Tamales are a traditional food found in Mexico that is now found around the world. Tamales are made of Corn Masa filled with meat or vegetables and wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks. Tamales are steamed and often served as street food.
Tamales can be served with several traditional and popular Mexican and Hispanic foods. The most common sides for Tamales include rice and beans, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and other sauces. Tamales at breakfast are often paired with eggs.
Popular sides when getting street tamales are other street foods, such as Mexican Corn or Grilled Stuffed Peppers or slices of avocado. Other sides include slaw, salads, soups, and fresh fruit. Horchata or Jugo Frescos are popular drinks with Tamales. A commonly paired dessert is Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding).
17 Side Dishes to Serve with Tamales
These sides are by no means the end all, be all of sides for tamales. You can pair tamales with just about anything. These are some of the most popular and most common pairings for tamales. If you are planning on serving tamales, make sure you have at least a few of these available.
1. Salsa & Chips
Salsa and chips is a common appetizer as well as a common side for tamales. Types of popular salsa include Pico de Gallo, Salsa Roja (red salsas), and Salsa Verde (green salsa).
Ideally you will serve Salsa that pairs well with your tamale filling. For instance, if you have pollo verde tamales (Chicken in salsa verde) make sure to have salsa verde as a side or topping.
2. Guacamole & Chips
Guacamole and Chips is a common side and appetizer for tamales. Like salsa, Guacamole can be eaten with chips as a side or used as a topping for the tamale.
There are many types of Guacamole, from mild to spicy, and from blended to chunky. Pairing Guacamole with chips and salsa is the most common.
3. Sour Cream or Crema Mexicana (Mexican Cream)
Sour Cream (or Crema Mexicana) is a popular topping and side for tamales. Typically, Sour Cream is spooned beside the tamale and can be scooped up in each bite.
If you are using a Crema Mexicana that is more liquid, you may want to drizzle it over the tamales along with serving salsa and guacamole as a side.
4. Mole Sauce and Other Sauces
Mole Sauce and other sauces, such as enchilada sauce, are popular sides and toppings for tamales in restaurants or when serving them on plates.
If you are hoping to wow people with your dinner plates, turn this simple meal into a beautiful dish by spooning sauce over the top and scooping salsa, guacamole, and sour cream on the side.
5. Queso Sauce or Queso Fresco
Cheese is another popular side or topping. There are two ways to go with cheese. You can either serve Queso sauce with Chips as a side or sprinkle Queso Fresco on top of the tamales.
Like salsa and guacamole, Queso Sauce has two uses; it can be a dip for chips, or a sauce drizzled on the tamales. Queso Fresco on the other hand should be sprinkled on top of the tamales or on top of a side of beans.
Beans are a common side dish for most Mexican and Hispanic foods. Typically, beans are paired with rice. Beans can be either whole beans or bean soups or refried beans.
Black beans and pinto beans are the most popular and most common beans used. Refried beans are usually topped with cheese.
Rice is almost always paired with beans as a side dish for Hispanic and Mexican cooking. You can serve simple rice or Mexican Style Rice. There are plenty of good Mexican rice recipes online or you can buy a box from the store.
Mexican Style Rice includes tomatoes (or tomato sauce), garlic, onions, cumin, rice, and broth. Another popular option is Cilantro-Lime Rice.
Eggs are a common side for tamales when they are eaten at breakfast time. Usually, you will also see rice and beans paired with the eggs and tamales.
Eggs can be prepared in many ways. Some popular egg recipes include eggs and chorizo, Machaca eggs (eggs with shredded beef), and Huevos Rancheros or Huevos Divorciados (eggs with salsa).
9. Avocado Slices
Avocado slices are a popular side dish and topping. Avocados are creamy, sweet, and delicious. Along with slaw and salad, avocados are enjoyed with many meals.
Avocado slices are an easy solution if you are not sure how to make guacamole or cannot get ahold of good pre-made guacamole.
10. Mexican Corn
Mexican corn is a popular street food that is often paired with tamales. Similar to beans and rice, Mexican Corn can be prepared in a variety of ways.
Mexican Corn. such as elote, is usually made with corn, sour cream (or crema mexicana), lime, chili powder, and queso fresco. Mexican corn can be on the cob or removed from the cob.
11. Grilled Stuffed Jalapenos or Poblanos
Grilled Stuffed Jalapenos or Poblanos (Chile Relleno) are another popular street food that pairs well with tamales. These are a great way to get some more vegetables into your meal.
If you are making these at home, they are usually stuffed with cheese. Sometimes you can stuff them with rice and beans.
Slaw is a tasty option for those looking for more vegetables and a bit of a tangy flavor. Jicama Slaw is one of the most popular. Other options include: Coleslaw, Collard Slaw, Carrot and Root Vegetable Slaw, and more.
Slaw can be mayonnaise, sour cream or vinaigrette based. Whatever your preference, Slaw is a great way to add flavor to tamales.
Salads are a popular side for those looking for an even healthier option. Salads are easy and versatile. From a corn and bean salad to a fresh lettuce with cilantro lime dressing.
Pairing your salad with sliced avocado or fresh fruit offers even more flavor. Salads are crisp and refreshing in the summer and on hot days.
Soups are another delicious option. In the summertime pair your tamales with cold soups such as Creamy Avocado Soup, Gazpacho, or Crisp Cucumber Soup.
In the wintertime pair your tamales with warmer soups. For example, Tortilla Soup, Black Bean Soup, Chile, Pozole, or Menudo.
15. Fresh Fruit
Fresh Fruit is a popular side dish, especially at breakfast time. If your tamale filling is on the sweeter side, such as sweet corn or fruit filled, pair your tamale with fresh fruit, fruit salsa or fruit slaw.
The most common fresh fruits eaten are papaya, mango, pineapple, and watermelon. However, you can pair your tamales with whatever fresh fruit you enjoy, or your guests will enjoy.
16. Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding)
Arroz con leche, Rice Pudding, is a popular dessert to have after tamales. Rice pudding can be served hot or cold and can be topped with cinnamon or fresh fruit.
If you are eating sweet tamales, Rice Pudding makes a delicious side. Pair your tamales, rice pudding and fresh fruit for a wonderful dessert or sweet afternoon meal.
17. Horchata or Jugo Fresco (Drinks)
Horchata is a rice and cinnamon drink that is a popular option with Mexican food. Jugo Fresco (a type of fresh fruit juice or flavor-infused water) is another popular drink option.
If you choose to pair your tamales with some traditional drinks, Horchata is a great option to offer in case some of the food is spicy as it helps cool down the heat. If you choose to make a Jugo Fresco, the most popular options are Pineapple or Watermelon
With these 17 delicious side options you are sure to amaze any guests. Don’t forget! If you are having a potluck, you can assign 1 or 2 sides to each person and end up with a table full of wonderful food.
Go forth and experiment! Try new recipes and find the ones that you like the best. Happy Cooking!
What To Serve With Tamales
- Salsa & Chips
- Guacamole & Chips
- Sour Cream or Crema Mexicana (Mexican Cream)
- Mole Sauce and Other Sauces
- Queso Sauce or Queso Fresco
- Avocado Slices
- Mexican Corn
- Grilled Stuffed Jalapenos or Poblanos
- Fresh Fruit
- Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding)
- Horchata or Jugo Fresco (Drinks)
- Select your favorite recipe from the list above.
- Organize all the required ingredients.
- Prepare and enjoy in 30 minutes or less!