Pair your sweet or savory tamales with these mouth-watering Mexican sides for a fun feast with friends!
Tamales are an appetizing comfort food that hail from Mexico. They are rich, hearty, and such a crowd pleaser!
They taste fabulous just by themselves, but if you’re serving them at a party, you better have some sides ready.
Don’t worry, because whether you’re looking for hearty sides like beans and rice, or light dishes such as salads and soup, I’ve got you covered.
So, if you’re serving tamales at your next get-together, whip up any of these sides, and your party will be a guaranteed hit.
What Are Tamales?
Tamales are a traditional Mexican comfort food made with masa or corn dough. While traditionally it is cooked as is, modern tamales more commonly have meats, chili, cheese, vegetables, and fruit fillings.
The tamales are steamed inside a banana leaf or corn husk, which are later used as plates for eating.
Tamales are complex and time-consuming to make. In fact, it requires several people to accomplish! This is why they are reserved for special occasions.
The most common tamale is stuffed with a pork filling and is cooked in chile sauce. But, dessert tamales, which are stuffed with pineapples and raisins, also exist.
What to Serve with Tamales
1. Eggs and Salsa
Tamales are already delicious on their own, but it also couldn’t hurt to dress them up with a few toppings.
A simple topping of fried eggs will give your tamale that rich, umami flavor. That golden yolk oozing down your tamale? Gorgeous!
Some salsa with cilantro will add spice and flavor to your tamales as well. If you want them spicier, sprinkle some chili flakes or cayenne powder over them.
2. Cilantro Rice
Rice is a staple in Mexican cuisine, and yes, it pairs well with tamales, especially ones with meat fillings.
For more flavor, cook your rice in chicken broth instead of water. Then, give it some spice and color by infusing it with a mixture of cilantro, chopped onions and scallions, jalapeno and lime juice.
3. Black Bean Soup
Black bean soup is a staple in Mexican cuisine, so it makes sense to pair it with your tamales. It’s hearty, creamy, and also nutritious!
All you need are four ingredients: it’s just a combination of black beans, chicken broth, salsa, and allspice. To make things more exciting, you can top your soup with sour cream, guacamole, and tortilla chips!
4. Fresh Fruit
Sometimes, all you need is a simple bowl of fresh fruit to elevate your meal. Fruits are refreshing, sweet, juicy, and make a nice palate cleanser to your rich dish.
And you can pick whatever fruit you like! Watermelon, mangoes, oranges, and honeydew are all perfect. Give it a nice kick by sprinkling some chili powder or cayenne over your chosen fruit.
5. Jicama Slaw
Jicama slaw is crisp, sweet, and downright delightful. The crunch from the jicama adds a wonderful contrast to the spongy tamale. And, it’s a very simple dish to make, to boot.
Just add long, narrow strips of jicama, carrots, and cabbage in a bowl. For the dressing, combine lime juice, vinegar, ancho powder, honey, and oil. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the veggies and toss to coat. Add in cilantro for more flavor. You can also mix in mango and orange slices for a touch of sweetness.
6. Mexican Cornbread
Mexican cornbread is oozing with chiles, cheddar cheese, and of course, sweet corn. The combination of sweet, salty, savory, and spicy gives it so much flavor! And that crumbly texture also adds another dimension to the dish.
And since tamales are typically made with corn-based dough, they pair well with cornbread. Yum!
7. Corn Chowder
Corn chowder is sweet, creamy, and oh so buttery. Its richness makes it a great side dish to tamales. You can customize it to suit your tamales by adding meats and other veggies such as pork, fish, chicken, and potatoes.
8. Mexican Crema
This thickened cream makes the perfect topping to your tamales. It’s got a hint of tanginess too, which adds another dimension to your meal.
Aside from being a fantastic topping to tamales, it also tastes fantastic with tacos, burritos, and enchiladas.
To make Mexican crema, combine cream and yogurt in a bowl and let it sit at room temperature for 2 days. This will make the mixture insanely thick and creamy. Add some lime juice and salt for flavor and Voila, it’s done!
9. Chilled Avocado Soup
Avocados are so rich and creamy on their own, but you can still take them a step higher by turning them into a chilled velvety soup. Pair it with your tamales for a nice texture contrast and a bright pop of color.
To make, just puree avocado slices, chicken broth, lemon juice, cilantro, water, and a mixture of cooked onions, chili, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and chill for 3 hours.
Finish that silky soup off with a dollop of sour cream and a handful of croutons. Delightful.
10. Mexican Street Corn
The elote is a popular street food in Mexico. It is grilled corn on the cob, but elevated with more flavorful ingredients. It’s delicious, hearty, and pairs wonderfully with tamales!
To make, take some corn on the cob and grill it for a good 6-10 minutes. While waiting, make a mixture of mayonnaise, chili powder, black pepper, and garlic salt. Slather that mixture over your grilled corn.
Top with cotija cheese and serve with lime wedges on the side. It’s ridiculously good!
11. Dessert: Mexican Wedding Cookies
And last but not least, we’ve got traditional Mexican wedding cookies for dessert. These dainty little spheres are soft, buttery, and bursting with pecan goodness!
Also known as snowballs, Mexican wedding cookies are coated with powdered sugar, making them look so so gorgeous.
And you don’t even need a lot to make these tasty treats! All you need are butter, flour, powdered sugar, salt, and pecans. So simple, yet oh so delightful. It’s the perfect way to end your Mexican meal.