How To Eat a Tamale | Fun Ways to Eat Tamale Properly

how to eat a tamale

Picture this: it’s a chilly evening, and you’re holding a piping hot tamale in your hands. The tantalizing aroma of masa and filling fills the air, making your mouth water. But hold on – how do you eat a tamale properly?

Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! In this article, we’ll share some fun and foolproof ways to enjoy this beloved Latin American delicacy.

Keep reading!

How To Eat a Tamale

Eating a tamale can be a delightful experience, but it’s important to follow a few steps to fully savor its flavors and textures. Here’s a detailed guide on how to eat a tamale properly:

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

Before you begin, make sure you have a plate, fork, and a napkin handy. Tamales can be a bit messy, so it’s good to be prepared.

Step 2: Unwrap the Tamale

Hold the tamale at the wider end and gently peel back the corn husk leaves. Be careful not to tear the masa (dough) or the filling.

Step 3: Examine Your Tamale

Take a moment to appreciate your tamale. Observe the texture of the masa and the filling, and let your senses take in the aroma.

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Step 4: Break Off a Piece

Using your fork or your fingers (whichever you prefer), break off a small piece of tamale. Start with a manageable portion.

Step 5: Savor the Masa

Take a bite of the masa first. The masa is the doughy exterior of the tamale. Notice its soft, slightly crumbly texture, and enjoy the subtle corn flavor.

Step 6: Explore the Filling

Next, explore the filling. Tamales can be filled with various ingredients, such as meats, cheese, or vegetables. Taste the filling to savor its unique flavors and textures.

Step 7: Combine Masa and Filling

Now, take a bite that includes both the masa and filling. This bite will give you the complete tamale experience, with the contrast of textures and flavors.

Step 8: Sip or Savor a Beverage

Tamales can be quite flavorful and sometimes a bit spicy. Have a sip of your preferred beverage, such as agua fresca, soda, or even a cold beer, to complement the flavors.

Step 9: Pace Yourself

Tamales are often filling, so take your time and enjoy each bite. Engage in conversation, savor the meal, and don’t rush.

Step 10: Add Condiments (Optional)

If you like a little extra flavor, consider adding condiments like salsa, hot sauce, or a squeeze of lime juice. These can enhance the taste of your tamale.

Step 11: Share the Experience

Eating tamales is often a communal activity. Share the joy of tamale-eating with friends and family, and discuss the flavors and fillings you’re enjoying.

Step 12: Dispose of the Husk

Once you’ve finished your tamale, discard the corn husk. Remember that the husk is not edible and was only used for cooking and presentation.

Now that you’ve followed these 12 steps, you’ve truly savored the experience of eating a tamale properly. Enjoy the rich cultural tradition and delicious flavors that tamales bring to the table.

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Should I eat tamales with my hands or utensils?

Traditionally, tamales are eaten with your hands. Here’s how to do it:

  • Hold the Tamale: Pick up the tamale, holding it by the wider end where the husk is open.
  • Peel Back the Husk: Use your fingers to peel back the corn husk as you eat, exposing the masa (dough) and filling.
  • Take Small Bites: Take small, manageable bites of the tamale, ensuring you get a bit of masa and filling in each bite.
  • Enjoy: Savor the flavors and textures as you go, and don’t be afraid to get a little messy – it’s part of the fun!

However, if you prefer to use utensils or find it more convenient, you can certainly eat tamales with a fork and knife. There’s no strict rule; it’s all about your personal preference and what makes you most comfortable. Just remember to enjoy the delicious flavors of the tamale, whether you use your hands or utensils.

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Are there any traditional side dishes that go well with tamales?

Yes, there are several traditional side dishes that pair wonderfully with tamales, enhancing the overall meal experience. Here are some popular options:

  • Mexican Rice (Arroz Mexicano): Mexican rice is a classic side dish that complements tamales perfectly. It’s typically flavored with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and sometimes saffron, giving it a rich and savory taste.
  • Refried Beans (Frijoles Refritos): Creamy and flavorful, refried beans are a staple in Mexican cuisine. They provide a satisfying contrast to the texture of tamales and add a hearty element to the meal.
  • Guacamole: Creamy, fresh, and slightly tangy, guacamole made from ripe avocados, lime juice, onions, and cilantro is an excellent accompaniment. Its coolness balances out the heat of spicy tamales.
  • Salsa: Salsa, whether mild or hot, adds a burst of flavor to your tamale. You can dip your tamale in salsa or drizzle it on top for an extra kick.
  • Pico de Gallo: This fresh salsa made from diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lime juice adds a refreshing and tangy contrast to the tamale’s richness.
  • Crema or Sour Cream: A dollop of crema or sour cream can add creaminess and a touch of cooling relief if your tamales are spicy.
  • Pickled Jalapeños: If you enjoy some heat, pickled jalapeños make a zesty and spicy side to enjoy alongside your tamales.
  • Cabbage Salad (Ensalada de Repollo): A simple cabbage slaw with vinegar or lime dressing can provide a crunchy and refreshing side dish.
  • Corn and Black Bean Salad: This salad combines sweet corn, black beans, red onions, and a zesty vinaigrette for a colorful and tasty accompaniment.
  • Tortilla Chips: Crispy tortilla chips can be used for scooping up salsa, guacamole, or any other dips you prefer.


Eating tamales can be a delightful experience, especially when you know the proper techniques. Whether you’re a tamale newbie or a seasoned pro, these tips and FAQs will enhance your tamale-eating skills.

So, go ahead, savor the flavors, and remember, there’s no wrong way to enjoy a tamale as long as it brings a smile to your face!

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I unwrap a tamale properly?

Gently peel back the corn husk leaves, starting from the wider end. Be careful not to tear the masa or filling. Once unwrapped, you’re ready to dig in!

Should I eat tamales with my hands or utensils?

Tamales are traditionally eaten with your hands. Simply pick up the tamale, hold it by the husk, and take small, delicious bites. However, if you prefer using utensils, a fork and knife work just fine.

What’s the best way to add extra flavor to my tamale?

You can enhance the taste of your tamale by drizzling it with salsa, hot sauce, or a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Some also enjoy them with sour cream or guacamole on the side for added creaminess.

Can I eat the corn husk that wraps the tamale?

No, you should not eat the corn husk. It’s purely for cooking and presentation purposes. After unwrapping the tamale, discard the husk.

Are there any traditional side dishes that go well with tamales?

Absolutely! Tamales pair wonderfully with Mexican rice, refried beans, or a simple salad. These side dishes complement the flavors and make for a satisfying meal.



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