If you’re wondering what to serve with your tamales, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, I list 39 of the most popular side dishes for tamales.
In a rush? Here’s the short answer.
The best dishes to serve with tamales are Spanish rice and beans, pineapple pico de gallo, jicama pineapple slaw, and pickled vegetables. You can also serve refried beans, roasted poblano peppers, Mexican street corn salad, and salsa poached eggs. For a dipping sauce, I recommend avocado salsa verde.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
Spanish rice and beans
This rice dish is a great upgrade from your boring old plain rice.
It’s brimming with savory Spanish flavors thanks to a mix of smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper.
Then some chopped cilantro is tossed in for a fresh bite.
Pro-tip: for an extra light and fluffy texture, toast your rice.
Why we love this recipe: it’s a tasty one-pot dish.
Mexican pickled vegetables
Also called escabeche, this dish is akin to quick pickles – you soak your veggies in a boiling hot pickling liquid for at least an hour before refrigerating.
This results in crunchy veggies with a lip-puckering tangy bite, just what you need to cut through the richness of your tamales.
Remember to de-seed your jalapeños, or all your veggies will be jalapeño-flavored.
Why we love this recipe: the pickles will last for up to three weeks once you’ve made them.
Roasted poblanos in cream sauce
Also known as rajas con crema, this dish features strips of roasted poblano peppers smothered in a rich, cheesy sauce.
You can roast the peppers in your oven, but if you have a gas stove this allows you to get a lovely char.
Psst… you can sub poblano peppers for mini bell peppers or jalapenos if you want – or use a mixture.
Why we love this recipe: it’s not spicy!
Mango kale chopped salad
This kale-chopped salad isn’t the most traditional accompaniment to tamales, but give it a try!
It’s a melting pot of different flavors and textures.
You’ve got a bitter note from the kale, freshness from the cucumbers, sweetness from bell peppers and mango, some smokiness from grilled corn, and a creamy touch from the avocado.
Then everything is tied together with a zesty dressing.
Why we love this recipe: it’s perfect for summer when mangoes are at their sweetest.
Want something hearty and filling to serve with your tamales?
You can’t go wrong with homemade refried beans.
The secret to perfecting this simple dish is to use dried pinto beans – not canned ones.
It requires an extra step of soaking the beans, but canned beans just don’t give you the right texture.
Why we love this recipe: you only need five budget-friendly ingredients.
Pineapple pico de gallo
Spruce up your tamales with a topping of this tropical pico de gallo.
Adding pineapples to the usual tomato, jalapeño, and lime affair brings a delightful fruity sweetness that offsets the spicy and tangy flavors.
It’s perfectly balanced, with an acidity that prevents your tamale meal from getting too heavy.
Why we love this recipe: there’s zero cooking involved – just a lot of chopping!
Mexican street corn salad
This is a Mexican classic – your feast wouldn’t be complete without it!
I like the salad version because it’s WAY less messy to eat than the corn-on-the-cob version.
Pro-tip: for an ultra-creamy texture, wait for the corn kernels to cool before mixing in your mayo-crema mixture.
Why we love this recipe: you can have it on the table in just 15 minutes.
Salsa poached eggs
Planning to have tamales for brunch?
Complete your meal with these salsa-poached eggs.
Inspired by the Maghrebi classic, shakshuka, this dish involves poaching your eggs in tomato sauce loaded with diced tomatoes and green chiles.
Imagine smothering your tamale with a scoopful of salsa mixed with the rich egg yolk… yum!
Why we love this recipe: it works for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Jicama jalapeño slaw
Jazz up your usual coleslaw mix by swapping your carrots for jicama.
Never tried jicama?
It’s similar to an apple, but not as sweet. So it brings a freshness to the slaw and a crisp texture that you don’t get from carrots.
Psst… you can swap the jicama for daikon radish, celery root, green apples, or Asian pears.
Why we love this recipe: it doesn’t wilt very fast, so any leftovers will still be good the next day.
This isn’t technically a side dish, but I couldn’t leave out this classic drink.
It’s a sweet corn-based drink consumed hot during breakfast and the holidays, normally alongside savory tamales for a cozy meal.
The basic version is made with masa harina and flavored with vanilla and cinnamon, but you can also find versions now made with oatmeal, rice, or wheat flour.
Why we love this recipe: it’s pure comfort in a cup.
Also known as ensalada de coditos, this dish is perfect for serving a crowd.
Aside from the macaroni, it’s packed with ham, pickled jalapeños, carrots, corn, and pineapple.
This recipe uses a mayo-based dressing, but you can make it lighter by using Greek yogurt instead.
Pro tip: make it a day ahead of time to let all the flavors meld and develop.
Why we love this recipe: it will make sure none of your guests leave hungry.
Avocado salsa verde
Tamales don’t always need a substantial side, sometimes all you need is a tasty dipping sauce.
And I recommend this avocado salsa verde.
It’s got a bright flavor, and the addition of the avocado thickens it up slightly, meaning it coats the tamales perfectly and doesn’t just drip off.
Psst… fresh cilantro is a must for this salsa. It won’t taste as good if you use the dried version.
Why we love this recipe: it’s filled with good-for-you vitamins and minerals.
Mexican roasted zucchini
This roasted Mexican zucchini is the perfect low-carb side to serve with your tamales.
The zucchini is flavored with classic elote spices and then finished with a spritz of lime juice – kind of like elotes but without the corn!
Why we love this recipe: it’s super healthy but doesn’t lack any flavor.
What To Serve With Tamales
- 1 portion tamales
- Prepare your tamales according to your favorite recipe.
- In the meantime, choose one of the following sides to serve alongside it.
- Side dishes include: Spanish rice and beans, Mexican pickled vegetables, roasted poblanos in cream sauce, mango kale chopped salad, refried beans, pineapple pico de gallo, Mexican street corn salad, salsa poached eggs, jicama jalapeño slaw, atole, macaroni salad, avocado salsa verde, and Mexican roasted zucchini.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!