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Tamales are some of the most popular Latin dishes. They traditionally contain a mixture of masa, also known as cornflour, and any fillings you would like, including meats and vegetables. Most tamale cooks wrap these ingredients in either a corn husk or a banana leaf, steaming them or baking them.
Most agree that tamales are delicious to eat by themselves. You can take your traditionally Latin meal to another level, however, by incorporating a side that your whole family will love. Learn more about some of the best foods you can serve with tamales in the information found below.
Table of Contents
- How to Serve Tamales
- Popular Tamale Toppings
- What to Serve with Tamales?
- Side Dishes for Tamale Pie
- Complete Your Tamale Dinner
How to Serve Tamales
Many families choose to serve tamales on holidays, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On these special days, many individuals care about the presentation of their dishes. They may start, for instance, with all of the tamales, still wrapped, on a large platter in the middle of the table.
Instruct your guests that the corn husks or banana leaves on the exterior of the tamale will serve as their plates. When they open the food, they will feel as if they are in the middle of unwrapping a gift. Give them small bowls with salsa or mole in them, for instance. These sauces can flavor the tamales even further.
Popular Tamale Toppings
As mentioned, you could prepare bowls full of some of the sauces that you can serve with tamales. This step will allow your guests to choose the toppings they want on their plates. Again, some of the most popular sauces include mole and salsa.
Other individuals enjoy eating tamales with queso or chile con queso. Others use a mixture of sour cream, lettuce, and diced tomatoes.
Some individuals even like to give their tamales a bitter or spicy taste instead. They may add hot sauce or slices of hot peppers. Others, however, may put limes or lemon juice over their tamales.
What to Serve with Tamales?
1. Salsa and Eggs
Some families enjoy eating tamales for breakfast. You could lay a nice fried egg over your dish for this meal. You will immediately notice the umami flavor that will result from the combination of the yolk and the cornmeal.
Cover the eggs and tamales with salsa to take your meal to another flavor level. Consider one that has cilantro as an ingredient to give your dish more spice. Make sure that you choose a salsa that is not so spicy as to hide the real taste of your meal.
2. Black Bean Soup
Black bean soup is one of the easiest side dishes you can make for your tamales. You only have to cook the beans, salsa, allspice, and chicken broth together. Allow it to simmer in a pan for a while to get the rich flavor you desire.
Serve the soup in a bowl next to your tamales. Some of your guests may even enjoy using the side as a sauce of sorts. Add some tortilla chips to your soup to give it more of a crunch factor if you need added texture.
3. Tropical Fruit
Fresh tropical fruit will take your meal to a new level, even though tamales are a savory dish. When you take a bite of one of the berries or pineapple chunks, for instance, you will cleanse your palate. You will also feel refreshed and ready to indulge in your food.
Some fruit is good when you sprinkle cayenne powder or chili peppers over it. You will get the spicy kick that will lead you to Latin flavors. Try using these ingredients on mangoes, oranges, or pineapples, as they can take on the added spice.
4. Jicama Slaw
Jicama is a root vegetable native to Mexico, and it is similar to the turnip. Make a delicious slaw out of this ingredient when mixing it with carrots, cabbage, honey, lime juice, ancho peppers, and vinegar.
If you have experience with tamales, you should know that the dish is spongy and soft. The jicama slaw will add a necessary crunch factor to your plate. The texture will be in direct contradiction to the tamales. To bring in more sweetness, add some tropical fruit to the mixture, like mangoes or oranges.
You may wonder how cornbread goes with tamales when thinking of the typical southern side. The Mexican version of this side uses cheese, chili peppers, and corn. It still has the crumbly texture that you may expect from cornbread.
Both tamales and cornbread use cornmeal as their primary ingredients, meaning the two will combine well. You will have two foods with a soft and spongy texture, however.
You may want to incorporate a side with a firmer feel or a crunch. Some options could include jicama slaw as aforementioned. This type of side dish will bring a healthy balance to your meal.
6. Avocado Soup
Avocado soup is a cold dish that will pair well with your tamales. It is similar to guacamole, but it has a more creamy consistency. Begin by pureeing avocados, chicken broth, water, cilantro, garlic, onions, and chili powder to make this side dish.
This soup will give your meal a bright green contrast. You can add croutons or tortilla chips to the side dish to add a necessary crunch factor. Pour the avocado soup directly onto your tamales, or eat it by itself.
7. Street Corn
Remember, tamales come from cornmeal, so you may want something different than corn for your side dish. The street food version of this vegetable can bring an exciting level of flavors to your meal. You will grill the corn cobs, covering them with mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and chili powder.
When your corn finishes grilling, you can top them off with the cold ingredients. Add melted cojita cheese on the top for a taste you cannot resist, and sprinkle lime juice all over them. You may be in shock over how rich and flavorful this side dish for your tamales truly is.
8. Mexican Rice
Rice is one of the most common side dishes for any Latin dish. The Mexican variant specifically is full of flavor due to the many ingredients in the food. You will use white rice, chicken broth, tomato sauce, onion, garlic, and any other of your preferred spices in the meal.
After adding the ingredients to the pan, you will let them simmer together for 20 to 25 minutes. Ensure that you taste the rice when your timer goes off to ensure it cooks through. Incorporate vegetables, such as carrots, jicama, corn, or diced tomatoes to bring even more flavor.
9. Fried Plantains
The flavors of the plantains and the cornmeal complement each other. You will get a savory taste from the tamales and sweetness from the fruit. Plus, you can add cinnamon to the plantains to give an added level of spice that will especially complement your dish around Christmas.
Fried plantains are extremely easy to make. All you have to do is chop the fruit into thin slices to begin cooking.
In a deep pan, add your oil and your plantains. Turn them over every couple of minutes until they are golden on every side.
10. Frijoles Negros
Though this article mentioned serving black bean soup as a side for your tamales, you should also consider frijoles negros. The latter has a salty and spicy taste that will complement the savoriness of the tamales.
The goal when cooking frijoles negros is to let the black beans soak up the many flavors that exist in the ingredients you add. Many cooks choose to incorporate bacon pieces into the side dish for a taste you cannot resist. Others try to make the frijoles negros spicy by adding the peppers they enjoy most.
Side Dishes for Tamale Pie
Tamale pie is an Americanized version of tamales. It is a casserole that incorporates many of the same flavors seen in the traditional Latin dish.
The topping of tamale pie is cornbread. The mixture below consists of ground beef, olives, chiles, corn, and more. To learn some of the best side dishes for this meal, read below.
Rice is a great side dish to consider for tamale pie. Try to keep it more uncomplicated than the Mexican variant, however. The casserole already has many flavors that you do not want to overshadow.
Try cilantro-lime rice to start. The two primary ingredients are already popular flavors used in several Latin dishes and can bring some excitement to your meal. The cilantro will refresh and cleanse your palate, while the lime will bring out some bitterness and acidity that you may enjoy.
2. Watermelon Cucumber Salad
If you want to serve your tamale pie during the summer, watermelon cucumber salad may be the perfect addition. This recipe is an easy-to-make side dish that will refresh anyone who tries it. It has a light and juicy taste that you will love.
The three primary ingredients in watermelon cucumber salad include watermelon, cucumbers, and pepitas. Make sure that you toast the pepitas to give a little bit of a crunch factor. Add some Tajin seasoning if you desire added spice in your dish to emphasize the Latin flavors.
3. Roasted Asparagus
If you want to incorporate the American flavors in your tamale pie, consider making roasted asparagus for your loved ones. You can make this vegetable in as little as 10 or 15 minutes. You can use your air fryer or oven to achieve the perfect results.
Make sure to cover your asparagus in either melted butter or oil to add a sense of flavor. When it finishes, top it off with pico de gallo. If you did not already know, this Latin side is a mixture of onions, green peppers, and tomatoes.
Complete Your Tamale Dinner
Tamales are a traditional Latin dish with a savory and umami taste. They are delicious alone, but you should consider one of the side dishes above to take your meal to another level. Consider Mexican street corn, avocado soup, black beans, or rice, for instance, to continue the natural Latin flavors.
What is a Good Side with Tamales?
There are many side dishes that you can choose from when you want to make tamales. You can start with simple sauces and creams like guacamole, salsa, or mole. If you need to make a traditional Latin meal, consider Mexican street corn, fried plantains, or Mexican rice, all three of which are rich in flavor.
There are also some more basic side dishes that you can make with your tamales. Consider a basic cilantro-lime rice or frijoles negros, for instance.
Finally, if you want something unique, consider a soup. There are both hot and cole varieties available. Consider black bean or avocado soup, for instance, each of which you can use as a dip or spread.
What Vegetable Goes Well with Tamales?
Several vegetables go well with tamales. Start with corn, for instance. You can craft this vegetable into cornbread or Mexican street corn. Remember, however, that the dough on the tamales comes from cornmeal.
Vegetables such as green peppers are in several of the side dishes aforementioned, including pico de gallo, black bean soup, and Mexican rice. You can also serve asparagus as a side for this dish as it takes on any flavors that you want to use. The possibilities are endless for your meal of tamales.