What to Eat with Tamales (24 Tamales Side Dishes)

Tamales are magical corn masa pockets wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves and filled with all sorts of savory and sweet fillings. In this guide I’m sharing what to eat with tamales and plenty of tamales side dishes.

Tamales Side Dishes
Vegan Red Pork Tamales


Tamales are one of the most classic dishes in Mexican cuisine. They are truly delicious treats!

They are a traditional Mexican dish served during the holiday season. They’re often a main dish for Christmas dinner. In the United States, Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans, also serve traditional tamales for Thanksgiving dinner.

Other special occasions when homemade tamales are served would be during Mexican Independence Day or in the US they seem to be a perfect way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Here in Mexico tamales are also a common delicious meal that is street food and easy to find vendors selling the best tamales. Many Mexican restaurants both in Mexico and the US also sell tamales.

Vegan Mole Tamales
Vegan Mole Tamales

Try These Homemade Tamales Recipes

In case you didn’t know, I have published a few vegan tamales and vegetarian tamales recipes. Click the links below to check them out.

Keep an eye, there will be lots more tamales recipes coming…like my vegan mole tamales that use banana leaf instead of corn husks. Drizzled with mole sauce, so scrumptious!

What to Eat with Tamales

Mexican tamales are a meal on their own. There are some very delicious ways to eat tamales and plenty of foods to accompany them. Below I’m sharing what to eat with tamales as well as the best side dishes to accompany a plate of hot tamales.

I think you’re going to really enjoy these Mexican dishes and do make sure to check for the link to the recipes where applicable.

Tamales Side Dishes

When it comes to tamales side dishes you can keep it quite simple.

Us Mexicans usually don’t make too much fuss over the side dishes. The main focus should be on the taste of your tamales.

I mean everyone has their personal tastes, so enjoy those tamales as you’d like.

Authentic Mexican Refried Beans Recipe
Refried Beans

Refried Beans

Like any other traditional Mexican meal, beans are always a perfect addition to most meals. You can do refried beans (I like both pinto beans and black beans), or you can do like beans in broth or even charro beans would be fine.

I was once served blended beans in Yucatan that were like a thin black bean soup. But at home never tried that, would be yum though.

How to make arroz Mexicano
Mexican Arroz Rojo

Mexican Rice

Another common side that’s a perfect side dish to tamales and all your favorite Mexican meals is arroz rojo or Mexican red rice, sometimes called arroz a la Mexicana.

The rice gets it’s red color because of tomato sauce it’s cooked with. If you’re eating it at restaurants make sure to ask if it’s made with chicken broth.

The rice with beans is such a common Mexican comfort food pairing for countless Mexican meals. The two with a couple of tamales would make a complete meal.

Sauteed Nopales with Arbol Chile, Onion and Tomato


This simple sautéed nopales with arbol chile, onion and tomato would also make a delicious side dish to your tamales.

How Long to Cook Tamales.

Authentic Mexican Salsa for Tamales

A generous drizzle of spoonful of delicious homemade salsa is a not only delicious on tortilla chips, but also on savory tamales.

Below are some mouthwatering salsa recipes that are always a good idea for a topping to eat with tamales. 

Homemade and Authentic Salsa Verde
Homemade and Authentic Salsa Verde or Tomatillo Salsa

Salsa Verde or Tomatillo Salsa

This is a slightly tangy and not to spicy salsa that’s amazing on just about anything. It’s also the green sauce used to make the filling for chicken or in our case, vegan chicken tamales.

Click here for my easy homemade salsa verde recipe.

You can adjust the level of spicy flavor you’d like your salsa to have. Add less chiles or more depending on your heat tolerance.

You can find the recipe for vegan tamales with salsa verde in my cookbook, Mexican Tamales Made Meatless.

Molcajete Salsa or Salsa Molcajeteada
Roasted Tomato Salsa

Molcajete Salsa Recipe

Salsa Molcajeteada is a fire roasted chunky tomato salsa adds an additional authentic Mexican flavors to your tamales. It’s ground in a molcajete so it’s a bit chunkier, but oh so delectable.

Tomato & Arbol Chile Salsa

Tomato & Arbol Chile Salsa

This salsa is a bit more spicy than the previous ones. The reason for this is due to the chile de arbol. these are fiery thin, red chile peppers.

How to Make Pico de Gallo Salsa
Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo Salsa

Pico de gallo is one of my favorite salsa on a hot day. Paired with tortilla chips and an ice cold chelada for the win.

With tamales this chunky tomato salsa is one of the easiest ones you can make. It goes delicious on just about any type of savory tamales.

Small white bowl filled with raw tomato salsa, there's a spoon in the bowl and a pretty Mexican red cloth.
Easy Tomato Salsa

Quick and Easy Fresh Tomato Salsa

For this fresh tomato salsa it’s just a matter of tossing everything into the blender. It’s seriously one of the easy ways to make salsa. This one too goes on just about any savory tamal.

Small Batch Guacamole Recipe | How to make authentic #guacamole at home. #vegan #veganmexican #partyfood #tailgatingfood #superbowl #cincodemayo #avocado #traditinalrecipe


Guacamole is always a great thing to pair with tamales. You can make it as spicy or mild as you’d like. Also as creamy or chunky too.

Toppings for Tamales

Besides the salsas, there are a few other toppings that would be delicious on your tamales. Now not everything will taste the same, but you can choose for your personal taste buds.

Yucatan Avocados by @SpicieFoodie | #avocados #yucatan #aguacate #Mexico

Avocado Slices

Avocado slices are always delicious on anything you put them on.

Corundas with Queso, Sour Cream and Salsa
Corundas with Queso, Sour Cream and Salsa

Queso Fresco

Certain types of tamales, like uchepos and corundas, are delicious and it’s actually a requirement to put some crumbled queso fresco on them. Go try my homemade queso fresco recipe.

Queso Cotija

This cheese is also used in uchepos or corundas. I have a vegan cotija cheese recipe if you’re interested.

Homemade Uchepos Tamales
Homemade Uchepos Tamales

If you’d like how to make either corundas or uchepos make sure to get yourself a copy of my tamales cookbook. Click here to go get a copy.

Vegan Crema Recipe | Mexican Vegan Sour Cream
Vegan Mexican Crema

Sour Cream or Mexican Crema

As mentioned previously, sour cream or Mexican crema will go perfectly on uchepo and corunda tamales. I have a vegan crema recipe if you’d like to try it out.

What to Drink with Tamales

What to drink with tamales will depend if it’s during the warmer months (yes it’s possible to eat tamales in the summer time too), or if you’re enjoying then during the cooler autumn and winter months.

I mean an agua fresca is good anytime of the year.

Champurrado is a thick chocolate drink from Mexico. It's a hearty drink made with chocolate, canela, piloncillo and thickened with masa.

The BEST Champurrado Recipe

Champurrado is a thick chocolate drink made with masa harina. It’s incredibly delicious and such a common drink to serve with tamales.

Vegan hot chocolate made Mexican style
Mexican Hot Chocolate

The BEST Mexican Hot Chocolate

Chocolate caliente is also commonly served with tamales. It’s a nice contrast to other sides and the tamales.

How to Make Strawberry Atole with Masa Harina | Atole de fresas con masa
Atole de Fresa

How to Make Strawberry Atole

Atoles are very common with some tamales — some would argue they are the best sides even before beans. This one is made with strawberries and it’s delicious.

How to Make Guava Atole Mexican Drink
Atole de Guayaba

Atole de Guayaba or How to Make Atole

Guayaba is the Spanish word for guava. This is one of the most known atole drinks.

How to serve pineapple agua fresca or agua de pina.
Agua de Piña or Pineapple Agua Fresca

Easy Agua de Piña | Mexican Pineapple Agua Fresca

Agua de piña or pineapple agua fresca is a sweet and refreshing drink. I think this would go well with some green salsa tamales.

How to make Watermelon Agua Fresca (vegan)

Watermelon Agua Fresca | Agua de Sandia

Watermelon Agua Fresca is a very refreshing drink that goes well with tamales. I like to add a splash of lime juice to give a touch of tartness, it’s so good.

Agua de Jamaica or Hibiscus Tea by @SpicieFoodie
Agua de Jamaica

Agua de Jamaica | Ice Cold Hibiscus Tea

Agua de jamaica is such a classic agua fresca and drink in Mexican cuisine. This one too goes well with countless dishes.

Cucumber Agua Fresca

Cucumber Agua Fresca

Agua de pepino or cucumber agua fresca is another classic Mexican drink. Sometimes I like to rim the glass with some chili powder.

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