What to Serve with Tamales: Perfect Pairings for Tamales

What to Serve with Tamales: Ever looked at your plate of tamales and felt like something was missing? You’re not alone. The quest for the ultimate tamale side dishes is one we embark on together, seeking the most delectable Mexican cuisine companions. Worry not, fellow foodie, for your tamale pairings are about to ascend to a new level of deliciousness!

Dig into the rich tapestry of flavors with a sidekick like Refried Beans or let Spanish Rice send your tastebuds on a savory journey they won’t forget.

Whether it’s the golden crunch of Mexican Corn or bold Roasted Potatoes, your tamales are begging for company that embodies the spirit and zest of Mexican fiesta fare. So let’s set the table and pair up, because no tamale should ever have to go it alone.

Key Takeaways

  • Consider the classics: Refried Beans and Spanish Rice remain unbeatable tamale side dishes.
  • Seasonal selections like Guacamole and Pico De Gallo add a refreshing bite to your tamale feast.
  • Indulge a little with unconventional sides such as Fried Avocado for a creamy crunch.
  • Remember the roots with flavorful staples like Charro Beans and Cilantro Lime Rice.
  • Don’t shy away from mixing textures and flavors – Grilled Corn and Mexican Street Corn (Elote) can be game-changers.
  • Wrap it up with a zing by choosing Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers for a spicy twist.

Introduction: Embracing the World of Tamales and Their Companions

Picture this: a steamy, fragrant traditional Mexican dish nestled on your plate—yes, the hallmark of tamale dining, the tamale itself.

Now, what could possibly elevate this experience? That’s right, my friend—you’re about to discover the art of pairing tamales with the most scrumptious and savory tamale sides that not only resonate with Mexican heritage but thrust your palate into a festive celebration of flavors.

 Tamales with Vegetables, Salad, Split chickpeas
 and Sauces on the table

Let’s set the scene: A tamale, meticulously wrapped in its corn husk, demands companions as vibrant and soul-satisfying as itself. It’s not just a meal; it’s a symphony where every side dish is an instrument.

From the creamy richness of refried beans to the sweet zestiness of Mexican street corn, each companion to your tamale sings its own unique note, creating a concert of flavors when harmonized together.

So, ready your senses as we delve into the finest ensemble of sides that will make your tamale dining adventure genuinely unforgettable. By the end of this flavor tour, you’ll be proclaiming your love for the humble yet magisterial tamale and its trusty sidekicks!

  • Refried Beans: An indulgent foray into comfort, boasting a creamy texture that perfectly complements the corn dough of tamales.
  • Spanish Rice: Oh, the fluffy grains seasoned with a bold touch of tomato—it’s a traditional delight.
  • Guacamole: A lush scoop of avocado magic, spruced up with lime and cilantro, ready to mingle with each bite of your tamale.

Remember, your tamale doesn’t have to be a solo act—invite the right ensemble of savory tamale sides, and you transform dinner into a fiesta. Whether you’re a culinary novice or a seasoned tamale aficionado, you’re just in time to embark on a tamale adventure that promises to be as culturally enriching as it is deliciously rewarding!

Refried Beans: A Classic Tamale Partner

When it comes to rounding out your tamale feast with quick sides for tamales, there’s no underestimating the power of a hearty helping of refried beans. Whether you’re in a rush or have the luxury of time, you’ve got options that promise scrumptious results. Pull up those apron strings, and let’s get to cooking beans with flair and flavor!

Whipping Up Quick and Easy Refried Beans

Got 30 minutes? You’ve got refried beans. Grab some high-quality canned beans and let’s make magic happen. Sauté onions and garlic to create a fragrant base, then fold in the beans, mashing them to your ideal consistency. Sprinkle in cilantro and your favorite seasonings for that home-cooked touch. Voilà! A refried beans recipe that’s as simple as it is divine.

Crafting Refried Beans from Scratch

If you’re ready to don your culinary artist’s hat and delve into tradition, cooking beans from scratch is your calling. It’s a labor of love, soaking and simmering pinto beans to tender perfection. Then, it’s fry time! Fusing flavors together with a fragrant concoction of fresh ingredients. The result? A batch of refried beans so richly authentic, your taste buds will be doing the salsa!

Refried Beans with Melted Cheese on Top with Roti
IngredientsQuick VersionFrom Scratch
BeansCanned Pinto BeansDried Pinto Beans
SeasoningsCumin, Chili Powder, SaltCumin, Chili Powder, Salt
Cooking TimeUnder 30 minutesA few hours
TextureCustomizableRustic, Creamy

So there you have it, your blueprint for becoming the master of refried beans. Whether you’re going for a swift accompaniment or the richness of a time-honored method, your tamales will thank you for the company. Happy mashing, and even happier feasting!

Spanish Rice: A Traditional Flavor Staple

Let’s talk about a quintessential gem of Mexican cuisine—Spanish rice. You know the one: that delectable, savory, tomato-infused side dish that always seems to steal a little thunder from your main course.

Picture it sitting next to your beloved tamale, the two dancing in perfect harmony, much like a well-rehearsed tango. Not only does it pair well with practically any tamale, but crafting this restaurant-style side dish at home is a snap!

In under an hour, you can master a side that often costs an arm and a leg at your favorite eatery. What gives Spanish rice its standout taste is the earthy, rich blend of tomatoes, onions, and peppers, together with a subtle, comforting warmth that complements the bold spices of your tamales.

It’s not just rice—it’s a tamale complement that brings both texture and vibrancy to your plate. So, roll up your sleeves and prepare to impress at your next dinner fiesta!

IngredientRole in DishPairing Note with Tamales
Long-Grain White RiceThe foundation, offering that hallmark fluffiness.Neutral backdrop for savory tamale fillings.
Ripe TomatoesProvides the signature red hue and tangy flavor.Enhances the meaty richness of a tamale’s filling.
White Onions & GarlicAdds depth and aromatic allure to every bite.Complements the spiced masa of the tamale.
Chicken BrothGives the rice a savory intensity.Harmonizes with tamale’s hearty qualities.
Chopped PeppersBrings a subtle kick that elevates the flavors.Matches the vibrancy of a tamale’s spice level.

Follow this table not just as a shopping list, but as a roadmap to creating a Spanish rice that your friends and family will crave time and time again. And for those fellow food aficionados who eat with their eyes first, prepare to feast on the sight before you even take that first bite.

Spanish Rice Dish on the table

If you detest soggy rice (as any self-respecting food lover should), then here’s a tip: toast the rice grains lightly in a pan before introducing the liquid. This simple step promises a more textured bite and ensures your rice doesn’t turn into a gloomy gloop.

In just about 40 minutes, you’ll be dishing out steaming spoonfuls of this time-honored Spanish rice alongside your tamale—forming a duo that’ll make your taste buds twirl with delight.

Cilantro Lime Rice: A Zesty Sidekick

Looking for zesty side dishes to jazz up your tamale night? Look no further! Cilantro lime rice is here to infuse your plate with a burst of freshness, seamlessly blending with the savory punches of those delightful chicken tamales. It’s a match made in culinary heaven—think of it as the Robin to your tamale Batman.

Cilantro lime rice alongside chicken tamales with coriander in a plate

Creating the Perfect Cilantro Lime Rice

You’re in for a treat as you whip up this effortlessly chic side dish. All it takes is a pot of fluffy rice—jasmine works wonders here—tossed with a tangy mix of fresh lime juice and a generous sprinkle of finely chopped cilantro. Follow your heart (and your taste buds) to achieve that perfect balance of zest and herbaceous charm.

Pairing Tips: Best Tamales for Cilantro Lime Rice

When it’s time to decide the ideal tamale partner, chicken tamales have got you covered. Their milder flavor makes them a natural canvas for the bright notes of your cilantro lime rice.

Whether slathered in a green chili sauce or stuffed with a hearty chicken filling, these chicken tamale pairings will have your guests coming back for more. Who said side dishes couldn’t steal the show?

Mexican Street Corn: The Ultimate Flavor Fiesta

Prepare your taste buds for a jubilant journey to flavor town with the ever-so-popular Mexican street corn, or as it’s affectionately called, elote. Imagine a cob of corn transformed into a canvas, brushed with a zesty pallet of ingredients that pop with every bite.

So, how do you take your corn on the cob from plain to absolutely insane? I’ll walk you through the charismatic act of crafting this Mexican masterpiece.

Mexican street corns elote with lemon

First things first, let’s cover the basics. Get your hands on some fresh cobs (or frozen or canned, if you’re a bit corn-ered by seasonal availability), and let’s turn them into the star of the show.

Grilled to perfection or boiled just right, the corn itself is your foundation, sturdy and sweet—ready to take on a montage of flavors. But the real magic happens with that creamy concoction you slather on next.

  • Mayonnaise, not just for sandwiches; it’s the creamy dream team captain here.
  • Cotija cheese, crumbly, salty, it’s the sprinkle that brings the tingle.
  • Lime, for that tang-tacular zest that will have your taste buds doing the salsa.
  • Chili powder, because in the kingdom of corn, a little spice is always nice.
  • Cilantro, the fresh kick that makes everything click.

Now combine these ingredients with the sweet, charred kernels, and you’ve got yourself a fiesta in the form of Mexican street corn. Pair it with a steaming, hearty tamale, and let the contrasting textures dance in harmony. The tender, masa-enveloped goodness of a tamale, hugged by the crunchy, zestful embrace of elote—what could be better?

Whether it’s game day, a backyard BBQ, or a Friday night fiesta for one, Mexican street corn is your go-to sidekick that promises to elevate your tamale experience to celebratory levels. And here’s a pro tip: don’t shy away from getting hands-on.

This corn is meant to be enjoyed unabashedly, so ditch the utensils and dive in. It’s not just food; it’s an exuberant edible escapade.

Guacamole: Mashing Up a Creamy Delight

Let’s dive into the heart of Mexican culinary pride with a guacamole recipe so divine, it might just make the angels sing! Imagine the rich, buttery texture of avocados, skillfully mashed to a creamy perfection. The key to crafting a sublime avocado side dish lies in the quality of your avocados; make sure they’re ripe and ready to be the stars of your Mexican guacamole.

Creamy Mexican guacamole with tomatoes, lemon, and coriander, served alongside fresh avocados and nachos on the table.

Making the Perfect Guacamole

You’re the artist and ripe avocados are your canvas. Start with slicing those beauties open and scooping out their verdant flesh. Give them a good mash—a fork will do, no need for fancy gadgets. Let’s add the lively flavors of diced onions and juicy tomatoes next, making sure each spoonful is a fiesta in itself.

The cilantro? Chop it as finely as your patience allows, then sprinkle it in like a dash of green magic. Don’t forget the zesty grand finale; a generous squeeze of lime juice is crucial for that kick and also keeps your masterpiece from turning into a brown muddled mess. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, and by golly, it’s the quintessence of Mexican delight.

Guacamole Variations

Feeling adventurous? Good! Because guacamole thrives on creativity. Let’s jazz things up with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds—they’re not just for holiday salads anymore. Want some heat? Throw in some minced jalapeños or a dash of cayenne pepper.

Hoping to impress your health-conscious amigos? A swirl of yogurt will add a tangy twist and a creamy embrace without the guilt. Whatever your whim, there’s a variation to satisfy your cravings. After all, when it comes to guacamole, you’re not just making a side dish; you’re curating an experience!

Sipping Alongside Tamales: Beverage Pairings

Now that you’ve indulged in the savory bliss of tamales, it’s time to talk about the refreshing drink in your hand. You’re not just eating; you’re embarking on a culinary journey, and every explorer needs the perfect potion. That’s where tamale drink pairings come into play, making sure each bite is chased with a swig that complements and contrasts, dances and dazzles.

So, raise your glass, because we’re diving into a world where craft beers cozy up to warm masa, where Mexican cocktails add a splash of color, and where even the teetotalers can toast with a vibrant aguas frescas.

Refreshing beverage pairings with tamale and sauces with lemon on the table

Classic Margaritas: A Tangy Treat

Nothing screams fiesta like a classic margarita. This Mexican cocktail is more than just a drink; it’s a statement. Blending tequila, lime juice, and triple sec, it cuts with a tangy charisma through the rich masa of tamales, balancing out the flavors with a citrus kiss. It’s the sidekick to your tamale’s superhero, ready to save your palate from monotony.

Craft Beers: Complementing the Richness

For the hop aficionados among us, craft beers bring a tapestry of flavors that can elevate the humble tamale to new heights. Each sip offers a refreshing canvas – light lagers that lift, amber ales that affirm, and stouts that salute the complexity of your meal. Your tamale might not have come in a pint glass, but it sure pairs well with one.

Non-Alcoholic Options: Refreshing Aguas Frescas

And let’s not forget about those riding the non-alcoholic wave. Agua frescas sneak in with their sweet, hydrating embrace, in flavors that span the spectrum from hibiscus to tamarind.

They’re the tamale drink pairings for a scorching day or for those who prefer their fiestas fancy-free. Here’s to the designated drivers, the health-conscious, and the simply thirsty. Cheers!

Charro Beans: A Soup Full of Tradition

Imagine a simmering pot of charro beans, a traditional Mexican soup that warms the soul with every spoonful. Imagine no more, as this treasured recipe is the perfect partner to your favorite tamale. Often served alongside, this soup elevates a simple meal into a festive Mexican spread.

But what makes charro beans the tamale side soup of champions? It’s all in the rich ingredients and the love that simmers in the pot.

Bowl of Charro Beans on the table

Simmering up a Heartwarming Bowl

It’s not just a bowl of beans; it’s a cauldron of comfort. Charro beans are the Robin to your Tamale Batman, a sidekick that’s robust enough to shine on its own merit. This soup is bursting with flavors, from the pinto beans to the smoky bacon bits, and every aromatic garlic clove in between.

Dishing Out Top Tips for the Best Charro Beans

For the finest charro beans experience:

  • Start with dried pinto beans for a truly authentic flavor— sorry, canned beans won’t make the cut this time around.
  • Sauté those onions, garlic, and diced tomatoes until they’re rich and caramelized, layering the foundation for your bean masterpiece.
  • Don’t shy away from chorizo or bacon. Fat is flavor, and in this case, it’s non-negotiable.
  • A bay leaf here and a sprinkle of cumin there go a long way in infusing your soup with traditional subtleties.
  • Patience is a virtue. Slow cook your concoction until the beans are perfectly tender and the soup thickens.

Congratulations, you’ve just set the scene for a tamale fiesta that’s brimming with tradition and taste. Prepare your senses for the union of soft, steamed tamales with the soulful zest of charro beans. ¡Buen provecho!

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers: A Spicy Surprise

Are your taste buds in search of a thrill? Look no further than the ultimate flavor bomb—Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers. Each bite is a carefully orchestrated pyrotechnics display of jalapeño poppers, signaling your olfactory senses to buckle up for a zesty taste journey.

It’s the quintessential fusion of heat, cheese, and smoke that solidifies its reputation as one of the most coveted spicy side dishes out there.

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers in a plate on the table

Picture this: a meaty embrace, as crispy bacon wraps around a fiery jalapeño, tamed by a smooth, creamy filling. If you consider yourself a fan of bacon-wrapped appetizers, prepare to meet the superstar of the snack table. They’re not just poppers; they’re party starters, flavor enhancers, and the merry-makers of any tamale dinner!

IngredientFlavor ProfileTexture
JalapeñosSpicy and brightFirm with a juicy crunch
Cream CheeseRich and tangyCreamy and soft
BaconSmokey and saltyCrisp and chewy

So, when you’re rounding out your tamale spread and you’re yearning for a little kick, remember the beloved jalapeño popper. Molded by the hands of culinary fortitude, these spicy rebels are here to mingle and they don’t shy away from the limelight. Go on, give them a warm welcome and watch as they vanish before the next round of margaritas is served!

Pico de Gallo: Freshness in Every Scoop

Imagine the vibrant colors of diced tomatoes, the sharp twang of fresh onions, and the crisp, herby snap of cilantro—this is the symphony of flavors that a good pico de gallo recipe brings to your palate.

As a fresh salsa, it’s an all-around crowd-pleaser, whether it’s nestled on top of steaming tamales as a tamale topping or simply scooped up with a tortilla chip. Pico de gallo is like the life of the fiesta for your taste buds—and guess what? You’re about to become the maestro.

Fresh Pico de Gallo Salsa served alongside fresh tomatoes and nachos on the table.

DIY Pico de Gallo: A Simple Guide

Let’s break it down now. Making pico de gallo is so simple, yet the results are incredibly satisfying. Begin with ripe tomatoes—juicy, but firm—your canvas awaits. Chop them finely, but with reckless abandon, because perfection here is not in neatness, but in flavor.

Add onions that are sharp enough to make you tear up—a small price to pay for that punchy kick. Cilantro is your brushstroke of green; sprinkle it like you’re finishing a masterpiece. Lastly, a squeeze of lime to marry the flavors, and voila, you’ve got yourself a classic pico de gallo recipe.

Pico de Gallo Uses: More Than Just a Topping

It’s a common misconception that pico de gallo is merely a topping. Au contraire, my culinary friend! This fresh salsa is as versatile as it is delicious. Beyond topping those tamales, consider it as a vibrant garnish for grilled fish, a punchy companion to scrambled eggs, or even mixed into a salad for a splash of zeal. Let your imagination (and your tastebuds) be your guide.

UseWhy It Works
Topping for TamalesComplements the masa and balances rich fillings with acidity
Garnish for Grilled MeatsAdds a juicy, fresh contrast to smoky flavors
Boost for SaladsInjects freshness and reduces the need for heavy dressings
Dip for Chips and CruditesLighter than guacamole, while still packed with flavor

Indeed, the humble pico de gallo holds its own in the universe of salsas and sides. Take this guide, don your apron, and prepare for the fiesta to hit your kitchen. The beauty of this zesty condiment is that it is truly yours to experiment with—a splash here, a chop there, and an extra pinch of love. So, scoop up the freshness and let the flavors dance!

Quirky Twists: Unconventional Sides for Tamales

When your taste buds grow weary of the usual suspects next to your beloved tamales, it’s time to invite some unconventional side dishes to the party. You’ve got the classics down, so let us venture into the territory of the unexpected and let your palate explore the culinary twists and turns that lay ahead!

First up, toss aside your regular bowl of greens. We’re shaking things up with a quinoa salad that threatens to steal the show from the main course. Imagine tiny pearls of quinoa, tossed with a confetti of finely chopped veggies, black beans, and a bold lime-cilantro dressing to marry them all together. Quinoa’s not just rich in protein—it’s a conversation starter.

Quinoa Salad Hacks

Don’t be afraid to throw in some roasted corn or a sprinkle of cotija cheese for that authentic Mexican flair. And for daredevils in the kitchen, a hint of chili powder or a splash of tequila-lime marinade can elevate your quinoa salad from a mere side dish to the star of the show.

Reinventing Red Cabbage Slaw

Now, to add some crunch to your plate without the soggy sadness of wilted lettuce, let’s toss together some vibrant red cabbage slaw. This isn’t your grandmother’s coleslaw—zigzagging between sweet and sour, this slaw hits every note with its tangy dressing and crunchy texture.

Fried Avocado: Crispy and Creamy

Finally, ready for something that’s both naughty and nice? Cue the fried avocado, a culinary maverick that’ll have everyone asking for seconds. Picture this: creamy avocados, wrapped in a cloak of crispiness, just waiting to be bitten into. It’s a sinful liaison between decadent and somewhat healthy, and it’s making your tamale night unforgettable.

And because we know you’re salivating already, here’s a little visual appetizer:

Fried Crispy Fried Avocado with sauce on the plate

Remember, adventurous eater, unconventional sides are not just a trend, they’re a journey for your taste buds. Quinoa salad, red cabbage slaw, and fried avocado are more than just delicious—they’re your passport to a tamale experience unfettered by the ordinary. So, go ahead and be bold—your tamales will thank you.

Conclusion: Crafting the Perfect Tamale Feast

Imagine your table brimming with heritage and flavor—a culinary spread that celebrates both tradition and taste. Yes, we’re talking about a tamale feast, an occasion you’ll want to mark with zest and vibrancy. Tamales themselves bring more than just satiation; they carry centuries of culture, wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves, waiting to tell their story with every bite.

The journey from the savory depths of refried beans to the citrusy peaks of pico de gallo ensures that your Mexican dinner encapsulates a symphony of flavors fitting for a party of any size.

Assembling this decadent ensemble, fear not—your tamale serving suggestions are covered. What’s the ideal strategy? Balance the rich and hearty with the light and vivacious. Cilantro lime rice cheekily nudges the robust personality of your tamales, while the creamy guacamole dares to steal the spotlight, only to harmonize beautifully in your palate’s chorus.

Let the complementary tastes of traditional and innovative sides elevate your tamale experience into an affair to remember. Why settle for a meal when you can weave a narrative of flavors that dance across the taste buds? Whether you’re a maestro of Mexican cuisine or a novice eager to explore, your perfect tamale feast is within reach.

So, ready the table, gather your company, pour the drinks, and let the tapestry of tastes unfold. Tonight, you’re not just eating—you’re embarking on a culinary adventure that’s as fulfilling as it is endlessly customizable.


What are the traditional side dishes to pair with tamales?

Step up your tamale game with traditional sides like Refried Beans and Spanish Rice, or add a pop of flavor with Cilantro Lime Rice and Mexican Street Corn. Guacamole and Pico de Gallo are also fan favorites for a fresh twist.

Can you give a quick recipe for refried beans?

Oh, you mean the side dish MVP? Start with quality canned beans, sauté some onions and garlic, throw in the beans, mash ’em up, add a pinch of cilantro and seasonings — and there you have it, refried beans in the blink of an eye.

How do you make restaurant-style Spanish Rice at home?

It’s simpler than swiping right for your next date. Just sauté some onions, add rice, toast slightly, then mix in a savory tomato sauce and simmer away. In about 40 minutes, you’ll have a restaurant-worthy Spanish Rice cozying up next to your tamales.

What drinks go well with tamales?

Sip in style with Classic Margaritas to add a punchy citrus note, or let a craft beer cleanse your palate with bubbles of joy. If alcohol isn’t your jam, Aguas Frescas come in clutch with their refreshingly sweet sips.

What makes Cilantro Lime Rice a good side dish for tamales?

It’s like the zesty best friend of your savory tamale. The citrusy lime and aromatic cilantro in the rice provide an irresistible fresh flavor kick that’ll have your taste buds doing the salsa.

What’s the best way to serve Mexican Street Corn with tamales?

Corn on the cob? Too messy. Strip that cob and mix those kernels with a creamy, cheesy, lime-infused sauce. Serve it up with a sprinkle of chili powder, and watch your tamales get the fiesta they deserve.

Are there any quick twists on traditional tamale sides?

If you’re down for a plot twist, nudge that Quinoa Salad onto your plate for some wholesome protein or introduce Red Cabbage Slaw for a tangy crunch. If you’re feeling fancy, Fried Avocado might just steal the show with its indulgent texture.

How can Guacamole enhance my tamale dining experience?

Guac isn’t extra today. It’s essential! Smash some ripe avocados, toss in onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and a dash of lime. This creamy concoction becomes the Robin to your tamale Batman.

What are some unconventional sides to try with tamales?

Dare to be different with Fried Avocado for an upscale surprise, or let Quinoa Salad brighten your plate with its zesty Mexican flair. Think of them as the plot twist in your tamale tale.

Why should I consider Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers as a side dish?

Because everything’s better with bacon, my friend. Those spicy jalapeños and creamy centers wrapped in crispy bacon strips bring the heat and meat to your tamale feast.

Can you suggest a simple way to make Pico de Gallo?

Chop, squeeze, salt, mix, and boom — you’ve got yourself a Pico de Gallo that’s so fresh it might just outshine everything else on your plate.

How can Charro Beans act as a complement to tamales?

Think of Charro Beans as the warm hug for your tamales. A hearty broth bubbling with beans and spices—it’s comfort in a bowl, ready to mingle with the rest of your meal.