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What to eat with tamales?

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Crumbly, herbal flavor with a similar taste and texture to cornbread or corn cake, tamales are a make-ahead meal to serve on holidays and celebrations to easily feed a large crowd.

Tamales are a rich and hearty crowd-pleaser. They are sumptuous on their own, but you better have something else on the side when serving them as the main dish. 

What do you eat with tamales? Hot steaming tamales are traditionally served with red chili sauce, guacamole, and sour cream. Each serving is already filling and flavorful by itself, however adding a side of salad, vegetables, and pour over sauces can make a huge difference in taste.

From breakfast to dinner, tamales can be a great meal when served with the right sides including tortilla or black bean soup, eggs and salsa, Mexican rice or cornbread, jicama slaw, tortilla chips, refried beans, and street corn.

Whether the tamales are sweet or savory, the list of possible pairings is endless. From sauces to sides, there are options for everyone.

If you are looking for healthy side dishes such as rice and beans or light dishes like soups and salads, we’ve got you covered! So, when serving tamales at the next party or event, be sure to whip up any of these pairings to complete the meal.

What flavor goes well with tamales?

A dash of spices can level up tamales. For some heat, add pepper or chili powder to the tamales. A hint of cumin or chipotle powder will also impart a nutty, earthy, and slightly smoky flavor to the dish. 

Be sure to step up the flavor with cilantro or parsley to garnish everything, and add an earthy kick to the dish.

Here are classic flavor combinations that chefs pair with tamales:

  • tamales verdes + tomatillo salsa + chicken
  • tamales de mole + pork + Mexican chocolate 
  • tamales de rajas + poblano peppers + queso fresco + salsa
  • tamales de frijol + black beans + chicken
  • tamales oaxaqueños + shredded chicken + Mexican mole sauce + ancho chiles
  • tamales dulces + cinnamon + pineapple + raisin + dulce de leche

What sauce to eat with tamales?

Prepare at least one sauce to pair with tamales and their side dishes. Whether it is mild or extremely spicy, sauces make tamales soft and moist to maximize enjoyment.

Other than red chili sauces to pair with tamales, here are alternatives to try:

  • Ranchero sauce: Nothing beats the sweet scent of ranchero sauce. It’s an excellent sauce for tamales and is packed with traditional Mexican cuisine ingredients. Some ingredients include chili powder, onions, jalapeño, tomatoes, and Mexican herbs.
  • Guacamole: Mashed guacamole, lime juice, salt, pepper with chopped red onion and tomatoes create wonderful creamy texture and sweet taste that tamales need to be complete.
  • Double chili sauce: For those who love extra spice, serve tamales alongside chili sauce. This sauce is blended with toasted ancho and guajillo chilis that will enhance the spicy flavor with extreme heat.
  • Habanero sauce: Pork and chicken mixed tamales goes well with a spoonful of fiery habanero sauce. 
  • Green poblano sauce: Mild flavored with a hint of tangy taste. Make this sauce with poblano peppers, green bell peppers, onions, garlic, salt and dairy milk to give a rich creamy mild sauce to top over tamales.

What vegetables goes well with tamales?

Tamales are great for both vegans and meat lovers as you don’t necessarily have to stuff them with chicken, pork, or beef. Some of the best tamales are meat-free and packed with vegetables instead. 

  • corn
  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • zucchini
  • jicama
  • avocado
  • red onion

What kind of rice goes with tamales?

Serve freshly steamed tamales with a delicious Mexican rice dish. This rice is pretty inexpensive and relatively easy to prepare. 

Whether boiled, pilaf, or steamed, you can never go wrong with flavored rice. Other than traditional Mexican rice, season with chopped cilantro and squeezed lime juice too.

To make Mexican rice or cilantro lime rice pilaf, there are three kinds of rice that can be used in all recipes:

What salad goes well with tamales?

Salads are a renowned side for tamales, especially for a hearty side to soften up the heaviness from the tamal. From bean and corn salad to fresh lettuce with lime-cilantro dressing, tamales pair perfectly with salads of all kinds. 

Additionally, try fresh fruit and avocado salad for a flavorful variation. Salads are refreshing, crisp and a great addition to enjoy on a hot day during summer.

  • taco salad
  • avocado salad
  • cucumber tomato salad
  • potato salad
  • elotes salad
  • cilantro lime salad
  • chopped salad with Greek yogurt dressing
  • corn salad
  • green salad
What to eat with tamales

Eat With Tamales: Conclusion 

Whatever sides you choose for tamales, they will be a hit. Whether you are out for a hearty accompaniment or a light companion, all the classic pairings are listed above. 

Start by garnishing freshly steamed tamale with red chili sauce, scoop of guacamole and salsa, and a spoonful of sour cream. This will keep tamales moist and flavorful.

From meat to vegetable or sweet fruit based, there are a variety of tamale flavors to choose from. 

To make a fulfilling meal for yourself or a dinner party, consider serving with soup, rice or risotto dish, cornbread, salad, chips and salsa, refried or pinto beans, and roasted street corn.

No matter what, consuming with mild or spicy sauce is highly recommended due to its dry and crumbly texture. Try with ranchero, double Chile sauce, habanero, and green poblano sauce. 

When serving Mexican rice as a side dish to pair with tamales, go with jasmine, white, or basmati rice in the long grain category.

To make the meal light and healthy, serving with fresh salad is an exceptional option. From taco salad to potato or corn salad, have a refreshing salad dressing like a yogurt or cilantro lime dressing.

Be sure to make tamales a star at the table. Feel free to experiment with different ingredients to see what pairings works best for you.

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