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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
This simple sautéed nopales with arbol chile, onion and tomato would also make a delicious side dish to your 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.
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.
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.
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.
Pico de Gallo Salsa
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.
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.
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.
Avocado slices are always delicious on anything you put them on.
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.
This cheese is also used in uchepos or corundas. I have a vegan cotija cheese recipe if you’re interested.
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.
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 made with masa harina. It’s incredibly delicious and such a common drink to serve with tamales.
Chocolate caliente is also commonly served with tamales. It’s a nice contrast to other sides and the tamales.
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.
Guayaba is the Spanish word for guava. This is one of the most known atole drinks.
Agua de piña or pineapple agua fresca is a sweet and refreshing drink. I think this would go well with some green salsa tamales.
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 is such a classic agua fresca and drink in Mexican cuisine. This one too goes well with countless dishes.
Agua de pepino or cucumber agua fresca is another classic Mexican drink. Sometimes I like to rim the glass with some chili powder.
Nancy Lopez is a food blogger and author of the cookbook Mexican Tamales Made Meatless. Born in Mexico, raised in the US, and currently living in Southern Mexico, she has followed a meatless diet for almost 10 years. It is her passion and mission to share all she has learned about vegan Mexican cooking and vegetarian Mexican recipes. Mexican Made Meatless is a blog dedicated to preserving the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine just without the meat. It’s a place to celebrate Mexican culture and all it’s delightfully delicious traditional foods. Read more…