How to Serve Tamales: Step-By-Step Guide to Consider

If you want to learn how to serve tamales, this article is right for you.
You will not have to worry when it comes to serving tamales since you will be provided with ways on how to do it right.

I wonder why many people are having issues in terms of serving tamales. Yes, tamales are among those versatile foods out there and for some, problems about how to serve tamales arise.

However, due to a wide range of regional variations of this dish, different sauces could also go along with tamales. With that, you can choose from wide side dishes if you want to serve them with tamales.

Do you want to know how to properly serve tamales? If yes, then you have to continue reading this article.


Understanding Tamales

But first, let’s be familiar with tamales. They are known to be a traditional Mexican delicacy which is made with a wet mixture of masa or the one referred as Mexican corn flour. This masa is well-seasoned particularly with a meat broth along with spices.

This mas filling is most of the time paired with seasoned beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, cheese and chili blend. There are also sweet tamale recipes which include dried as well as fresh fruits.


If this flavorful masa dough is done, and also the other filling choices are prepared, they will now be wrapped in a corn husk for steaming. If there is no corn husk, plantain leaves or banana leaves could be considered instead.

You can make a lot of tamales if you like and you will enjoy not just how great the dish is but how healthy it is as well.

Items Needed

Now that you are familiar with the said dish, be ready to learn the best ways on how to serve tamales. Your specific and personal preferences will matter most when it comes to preparing the needed items in order to serve tamales.

Some of the few things that are required in the process are the following:

Plating Options

Why would you need these, anyway? There are cases wherein you just microwave a store-bought tamale then throw it on the plate. But, in cases wherein you like to impress others, few other approaches could be considered.

You might consider banana leaves or corn husk in serving tamales which are employed during the cooking process. These are durable and could be reused with little to no effort. Or, just grab a batch of clean and non-steamed leaves or husks to be used as plating.

Planning for something with a sense of the exotic? If yes then simply serve tamales on a husk or leaf rather than placing them between the plate and the food.

Yes, you’ve heard it right! You can serve tamales without the need of a plate. It will wow your guests at the same time will save you time on cleaning up.

A set of small bowls might also be needed if you will serve the tamales with some kind of sauce. A bowl like the size of a teacup might already suffice.


Sauces with Tamales

It wouldn’t be unusual if you serve tamales without any sauce. Traditionally, the tamale is a peasant dish. But, sauces might offer a chance of adding a twist to the said dish. So, some of the most common options are as follow:

  • Mole Verde. This one is created with the use of a mixture pumpkin seeds as well as green chilies. Or green tomatoes might sometimes be used in this kind of sauce.
  • Mole Sauce. This is one of the most common sauce choices. They are more regionalized all around Mexico than the tamales. You might also opt to make a Mole Negro that features chocolate and chilies.
  • Crema. If you really want something that is more exotic, then crema is a great choice. If there is no Mexican crema, American sour cream is the best alternative. Then, better add lime, a clove of garlic and cilantro for a little more kick.
  • Salsa. Though not a common choice, most people would consider this opt to use the salsa verde. As a good choice for serving with tamales, tomatillos salsa could be considered.
  • Americanized Pumpkin Mode. This one is an unusual option which uses pumpkin filling. It might be best with chicken tamales.


It might not be needed that you cook tamales with fillings but it doesn’t allow you to spice things up as well. Once planning to consider a filling, chicken or shredded pork are two of the best and common options.

If you plan to go with the pork then buy a pork butt and cook it in the style of a traditional American pulled pork. Reheat pulled pork to retain the moist, juicy quality of it. On the other hand, beef is a less common choice.

Cheese or spinach are great choices too if you want the tamales to be meatless.

Side Dishes

And also, you will definitely need side dishes if you want to know how to serve tamales the right way. Tamales are served with one of four side dishes in the traditional versions in Mexico. And rice is the popular option.

If you go a lot farther, on the North of Mexico specifically, you might consider serving tamales with beans. Refried beans might be an excellent choice leading to a more authentic experience. Freezing beans help them remain healthy, safe, and delicious.

Those are the things that you might need and you must be prepared with in order for you to perfectly serve tamales to your beloved guests.

How to Serve Tamales? Steps to Consider

And for the essential steps that should be considered in serving tamales, be guided by the following:

Step 1. Cook the Tamales

Of course! You need to cook the tamales first. They are very simple to make. Simply open up the husk or lay out the banana leaf. Then, spread the masa dough around the inside of the leaf or husk.

Cook the tamales

Cook the tamales

For filling, you might put it on top of the masa in a small spoonful or two. After that, wrap everything and throw them in the steamer for about an hour or two. Here are some recommendations on which steamer is suitable for your recipes.

Be wary of the fact that the water must not boil or keep a tea kettle nearby to replace the water that might evaporate once steaming. You should not let the water touch the tamales.

Step 2. Check If the Tamales are Already Cooked

One of the easiest ways to check the doneness of the tamales is to take up the edge of it and try to pull the wrap away from the masa dough.

Since banana leaves or corn husks are very durable, worry not so long as you ensure that the steamer doesn’t run out of water.

Once the wrap comes away cleanly, this means that the tamales are done. But if not, just simply cook them a little longer.

Step 3. Let the Tamales Cool

Let The Tamales Cool

Let The Tamales Cool

Indeed, it’s not safe that you serve the tamales directly from the steamer because of the heat. Just remove the tamales, the wrap and all from the steamer and put them on a plate or a rack. Once worried about dryness, a rack is not recommended.

Take note as well that tamales don’t need to cook for a long period of time. It might only take 5 minutes to cool tamales. And if it exceeds that time, tamales might begin to dry out, so try serving them the soonest as possible. Reheat it if necessary to remain healthy and delicious.

Step 4. Consider Your Plating

You like the presentation process, right? So this step could be fun! If you will just serve the tamales with the husk or leaf as the plate, the only thing you need to do is to open the tamales. Or consider transferring them on a fresh leaf or husk that wasn’t in the steamer.


For those who plan to serve tamales on a serving plate, pick between unwrapping them by yourself or letting the guests do the unwrapping.

For me, I would recommend that you just leave them wrapped during the process of plating.

Buffet-style serving options could be great as well and you just have to keep all the tamales on a large platter.

Step 5. Match With Some Side Dishes

Eat Tamales With Side Dishes

Eat Tamales With Side Dishes

Do you want to know how to serve tamales at its best? So considering some side dishes is the best choice too! It is indeed a good idea that you put some side dishes on the leaf, husk or plate prior to adding anything else.

Why? Well, this would let you clearly present every side separately and make sure that things will not blend together.

Beans or rice could go in a very simple pile. Once using chilies, they could be sliced then presented in a way that they allow to add color, shape, and texture.

These sides could be separately plated or to make the presentation look more inviting, have them all together in one plating.

Step 6. Add the Sauce

If you choose to serve tamales with a sauce, you need to consider if you will serve it directly on the plate or you will use a small bowl. For those who plan to serve a runny sauce then placing it in a small bowl is a wise choice.

This will prevent it from running across the plate therefore prematurely mixing with other side dishes and with the tamales, of course. And this will also allow you to come up with a cleaner presentation.

Final Thoughts

Finally, you now have an idea on how to serve tamales. You only need to have the items needed and then follow the given steps. Indeed, serving tamales shouldn’t be a problem rather it should be considered as a fun and exciting task.

If you want your guests, or your families and friends, to enjoy the best of tamales recipe then make sure that you know how to serve this kind of dish in the best and right way ever. I hope this article could guide you all the way. To know more about tamales, watch this.

Share with us your experience about serving tamales. We will be very happy hearing your thoughts! Please just write down your comments below! Happy serving!

Lita Watson

Hi there! I’m Lita, and I’m absolutely in love with cooking blogs. I’m a beginner in cooking and i try my best to make it quick and easy. Even though, it’s not always quick and easy to keep up with fancy dinners… so i keep learning and blogging about quick and easy ways to create delicious and yummy foods for my two kids and a wonderful husband.

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