The Absolute Best Way To Eat Tamales

Tamales are a Mexican specialty, beloved by generations of men and women who've grown up eating them around the holidays, and by those who simply love Mexican cuisine. They are time-consuming to make and cook, so when the moment comes when you can dive into these little packages of goodness, you are more than eager to take your first bite. Tamales can be filled with anything from chiles and cheese to fruit but the ones most people are familiar with are filled with pork or chicken in chile sauce. Fans of tamales are usually well versed on what kind of tamales they like and how they like to eat them.

Some eat tamales hot with fried eggs for a breakfast that is nothing short of magical, and others prefer them with rice and beans for a complete (and very filling) Mexican lunch or dinner. Since they are wrapped in cornhusks, tamales make for a potentially portable snack but many find it easier to eat them with a fork. There is certainly no right or wrong way to eat a tamale and finding your ideal way is part of the fun of this delicious dish. But if you're new to them, being presented with a tamale might be a little intimidating. Do you eat the wrapper? Should you put anything on top? Until you find your groove, this is a great way to start.

Tamale eating 101

While you can eat a cooked tamale cold, the corn masa will probably feel thick and dry so hot tamales are going to be ideal. The tamale should already be cooked, but if it has been cooled, you can give it a brief steam or pop it in the microwave to warm it up. 

First off, no, you cannot eat the corn wrapper. Carefully take the corn husk off and set it to the side. You can eat your tamale plain but you likely won't regret topping it with a dollop of cold salsa for extra flavor and a cooling effect on the hot dish. Eating it with a fork will save you from potentially burned fingertips and that salsa from running off the masa.

Other popular toppings for tamales include what you might like on tacos: guacamole, sliced avocado, sour cream, crumbled queso fresco, and however much hot sauce you want. These options are obviously for savory tamales but if you find yourself with a sweet one — often filled with raisins or other dried fruit and sweetened with cinnamon and sugar – you could try a little vanilla ice cream on top, or simply enjoy it with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate or coffee. 

Tamales are especially popular at Christmas time but are available year-round at Mexican markets, by online ordering, at vendors and food trucks, and by those who just get the hankering to whip up a batch.