What to Serve With Tamales [11 Best Side Dishes]

Easy tamales serving ideas, from elote street corn to Mexican cornbread, and salsa verde to seasoned black beans. Discover what to serve with tamales today.

What to Serve With Tamales [11 Best Side Dishes]

Tamales are a delicious, traditional Mesoamerican dish, often eaten all over Central and South America. The most commonly known are Mexican tamales. Made of corn dough (masa) and various other fillings, steamed tamales are usually wrapped in a corn husk and can sometimes be wrapped in a banana leaf. Once wrapped and filled, tamales are traditionally steamed, and then they’re ready to serve!

Here are the 11 best side dishes to serve with your amazing Mexican tamales. Each one is easy, tasty, and authentic.

Jicama Slaw

jicama salad slaw

Jicama slaw is a close cousin to the coleslaw that you know and love and is an excellent vegetable side dish to add to your meal. Made with jicama, a root vegetable resembling a turnip, this jicama slaw is the perfect side dish for tamales thanks to their shared Central American origins.

Jicama also has many health benefits, making this creamy, vegetarian-friendly, bright, and fresh recipe the perfect pair for any style of tamales.

Cilantro Lime Rice

cilantro lime rice

Cilantro lime rice is a bright, citrusy, vegan-friendly side dish that can amp up just about any recipe. For this reason, it will go well with your tamales. This easy recipe is quick and perfect for a weeknight meal or even meal prep planning. Cilantro and lime are also staples of Mexican cuisine and will taste great with any flavor of tamale and most other spicy southern dishes.

Black Beans

mexican black beans in skillet with bay leaf and tortilla

The rich, uniquely Mexican flavors in this side dish will be sure to accentuate the flavors in your tamales. This is another quick and easy-to-follow recipe. These perfect black beans are the perfect option if you’re looking for something more hearty to accompany your tamales. The best part is these could easily be made the day before and warmed back up at dinner time or even taken on the go for a quick, wholesome, fulfilling lunch.

Pinto Beans

mexican pinto beans

Another hearty and delicious option with Mexican boldness and spice and warmth, these Mexican pinto beans will also go well with your tamales. Store them in the fridge, the freezer, or eat the whole batch in one sitting! This recipe uses dry, bagged beans, but you could also use canned to save time. The pairing of Mexican beans—of any kind—with tamales will always be a perfect one.

Elote Street Corn

elote mexican street corn

If you’ve never tried elote, you must run, not walk, to try this fantastic recipe. Elote is traditionally served at small stalls on the side of the street in México, but you can bring its bold, bright flavor into your own home. If you can find sweet corn, it’s even better. Sweet, tangy, spicy, creamy, bursting with flavor in every bite you take, elote is like corn on the cob spruced up. If you’re making tamales in the summer, be sure to try this elote recipe to go with them.

Salsa Verde

salsa verde

The ingredients in this recipe are so unique that they make a delightful surprise of a salsa verde. This salsa would be perfect for drizzling lightly over tamales or completely drowning them in—your choice! You can also keep things simple and eat this with tortilla chips.

This salsa verde is made with tomatillos (a staple in traditional Mexican salsas), avocado, onion, cilantro, lime, and a surprising but entirely welcome green bell pepper. This recipe lasts for three to five days in the fridge, so make it for meal prep with your tamales for the week.

Guacamole

guacamole dip

Who doesn’t love guacamole? It’s the perfect side dish. And it will be even better paired with your authentic Mexican tamales at all times of the day. Somehow, this recipe tastes even better when made in a molcajete, a Mexican mortar and pestle. The ingredients in this recipe are simple but significant: avocado, white onion, tomato, serrano peppers, and cilantro, which are all perfect additions to your tamales. Don’t forget to grab some tortilla chips and salsa as well!

Beef Taco Salad

beef taco salad

Though this one is more TexMex than authentic Mexican, it’s a healthy, hearty, flavorful side that will almost steal the show from your tamales. It is paleo, Whole30, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and keto! It’s an all-around shining star to add to your meal. And by the way, this beef taco salad only takes 30 minutes to make. The jalapenos, avocado, and lime-cilantro sauce are sure to make it a lovely pairing with tamales.

Mexican Cornbread

mexican cornbread

This fluffy, ooey-gooey, buttery, and spicy cornbread is begging you to make it right this second. It will go well with the tamales because of the cornmeal—similar to the masa you’ll need to make your tamales. You can never have too much corn! The cheddar cheese, jalapeños, green onion, and corn kernels make this cornbread unlike any other you’ve had before and the perfect Mexican side dish. This recipe also pairs great with chili and spicy Mexican-inspired soups.

Fried Plantain

fried plantain

Fried plantains are big throughout most of Central America, but this recipe focuses explicitly on the recipe creator’s time in the south of México. They’re very similar to bananas if you don’t know what plantains are. They are of the same genus as the bananas you know, but they are a lot more starchy. They still have a sweet, floral flavor that only increases and enhances when fried in oil. 

No doubt, these will complement your tamales perfectly. Eat these with the jicama slaw recipe mentioned above for a well-rounded and tasty meal.

Horchata

horchata drink

Horchata is an almost international drink. Spain has a version, many different parts of Africa have their own version, and México also has a version. The version in this recipe is authentically Mexican, made of rice. The rice “milk” is smooth and creamy while also being light and bright. 

Horchata is rounded out with sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and milk, and it’s a delicious way to wash down your Mexican tamales. Drink it with your meal, or save it for afterward as a refreshing dessert.

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