishes, and this makes the options unlimited. You can eat your tamales however you want to, according to your taste.

Whether you’re adding them as appetizers or as sides, you can always find great ways to use tamales in your menus. They pair well with chicken, pork, seafood, vegetables, and more.

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