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What to Serve with Tamales for Dinner? (24 Sides/Toppings/Sauces)

Looking to cook up a batch of homemade tamales and serve with your favorite side dishes? Like every other dish, you need to plan before getting started.

Here’s everything you need to know about what goes well with tamales. Let’s get started!

What Are Tamales?

Tamales are a traditional Mexican food made from maize dough, wrapped in corn husks and/or banana leaves, and then steam cooked. They are available in many varieties of fillings, including:

  • meat (pork, beef, chicken, or fish)
  • cheese,
  • fruit,
  • vegetables, etc.

Tamales are usually prepared for religious holidays like Christmas, Easter, or the Day of the Dead by using many different types of fillings.

These tamales can be found across Latin America as well as Mexico. In Mexico specifically, you can find these tamales year-round due to their popularity and ease of preparation at home.

What to Eat with Tamales?

The traditional Mexican sides that are great to serve with tamales for dinner are:

1. Jicama Slaw

jicama slaw

Jicama [1] is a Mexican vine with edible tuber roots. It has a sweet yet starchy flavor that makes it a great side dish for tamales.

Jicama slaw is a simple, nourishing vegan salad that has a sweet flavor and its preparation is not time-consuming.

How to Prepare

To make jicama slaw, all you have to do is wash and slice your cabbage, carrot, and jicama into a bowl and mix properly.

Then go ahead to season the mix, add seasonings like pepper, lemon juice, chili powder, salt, canola oil, rice vinegar, and honey. Depending on the taste you aim to achieve, your seasoning can vary and you can add cilantro leaves to spruce things up.

2. Cilantro Rice

cilantro rice

This is a delectable dish that pairs perfectly with tamales! If your tamales have meaty fillings, then you want to try the cilantro lime rice as a side dish, it gives a whole new definition to Mexican comfort food.

How to Prepare

To spice up the taste of your meal you can add lime, chopped onion, scallions, cilantro, and jalapeno. You can also give it more flavor by cooking your rice with chicken broth instead of water.

This side dish is both flavourful and zesty, its fresh taste just leaves your taste buds asking for more.

3. Mexican Crema

mexican crema

Mexican crema is a delightful, rich, thick, tangy, and creamy side dish that goes with Tamales for dinner. Its creaminess is the perfect blend for spongy tamales and on the plus side, it softens the chili flavors present in tamales.

How to Prepare

To make this delightful side meal, all you need is buttermilk, lime juice, heavy cream, and salt! Four simple ingredients to create food heaven!

For a fresher taste, keep it refrigerated. The longer it stays refrigerated the thicker and tastier it becomes. If it becomes too thick, just mix it with lime juice before your meal. Dinner is served!

4. Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

jalapeno cheddar cornbread

Cornbread is comfort food, now to take it up a notch and create a mind-blowing appetizer to go with tamales, jalapeno cheddar cornbread is your best bet!

How to Prepare

To create this meal you need all-purpose flour, cornmeal, cheddar cheese, baking powder, buttermilk, egg, sour cream, scallion, frozen corn, and most importantly, jalapenos.

Pour and mix all ingredients in a bowl, stir them, then fold in the corn and jalapenos, pour the mixture into an iron skillet cast and bake until it turns golden brown.

Dinner has never been better! If you are not a fan of spicy foods, you can always skip the jalapenos and work with everything else.

But if you like hot and fiery meals, you could add cayenne pepper for that extra “kick”.

5. Black Beans

black beans

The list of side dishes for tamales is incomplete without beans. Black beans are a great side dish for tamales, you can either use canned black beans if you are in a bit of a rush or prepare it yourself.

How to Prepare

The preparation of black beans yourself is sort of time-consuming because the beans have to be properly cooked.

We recommend soaking your beans at night, before the day of use. You can then wash the beans the next day, pour into a large pot and bring them to boil at low heat.

After an hour, add spice to your cooked beans. You can add garlic, cumin, pepper, salt, chili powder, or just any other spice you like. Once this is done, serve your tasty black beans with tamales.

If you are feeling creative you can add rosemary or parsley to it.

6. Elote (Mexican Corn)

mexican street corn

Since Tamales are everything Mexican, why not add a side dish that brings it home! Elote is the best bet for this, although it’s street food you can always make it at home to your taste.

How to Prepare

To prepare Elote you need a grill. Turn your grill to medium heat and place your corn cobs on it, intermittently, turn them from one side to the other until the entire cob turns golden brown.

Once that is done, mix mayonnaise with garlic, queso fresco or cotija cheese, chili powder, Tajin, and just any other seasoning you would love in your mix.

This is one corn and corn mix that you want to try. Its sweet and savory taste is simply irresistible!

7. Corn Chowder

corn chowder

If you are wondering, what is traditionally served with tamales?  Soups are great options!

Soups are not just delicious but the pair are just fine with the weather. It doesn’t matter if it’s summertime or winter there is always a soup option that works great with tamales.

Corn Chowder is a fresh and creamy soup that blends just perfectly with tamales. It contains ingredients like corn, milk, cayenne powder, chicken broth, celery, potatoes, onions, and carrots. Every scoop of this soup is rich and delightful!

Tips to Prepare

In winter, you can use warm soups like Menudo, Tortilla, Chile, Black bean, and Pozole as side dishes with tamales.

In the summertime, you can pair tamales with cooler soups like Gazpacho, Crisp Cucumber, and Avocado.

8. Avocado Soup

avocado soup

Still, on the recommendation of soups that are great side dishes, chilled Avocado soup is a great side dish for tamales.

Avocados are naturally nutritious and creamy, so to take it up a notch you can make delicious soups from them. It gives not just flavor but adds color to your tamales.

How to Prepare

To prepare this soup you need to puree sliced avocado, then mix with cilantro, lemon juice, chicken broth, onion, garlic, and salt. Once this is done chill your mixture for about 3hours.

To make your meal delicious you can top it off with croutons and sour cream. Just delectable!

9. Curtido

curtido

If you have ever thought of what you can serve with tamales for dinner, then you should give Curtido a try. It is a combination of everything veggie and spice.

Ingredients of curtido are cabbages, oregano, carrots, yellow onion, jalapeno, and salt. You get a crunchy am delightful side dish.

Tips to Prepare

To preserve the freshness of the veggies and enable them to stay longer, keep them refrigerated and submerged in brine [2] (salt and water mixture) to build and preserve their flavor.

Ensure you place it in a container that has a lid or you can cover it with a cheesecloth.

10. Fruits

fresh fruit

Our final recommendation on side dishes that go with tamales for dinner is fruits. Tamales already have a thick, spicy, and spongy taste, with fruits you give your meal a burst of freshness and juiciness.

If your tamales are filled with sweet and savory ingredients, you can also pair them with fresh fruits.

Apart from fruits like pineapples, mangoes, papayas, and watermelons you can always use fruit slaws or fruit salads.

With fresh fruits, your tamales are sure to be both sweet, savory, and refreshing!

Ten Popular Tamale Toppings

If you want to add additional flavors and tastes to your tamales, here are some of the most popular tamale toppings:

  • 11. Marinated onions
  • 12. Pickled jalapenos
  • 13. Pico de gallo
  • 14. Guacamole
  • 15. Limes
  • 16. Queso
  • 17. Cilantro
  • 18. Sour cream/Greek yogurt
  • 19. Cotija cheese
  • 20. Salsa (various flavors)

Four Sauces

Except for the above appetizers and toppings, there are also some delicious sauces to eat with tamales:

  • 21. Cholula hot sauce – a brand of chili-based hot sauce.
  • 22. Ranchero sauce – a Mexican mixture of herbs, and chili powders.
  • 23. Double-Chili sauce – a spicy sauce that goes well with tamales.
  • 24. Guacamole sauce – prepared using avocado as a primary ingredient.

Final Thoughts

What dish makes you feel like you can take on the world? Tamales! They’re so comforting and delicious and create a unique addition to your menu that nobody will forget.

There are so many different tamal side dishes and toppings you can choose from. You might be surprised by how many different pairings there are with this Mexican classic!

Have fun exploring what goes best with your tamal recipe!

chicken tamales

What to Serve with Tamales

Yield: 1 serving

The popular side dishes for tamales.

Ingredients

  • Jicama Slaw
  • Cilantro rice
  • Mexican crema
  • Jalapeno cheddar cornbread
  • Black beans
  • Elote (Mexican corn)
  • Corn chowder
  • Avocado soup
  • Curtido
  • Fruits
  • Marinated onions
  • Pickled jalapenos
  • Pico de gallo
  • Guacamole
  • Limes
  • Queso
  • Cilantro
  • Sour cream/Greek yogurt
  • Cotija cheese
  • Salsa (various flavors)
  • Cholula hot sauce
  • Ranchero sauce
  • Double-Chili sauce
  • Guacamole sauce

Instructions

  1. Pick the sides from the list.
  2. Prepare the ingredients for cooking.
  3. Enjoy your meal!

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I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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