What to Serve with Tamales? A Guide to a Perfect Tamales Party

By Adelaide | Food & Recipes

May 08

Few people can say no to tamales. This comfort food easily reminds us of home. It’s a special meal perfect for the holidays when you will be spending time with family and friends. Besides preparing this particular dish, though, you must want to know what to serve with tamales for a perfect dinner tonight. 

Many people claim a tamale is a stand-alone dish that doesn’t need any side dishes or accompaniments. However, it does not hurt to elevate it with delicious side servings. It will not only add to the main dish’s taste. It will give the family more options on the table.

What are tamales exactly? How do you serve it? Let’s find out.

​You’ve seen what tamales are, but does not exactly know what they are or how they are made. It’s a pre-Columbian meal said to originate from Mesoamerica. The best-known version of the dish is the Mexican tamales. However, almost all of Central and South Americans have their own style of cooking tamales.

As mentioned, a tamale is a complete meal. Most versions of the dish are made of corn dough called masa and filling. You then use corn husk or banana leaf as wrapping before it is steamed, which makes the corn masa firmer. When it’s done, unwrap the tamale and eat on the go.

What to Serve with Tamales?

Most of the time, we eat tamales on its own. Sometimes, though, you want them to be the main dish of your dinner party or holiday meal. In that case, you need to serve them with side dishes and other accompaniments for a full meal. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas on what to serve with tamales, let me share with you some.

Dishes and Salads

One of the most common choices is rice. It’s an easy solution since rice is a staple food in most households in the world. Another typical dish to serve with tamales is beans.

People from the northern parts of Mexico often do that. Mexicans mainly serve tamales with refried beans, which you may choose for an authentic experience.

Salad is also a side dish often paired with tamales. Typical choices include guacamole, curtido or pickled cabbage slaw, and jicama salad. If you love spicy food, chili is also an excellent side dish for a tamale. 

Soup and Fresh Fruits

You can also pair a tamale with soup. One example is the traditional black bean soup, which is great because it is not overly filling. Another recommended option is green chili and pork soup.

If your party will have large groups, serving tamales with soup is a good idea since you can prepare earlier in the day. What to serve with tamales? Other common choices include:

  • Feta-stuffed peppers
  • Grilled vegetable skewers
  • Mac n cheese
  • Black beans
  • Tacos and other Mexican foods
  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh lemon wedges
  • Over easy eggs, and even
  • Ice cream


As for the sauce, you have plenty of recipes for options. That’s great because they will make your tamales party more fun. Our suggestion is to prepare several sauces to serve with your tamales. This way, your guests can choose whatever flavor they want.

The traditional choice of sauce for tamales is mole sauce. It can be a mole negro made (includes chocolate, onions, garlic, chili peppers, etc.) or mole verde (chili poblano, green tomatoes, chicken broth, garlic, onion, etc.). Another more Americanized sauce to serve with tamales is salsa or plain chili sauce.

If you want, you can also have American sour cream as a sauce for this dish if you like the taste. A piece of advice - when it comes to serving a sauce for tamales, never serve them cold. According to Kitchenistic.com, a cold sauce isn’t tasty at all. It is best to heat them in your oven for a few minutes before serving.

Easy Homemade Tamales Recipes

Now that you’ve had an idea on what to serve with tamales, you want some easy homemade tamales recipes. Here are 3 recipes you can try.

Chicken Tamales

The flavor for this authentic tamales recipe is chicken. The procedure is the same as other tamales recipes, so it isn’t that hard. The most important part is, of course, the dough or masa. Making this and the filling will take some time, so here’s a link to the recipe for you.

Sweet Tamales

Just like with traditional tamales, you’ll need a masa to make sweet tamales, but it will be a little different. The ingredients used in the dough are sugar, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon. As for the fillings, you can choose different ones to make different sweet flavors. Check out the recipe here.

Filipino Tamales

This one is a Filipino-style tamale, which is a Kapampangan recipe. It’s a hearty food with main ingredients including rice flour, peanut butter, and coconut milk. Steamed to perfection, Pinoys usually top them off with chicken and eggs. You can find the recipe for Filipino tamales here

How to Serve Tamales

The options on what to serve with tamales are almost endless. You won’t have any problem in making the perfect meal for your dinner with your family. When it comes to serving tamales, though, you should keep it simple. 

After all, making tamales can take a while. Do you really have the time to make elaborate side dishes? In that case, simple dishes like salads and grilled vegetables would be perfect.

In serving tamales, the most important part is checking the doneness. You wouldn’t want to serve them uncooked, would you? Check this by seeing how cleanly the wrap comes away. If it doesn’t come off cleanly, cook them longer.


Tamales are great because you can easily pair them to several side dishes. There are also plenty of serving options for tamales in terms of colors and sauces. You don’t really need to be so fussy on what to serve with tamales. On its own or with side dishes, it is a tasty meal.

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