23 Best Sides To Serve With Tamales

If you’re struggling to find the perfect pairing for uniquely packaged tamales, think again about what to serve with them. When tamales take center stage at your dinner table, it’s essential to balance their bold flavors with complementary Mexican cuisine sides. But what if you’re unsure how to serve tamales or which dishes to pair with them? This article is here to help. With a selection of 23 mouthwatering side dishes, you’ll be able to create a satisfying and filling tamale dinner that will impress your guests.

What Kind of Food is Tamale?

Tamales, a beloved Mexican street food, are essentially complete meals wrapped up neatly in a portable package. The core of this delectable dish is a corn dough pocket filled with slow-cooked meat and topped with a dollop of creamy goodness – whether that’s sour cream or the rich flavor of Mexican crema.

What sets tamales apart from other dishes is their unique wrapping process. Rather than using traditional packaging, tamales are swathed in corn husks or banana leaves, imparting an added depth to their already robust flavors. The result is a steamed, slow-cooked meal that’s not only satisfying but also visually appealing.

When you take your first bite of a tamale, the tender dough and savory fillings practically beg to be devoured. And with their self-contained wrapping, they’re essentially ready-to-eat meals just waiting to be unwrapped and savored.

What to Serve with Tamales

When it comes to pairing a salad-like dish with traditional Mexican cuisine like tamales, the key is not just finding any old green mix, but rather infusing it with those bold, vibrant flavors that make Mexican dishes so memorable. For a truly indulgent experience, you can’t go wrong by incorporating these tried-and-true options into your meal planning:

Crockpot Borracho Beans


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If you’ve progressed beyond the basics of Spanish, you’re probably familiar with the term ‘borracho,’ which translates to ‘drunken’ in English. This recipe’s star attraction is indeed a beer-infused concoction, teeming with pinto beans, jalapeños, spices, and crispy bacon. The resulting medley of flavors is nothing short of irresistible, making it all too easy to devour the entire bowl. While a crockpot is ideal for slow-cooking this side dish to perfection, stovetop preparation can yield equally impressive results when simmered slowly. Pair it with some Mexican tamales and you’ve got a match made in culinary heaven. For another savory side dish that highlights the magic of bacon, be sure to check out our recipe for Brussels sprouts with bacon and dates.

Salsa Verde


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Tomatillo salsa is often touted as one of the most versatile sides in Mexican cuisine, effortlessly complementing a wide range of dishes. However, when paired with spicy tamales, its unique flavor profile truly shines. The combination of pungent garlic notes, a subtle kick from the jalapenos, and the rich, roasted depth of the tomatillos creates a harmonious balance that elevates both the salsa and the tamales. This flavorful dip is not limited to just tamales, as it also adds a delicious punch to burritos, meat and bean-loaded dishes, or even served with crispy corn chips.

Pico De Gallo


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When it comes to serving tamales, a flavorful accompaniment is essential. A refreshing and zesty condiment that complements the rich flavors of these Latin American staples is easily achieved with a simple mixture of diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro, and lime juice. The serrano peppers provide a delightful spicy kick, while the cilantro and lime add a bright and tangy quality to the dish. To season to taste, simply sprinkle on some salt or your preferred spices. With minimal effort, this vibrant and appetizing condiment is ready to be devoured.

Cheesy Queso Rice


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If you can’t imagine a party without your queso and chips, you’ll likely adore this creative Mexican rice side dish inspired by that beloved snack. This cheesy masterpiece transforms humble Mexican dinners into unforgettable feasts, thanks to its generous helping of melted cheese. The added spice from tomatoes with chiles elevates the flavor even further. According to the recipe, cooking the rice with chicken broth yields an unparalleled taste experience. I recommend taking it up a notch by sprinkling some parmesan on top for an extra boost of cheesiness. If you’re looking to make this dish a healthier option, be sure to check out those alternative white rice options and give your Mexican meal a nutritious twist.

Lemon Arugula Salad with Pine Nuts


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The trifecta of arugula, lemon juice, and pine nuts has long been a match made in heaven. Add the robust flavors of tomatoes and parmesan, and the harmony becomes a culinary celebration on the palate. This vibrant salad is nothing short of a fiesta! Its refreshing, filling, zesty, and texturally satisfying qualities make it an ideal accompaniment to any Latin-inspired meal. For those who crave a little extra heat, adding some chili flakes will undoubtedly elevate the dish to new heights.

Mango Cabbage Coleslaw


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Imagine combining the tangy crunch of traditional coleslaw with the vibrant flavors of fresh mango – it’s an unexpected yet harmonious union that pairs beautifully with the tender filling of tamales. The sweet and sour notes of the mango complement the spiciness from the jalapenos, creating a refreshing side dish that’s equally at home alongside Mexican mainstays or served as a standalone meal when paired with grilled meats.

Instant Pot Cilantro Lime Rice


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With just five ingredients, this side dish may seem simple, but its flavor is far from ordinary. The Mexican-inspired twist, combined with the brightness of lime juice, makes it a perfect accompaniment to any wrap-style meal – including tamales! Don’t skimp on the butter, as it’s essential for achieving a silky texture. Feel free to add your own flair by experimenting with additional spices. This refreshing rice recipe is also an excellent choice for pulled pork at your next backyard BBQ.

Mexican Cactus Salad


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While the idea of adding cactus to a salad might seem unusual at first, nopales – pre-cut Mexican cactus – can elevate a classic tomato salad to new heights. If you have access to fresh nopales, don’t miss the opportunity to incorporate them into your dish. Combine the slightly sweet and crunchy nopales with juicy tomatoes, fragrant cilantro, pungent onions, and spicy jalapenos for a flavorful side that pairs perfectly with tamales. A squeeze of lime juice adds a welcome burst of acidity, bringing all the ingredients together in harmony.

Mango Habanero Salsa


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There’s an undeniable charm in combining the fiery essence of habaneros with the natural sweetness of mangoes. The harmonious union is elevated by the addition of crunchy red onions, a burst of freshness from cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice to tie everything together. This delectable combination has the potential to distract you from your main course, leaving you craving a second serving. Its versatility makes it an excellent accompaniment to tamales, but its true potential is unlocked when paired with plain corn chips.

Mexican Street Corn Salad


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Mexican street corn, with its bold and delectable flavors, is an exemplary side dish that pairs perfectly with tamales. Despite the numerous versions you may have tried, this recipe is definitely worth a shot. Its appeal extends beyond special occasions, making it suitable for large gatherings. The key to its success lies in the chili lime and mayo dressing, which is nothing short of sublime.While traditional Mexican street corn employs cotija cheese, a suitable substitute can be feta, as it offers both saltiness and crumbliness.

Instant Pot Spanish Rice


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In just 20 minutes, you can whip up a flavorful rice dish that’s perfect for Mexican-inspired meals. This vegetarian recipe boasts a rich taste without overpowering spices, making it an excellent choice for serving to kids. If you’re looking to add some extra protein, feel free to substitute the vegetable broth with chicken broth for added depth of flavor. To finish it off, simply sprinkle on some chopped cilantro and get ready for a delightful dining experience. With each bite, you’ll enjoy fluffy satisfaction that’s sure to leave you wanting more.

Mexican Cauliflower Rice


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For those adhering to the Keto diet or simply seeking to reduce their carb intake, this cauliflower rice recipe is an absolute must-try. By substituting traditional rice with a lighter and equally flavorful cauliflower alternative, you’ll be treated to a delightful culinary experience. The combination of fluffy, creamy elements and rich tomato sauce creates a dish that’s sure to become a new favorite. Meanwhile, the subtle kick from the jalapenos adds a welcome depth to the recipe, though feel free to omit them for a milder side if preferred. With its satisfying texture and vibrant flavor profile, this cauliflower rice is a true standout. If you’re looking to explore more delectable sides with a Mexican flair, be sure to check out our curated selection of recipes.

Pineapple Salsa


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My obsession with sweet salsa bowls has reached new heights. The harmonious blend of fruity and spicy flavors has me hooked. One of my go-to recipes features pineapples as the star ingredient, but feel free to substitute with mangoes or peaches if you have them on hand. What’s crucial is the red onion – its sharpness and crunch provide a satisfying contrast to the sweetness and heat in this dish. Its unique flavor profile makes it an essential component that elevates the entire recipe.

Black Beans and Rice


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When culinary creativity is in short supply, a humble yet flavorful side dish can be the perfect solution. With just two pantry staples – black beans and rice – you’ll elevate your tamales to new heights. A sprinkle of spices or herbs can take this simple combination from bland to grand, transforming it into a satisfying main course or a tasty accompaniment to your favorite dishes. While a squeeze of fresh cilantro and lime juice adds a burst of freshness, they’re not essential components – the beauty of this recipe lies in its ease and adaptability.

Mexican Cornbread


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Got Jiffy corn muffin mix lurking in your pantry? You can transform it into an authentic Mexican cornbread in just 10 minutes, with minimal ingredients like butter, corn, eggs, milk, and chilies. This classic side dish is surprisingly easy to prepare, and the best part? Your guests will be none the wiser about your shortcut. Simply combine the mix with a few extra essentials and you’ll have a deliciously simple cornbread that’s sure to please.

Cantaloupe and Mango Salad


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This vibrant and refreshing mango avocado salad is a quick and effortless creation perfect for springtime gatherings or summer soirees. Its kaleidoscope of colors makes it an ideal accompaniment to any Mexican-inspired dish. The tangy lime dressing and crumbly feta cheese add a delightful depth, which can be elevated further with a drizzle of honey for added flair.

The medley of fruits here is a harmonious blend, but feel free to get creative and substitute in other sweet options like watermelon, pineapple, or peaches. If you’re a fan of the tropical twist that mango brings, this salad is sure to satisfy your cravings.

Palmito Ceviche


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Vegans, rejoice! This refreshing salad is a game-changer. Combining hearts of palm, an array of chopped veggies, and creamy avocados, it’s a plant-based powerhouse that will leave you feeling full and satisfied. The zesty kick from the lime juice perfectly complements the natural sweetness of the palm hearts, creating a delightful harmony of flavors. This ‘fake’ ceviche with palm ‘seafood’ is not only a healthy option but also incredibly nutritious – and the best part? It’s oil-free! Whether you’re looking for a side dish to accompany your Mexican favorites or simply craving a satisfying snack, this salad is sure to hit the spot.

Vegan Guacamole


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Combine the trifecta of avocados, lime juice, and jalapeños for a straightforward spicy guacamole recipe. But to elevate this classic dip, a few additional ingredients are essential. This 100% vegan recipe has mastered the perfect blend, resulting in a creamy, spicy, refreshing, and tantalizingly zesty concoction that’s sure to please even the most discerning palates. Whether you’re looking for a satisfying snack or a flavorful side dish, this healthy dip brings authentic Mexican flair to your kitchen. As an added bonus, it’s surprisingly quick to prepare – just be prepared for it to vanish from the bowl at an alarming rate!

Mexican Grilled Street Corn


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The harmonious union of grilled corn and Mexican cuisine is a culinary match made in heaven. When time is of the essence or pantry staples are lacking, this charred corn dish proves to be an ideal accompaniment to any meal. Its bold flavors, courtesy of chili powder, mayonnaise, butter, and crumbly cotija cheese, come together in perfect harmony, making it a standout side for summer backyard gatherings.

Instant Pot Refried Beans


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Among Mexican cuisine’s most beloved side dishes, refried beans hold a special place – especially when paired with the tender fillings found in tamales. These creamy, garlic-infused legumes are a must-try for anyone seeking a flavor-packed accompaniment to their meals. The combination of garlic and cumin adds depth and complexity, making them an excellent choice for any gathering. For busy home cooks, the Instant Pot version offers a convenient solution, but those who prefer a more traditional approach can easily prepare these beans on the stovetop by simmering until they reach a tender consistency.

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