10 Best-Ever Tamales

Nothing beats a homemade tamal.

Shrimp Snacking Tamales

Tamales are a traditional Mesoamerican dish made of masa or dough, which is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. Making homemade tamales can be time-consuming, but the reward is well worth the effort. Fill yours with pork, roasted vegetables, shrimp, or even something sweet — the delicious rewards far outweigh the amount of work you'll have to do. This versatile dish is enjoyed all year round, but is especially popular on Christmas Eve, because of corn’s importance as a substance of life for many cultures. We compiled a selection of tamal recipes, from traditional to innovative. Here, F&W’s best tamales to make now.

Oyster Mushroom Tamales with Mole Encacahuatado

Oyster Mushroom Tamales with Mole Encacahuatado

Roasting oyster mushrooms concentrates their flavor for a hearty vegetarian tamal filling. Paired with velvety, intensely aromatic, and deeply savory peanut mole, these tamales satisfy everyone at the table.

Fried Pork Tamales

Crispy Fried Tamales
© Raymond Hom

Chef Alex Stupak first steams his pork tamales, then dusts them with flour and fries them until they are golden, crispy, and incredible.

 Tamales de Elote

Tamales de Elote
Abby Hocking / Food & Wine

These simple, lightly sweet tamales should be served with a drizzle of crema, a sprinkle of queso fresco, and lime wedges. Using fresh corn is best, but thawed frozen corn works well, too.

Steamed Pork Tamales

Steamed Pork Tamales. Photo © Raymond Hom
© Raymond Hom

These steamed banana-leaf-wrapped tamales are filled with ultra-tender braised, shredded pork.

Chicken Tamales with Tomatillo-Cilantro Salsa

Chicken Tamales with Tomatillo-Cilantro Salsa
© Eric Wolfinger

These light and fluffy tamales are great to make ahead for weekday lunches. Uncooked tamales can be frozen for one month.

 Red Shrimp Snacking Tamales

Shrimp Snacking Tamales

Each two-bite, egg-shaped tamal cradles a shrimp encased in masa seasoned with chiles, garlic, and dried shrimp. 

Quick Chicken and Cheese Tamales

Quick Chicken-and-Cheese Tamales
© Tina Rupp

Here, store-bought rotisserie chicken and cheddar cheese are mixed into a quick dough, then wrapped in plastic before they're steamed.

Banana Leaf-Wrapped Lamb Shank Tamales with Morita Chile Salsa

Banana Leaf Wrapped Lamb Shank Tamales with Morita Chile Salsa

These smoky braised-lamb tamales get a pop of freshness from bright cilantro-onion relish, while a wrapper of banana leaves perfumes the masa with a softly sweet aroma as they steam.

Pulled Pork Tamales

Pulled-Pork Tamales
© John Kernick

These powerfully flavorful tamales are especially delicious thanks to espresso barbecue sauce. They're best served piping hot with a robust beer like a brown or red ale.

 Coconut Arroz con Leche Tamales

Coconut Arroz Con Lecha Tamales

Lightly sweetened coconut rice pudding provides a custardy contrast to the tender masa in these dreamy dessert tamales. Drizzled with sweet and buttery goat's milk caramel, they also make a festive holiday breakfast.

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