How to Eat Tamales

Amber Bracegirdle | Bluebonnet Baker

Have you always wanted to try tamales but felt unsure about how to eat them? Here we'll answer all your questions so you can go ahead and enjoy this delicious and traditional Mexican treat!

Tamales may be a traditional Mexican dish, but they're now popular all over the world! Fun to eat and with hundreds of variations, fillings, toppings and sides, there are plenty of different ways to enjoy tamales. But just how are you supposed to eat them? 
Tamales are generally served in corn husks or plantain leaves and are stuffed with fillings like chilli, salsa, vegetables, cheeses or meats. 
If you are in a rush, tamales are a great grab and go meal. Simply open one end of the wrapping (either the corn husk or plantain leaf) and snack away! 
Tamales Photo
Don’t consume the wrapper - corn husks aren’t meant to be eaten and can result in an upset stomach and may pose a choking risk for younger children. Plantain leaves can be eaten, but we don’t recommend doing so, and it is not traditional to consume the wrapper.
One of the best ways to eat tamales is to top them with salsa or mole to really bring out their flavor. Mole is a Mexican sauce generally made from a concoction of chocolate, chilli peppers, and spices. Make sure you peel back the wrapper before topping, you don’t want to miss out on the added flavor! 
Some people prefer to dip their tamale into sauce as opposed to topping it. But either way, the addition of mole or a substitution is highly recommended! 
Tamales Picture
You can substitute the salsa or mole for any of your favorite sauces, but spicy tends to be best! Why not try a black bean and corn topping or a spicy mango habanero pepper sauce? If all else fails, a dash of hot sauce will satisfy any spice element you may be craving.
Tamales are generally thought of as being a spicy, savory food, but you can find sweet tamales which make an excellent dessert. Sweet tamales usually offer fillings such as bananas, chocolate, raisins, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom topped with cream or honey. 
For the rare instance that you have leftover tamales, you have a few options to reheat them without losing flavor and texture. You can either steam them in a pot of boiling water or put them in the oven drizzled with some oil. You can microwave them, but they can end up being dry. 
Tamales Image

To take full advantage of the tamale experience, try serving them with some traditional accompaniments

A popular beverage served with tamales is a hot drink called atole, which is made from simmering ground corn with water and a sweet flavoring like chocolate, fruit, cinnamon or vanilla. 
Another traditional Mexican side dish commonly served with tamales is arroz con leche, which is a rice pudding boiled with cinnamon until it is of custard-like texture. You may find additions to arroz con leche such as chopped fruit and nuts. 
Tamales Pic
For a more savory accompaniment, smother homemade chilli on your tamale, or serve it on the side. You can then top it with cheese, onion, black beans, sour cream or anything else you enjoy with your chilli. 
Do you want to try and make tamales at home? Here's our step-by-step guide!
Tamales are best when eaten within 4-5 days of making them, although we doubt you’ll have too many hanging around that long! 

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Amber Bracegirdle

About Amber

Amber is a native Texan, born to a family of fabulous cooks. She shares her love of all things Tex-Mex and Southern both on her blog, Bluebonnet Baker, and here on Food Fanatic. She heavily endorses the use of the contraction "y'all".