If you want to treat yourself or your family to an unforgettable Mexican cuisine experience, then tamales are the perfect dish for just that! But wait—what goes with tamales?
From what kind of beverages to serve alongside it, which traditional side dishes make the perfect accompaniment, and creative new ways to enjoy this classic entrée—we have all your answers right here.
We’ll explore 15 must-try recipes that will surely tantalize your taste buds when served alongside a savory plate of tamales.
So grab a seat and prepare yourself for a ride through delectable ingredients and zesty flavors as we uncover what goes best with your favorite entrée – tamales!
What to Serve with Tamales? 15 Must-try Side Dishes
1. Refried Beans
There are few dishes more comforting than a warm bowl of refried beans.
The creamy texture and savory flavor are the perfect base for a variety of Mexican-inspired dishes.
While you can certainly find decent refried beans at your local grocery store, there’s nothing quite like making them from scratch.
The key to great refried beans is to start with dried beans that have been soaked overnight.
This helps to soften the beans and makes them easier to mash.
You’ll also need some good-quality fat – lard or pork fat work well, but you can also use vegetable oil.
Once you’ve got your ingredients ready, simply fry the beans in the fat until they’re soft and starting to fall apart.
Then, use a potato masher or food processor to mash the beans until they’re your desired consistency.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, and you’re done.
2. Spanish Rice
This dish is packed with flavor and perfect for soaking up all the deliciousness of your homemade tamales.
Plus, it’s super simple to make and can be easily elevated to fit any occasion.
When it comes to taste and texture, Spanish rice is very similar to regular white rice.
However, the difference lies in the fact that it is cooked with tomato sauce, giving it a slightly more robust flavor.
And because of the addition of tomato sauce, Spanish rice also has a lovely reddish hue that makes it visually appealing as well.
So why consider trying this recipe? First and foremost, it’s an incredibly easy dish to make.
Simply cook your rice according to package instructions and then stir in some tomato sauce.
Additionally, this dish is very versatile and can be easily dressed up or down depending on your needs.
For a more formal occasion, you could add in some sauteed vegetables or even some shredded chicken.
Or, if you’re looking for something more low-key, simply leave out the extras and enjoy the rice as is.
3. Tortilla Chips
One of the best things about tamales is that they are so versatile.
You can have them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and they always taste great.
One of my favorite ways to eat tamales is with tortilla chips.
Tortilla chips add a great crunch to the soft tamales, and the contrast in textures is really enjoyable.
The chips also help to soak up all the delicious sauce that comes with the tamales.
And if you’re looking for a little bit of extra flavor, you can always top your tamales with some cheese or sour cream.
4. Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad
When it comes to side dishes, there are endless possibilities.
But sometimes, you just want something light and refreshing to accompany your main dish.
If that’s the case, then a cucumber tomato avocado salad is a great option.
This salad is packed with flavor and texture.
The cucumbers are crisp and refreshing, the tomatoes are juicy and slightly sweet, and the avocados add a creaminess that ties everything together.
Plus, the addition of herbs like cilantro and mint gives it an extra zing.
- Add some spice with diced jalapeños or chili peppers.
- Make it a meal by adding grilled chicken or shrimp.
- Add some crunch with chopped nuts or crumbled tortilla chips.
- Turn it into a slaw by adding shredded cabbage or carrots.
- Get creative with the dressing. Try using a vinaigrette, salsa, or even peanut sauce.
5. Frijoles De La Olla
When it comes to tamales, there are endless possibilities for what to serve them.
But when it comes to side dishes, frijoles de la olla is a must-try.
Frijoles de la olla is a dish of beans cooked in a pot with water, salt, and pepper.
The result is a delicious and hearty side dish that is perfect for tamales.
Frijoles de la olla has a great taste and texture.
The beans are soft and have a great flavor.
The dish is also very filling, which makes it perfect for tamales.
When served with tamales, frijoles de la olla is a great way to round out the meal.
- Use fresh beans for the best flavor and texture.
- Add some chopped onion and garlic for extra flavor.
- Use chicken or beef broth instead of water for added flavor.
- Season the beans with cumin, chili powder, or other spices for an extra kick.
6. Arroz Con Leche
Arroz con Leche, or rice pudding, is a classic Latin American dish that can be enjoyed either hot or cold.
It’s made with just a few simple ingredients- rice, milk, sugar, and cinnamon- but the result is a rich and comforting dessert that’s perfect for any occasion.
The taste and texture of Arroz con Leche are creamy and dreamy, with a hint of sweetness from the sugar and cinnamon.
The rice provides a satisfying bite, and the overall effect is very comforting and familiar.
If you’ve never tried this dish before, I would highly recommend giving it a try.
There are many ways to elevate this classic dish.
One easy way is to add some fresh fruit on top of berries, or sliced bananas work well.
You could also stir in some chopped nuts for an extra bit of flavor and crunch.
If you want to make a more sophisticated version, try using flavored milk or cream instead of plain milk or adding a splash of liqueur into the mix.
However you choose to enjoy it, Arroz con Leche is sure to please.
7. Tres Leches Cake
Tres leches cake is a sponge cake that is soaked in a mixture of three kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk.
The cake is then topped with whipped cream or meringue.
It originates from Central America but is now popular all over the world.
The cake is very moist and has a rich flavor.
The combination of the three kinds of milk makes it extremely sweet and creamy.
The texture of the cake is also unique because it is spongy yet dense at the same time.
If you are looking for something new to try, tres leches cake is a great option.
It is simple to make and can be easily elevated by adding fresh fruit or chocolate shavings on top.
You can also experiment with different types of milk to see what you prefer.
For example, you could use almond milk or coconut milk instead of Whole milk.
Sopapillas are a traditional Mexican fried pastry that is served as a dessert or snack.
They are made from a dough that is rolled out and then cut into small circles.
The dough is then fried until it is golden brown and puffy.
Sopapillas are often served with honey or syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon.
Sopapillas are light and fluffy with a slightly sweet flavor.
The dough is similar to that of a biscuit or pancake.
When fried, the dough becomes crispy on the outside while remaining soft and pillowy on the inside.
If you’re looking for a new recipe to try, sopapillas are a great option.
They are simple to make and can be easily customized to your liking.
For an extra special touch, try serving them with ice cream or whipped cream.
9. Jicama Slaw
When it comes to side dishes, there are endless possibilities.
But sometimes, you just want something that is light, refreshing, and easy to make.
If that’s the case, then you should definitely try jicama slaw.
Jicama slaw is a great option because it is full of flavor but not too heavy.
The jicama gives the dish a slight crunch, while the cabbage provides a nice contrast in texture.
And if you’re looking for a little bit of sweetness, the mangoes add the perfect touch.
- Add some spice with diced jalapeños or red pepper flakes.
- Use lime juice instead of vinegar for a brighter flavor.
- Top with fresh cilantro or mint leaves.
Empanadas are a traditional dish from Latin America that is made by folding dough over a filling and then baking or frying it.
The dough can be made from flour, cornmeal, or potatoes, and the fillings vary widely but often include meats, cheeses, vegetables, or fruits.
Empanadas are usually baked or fried until they are golden brown and crispy.
The dough is typically thin and flaky, while the fillings are hearty and flavorful.
Empanadas make a great appetizer or main course, and they can be served with a variety of dipping sauces.
- Use a variety of fillings to keep things interesting. Meats, cheeses, veggies, and fruits all work well in empanadas.
- Make sure the filling is cooked before adding it to the dough. This will help prevent the empanadas from leaking during cooking.
- If you’re baking the empanadas, brush them with an egg wash before baking to give them a golden brown color.
- Serve empanadas with a dipping sauce such as salsa, sour cream, or chimichurri sauce.
11. Cilantro Lime Crema
Cilantro lime crema is a delicious and versatile condiment that can be used on a variety of dishes.
The combination of fresh cilantro and zesty lime makes for a refreshing and flavorful sauce.
The creaminess of the crema balances out the bold flavors, making it an ideal topping for tacos, enchiladas, or even just a simple bowl of rice.
The best part about cilantro lime crema is that it’s so easy to make at home.
All you need is a food processor or blender and a few simple ingredients.
Cilantro, lime juice, sour cream, and garlic come together to create a sauce that is packed with flavor.
If you want to add a little bit of heat, you can also add some jalapeño pepper.
Horchata is a traditional Mexican beverage that is made with rice, water, and cinnamon.
It is typically served cold and has a creamy texture with a slightly sweet flavor.
If you’re looking for something different to drink this summer, horchata is a great option to consider.
There are a few things that you can do to elevate the dish.
Firstly, you can add some vanilla extract to the recipe for an added depth of flavor.
Secondly, you can use almond milk instead of water for a richer taste.
Finally, if you want to make your extra horchata refreshing, add some ice cubes before serving.
13. Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread
Looking for a delicious side dish to serve with your tamales? Look no further than jalapeño cheddar cornbread.
This cornbread is packed with flavor and has a great texture.
Plus, it’s easy to make and can be served warm or cold.
The taste of this cornbread is really amazing.
The combination of sweet cornbread with sharp cheddar cheese and spicy jalapeños is just perfect.
The texture is also great. The cornbread is nice and moist but not too dense.
It’s the perfect side dish for any Mexican meal.
If you’re looking for a way to elevate this dish, try serving it with some honey butter.
The sweetness of the honey butter will perfectly complement the flavors of the cornbread.
Trust me; your guests will love it.
If you’re looking for a delicious and unique side dish to serve with your tamales, look no further than curtido.
Curtido is a traditional Salvadoran dish made of cabbage, carrots, and onions that has a tangy, slightly sweet flavor.
It’s the perfect complement to the savory flavors of tamales.
Curtido is usually served chilled or at room temperature, so it’s perfect for hot summer days.
The dish can be made ahead of time and refrigerated until you’re ready to serve it.
To elevate your Curtido, consider adding some chopped fresh fruit such as mango or pineapple.
This will add sweetness and contrast to the tangy flavors of the dish.
You can also add some chopped jalapeño peppers for a bit of heat.
15. Chili Con Carne
When it comes to tamales, there are endless possibilities for what you can serve as a side dish.
Chili con carne is a classic option that is always a hit.
This dish is packed with flavor and has a great texture that pairs well with tamales.
If you’re looking for something new to try, this is a great option.
Chili con carne is made with ground beef, beans, tomatoes, and a variety of spices.
The combination of these ingredients creates a delicious and hearty dish that is sure to satisfy.
The best part about chili con carne is that it can be easily customized to your liking.
If you like things spicy, add in some extra chili peppers.
If you prefer a bit more sweetness, add some honey or brown sugar.
There are countless ways to elevate your chili con carne dish.
One way is to top it with shredded cheese and diced onions.
Another option is to serve it over rice or quinoa for a complete meal.
No matter how you choose to enjoy it, chili con carne is sure to be a hit.
We hope you enjoyed this roundup of 15 must-try side dishes to serve with tamales.
From traditional favorites like refried beans and Spanish rice to more modern takes like jalapeño cheddar cornbread and chili con carne, there’s something here for everyone.
So next time you’re making tamales, be sure to try one (or more) of these delicious side dishes.
What to Serve with Tamales? 15 Must-try Side Dishes
- 1. Refried Beans
- 2. Spanish Rice
- 3. Tortilla Chips
- 4. Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad
- 5. Frijoles De La Olla
- 6. Arroz Con Leche
- 7. Tres Leches Cake
- 8. Sopapillas
- 9. Jicama Slaw
- 10. Empanadas
- 11. Cilantro Lime Crema
- 12. Horchata
- 13. Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread
- 14. Curtido
- 15. Chili Con Carne
- Select your favorite sides from the list above.
- Prepare the side dish according to the recipe instructions.
- If you’re short on time, some of these can be made ahead of time and reheated before serving.
- Serve and enjoy!
Carrie is a food writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the food industry, including Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living.
As the Editor in Chief of IntroChicago.com, Carrie oversees all of the content on the site. She also manages the team of contributing writers and editors, who help to create delicious recipes, helpful tips, and informative articles that you’ll find on the site.
A native of the Chicago area, Carrie is passionate about all things food. She loves trying new restaurants and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen. She’s also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, so she knows a thing or two about food!