5 of the Best Tamale Varieties of Mexico

1/15/20243 min read

green parsley
green parsley

Tamales are a beloved food in Mexico and New Mexico, known for their delicious combination of masa, protein, and sauce. These cornmeal-based treats come in a variety of flavors and are enjoyed not only during holidays but also as convenient portable snacks. In this article, we will explore five of the best tamale varieties from different regions of Mexico.

1. Oaxaqueños Tamales

Hailing from the southern state of Oaxaca, Oaxaqueños tamales are a true culinary delight. They are typically wrapped in banana leaves, giving them a unique flavor and aroma. These tamales are often filled with ingredients like chicken, mole, or black beans, creating a rich and savory taste. The use of traditional Oaxacan ingredients such as chocolate, chilies, and spices adds a distinctive twist to these tamales.

2. Yucatecos Tamales

Traveling to the Yucatan Peninsula, we encounter Yucatecos tamales, which are characterized by their large size and unique preparation method. These tamales are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in a pit oven called a pib. The slow cooking process infuses the tamales with a smoky flavor and tender texture. Yucatecos tamales often feature fillings such as pork, chicken, or turkey, seasoned with achiote paste, a traditional Mayan spice blend.

3. Tamales de Elote

Heading north to the state of Jalisco, we find Tamales de Elote, a variety of tamale made with fresh corn kernels. The corn is ground into a paste and mixed with butter, sugar, and sometimes cinnamon, creating a subtly sweet and creamy filling. Tamales de Elote are typically wrapped in corn husks and steamed until they are tender and fragrant. These tamales are often enjoyed as a dessert or a morning treat, accompanied by a cup of hot chocolate.

4. Tamales de Rajas

Traveling to the central region of Mexico, we encounter Tamales de Rajas, a popular variety made with strips of roasted poblano peppers. The roasted peppers are combined with cheese, onion, and sometimes corn kernels to create a flavorful filling. The mixture is then wrapped in corn husks and steamed until the tamales are cooked through. Tamales de Rajas offer a perfect balance of smoky, spicy, and cheesy flavors, making them a favorite among tamale enthusiasts.

5. Tamales de Mole

Finally, we cannot discuss tamale varieties without mentioning Tamales de Mole. Mole, a rich and complex sauce made with various ingredients such as chocolate, chilies, nuts, and spices, is the star of these tamales. The mole sauce is spread over the masa before the tamales are wrapped and steamed. The result is a tamale bursting with layers of flavors, combining the earthiness of the masa with the boldness of the mole sauce.

Whether you prefer the rich and savory Oaxaqueños tamales, the smoky Yucatecos tamales, the sweet Tamales de Elote, the spicy Tamales de Rajas, or the complex Tamales de Mole, there is a tamale variety to suit every taste. These delicious treats are not only enjoyed during holidays but can also be savored as a convenient on-the-go snack. So next time you have a craving for Mexican cuisine, consider trying one of these mouthwatering tamale varieties!

New Mexican Tamales

In New Mexico, our favorite tamale is just like our favorite posole. We really love our red chile and pork here. Depending on who is cooking, we might use hot Hatch red chile or even extra hot. The combination of shredded pork and red chile sauce combined with the steamed masa leads to a wonderful snack or even a full meal if someone has a few tamales. Similar to posole, it is most common to have tamales around the holiday season, whether it be Thanksgiving or Christmas. Tamales are also often found at events and farmers markets throughout the year however, because they are such a convenient and portable food. It's not uncommon to see someone selling plastic wrapped tamales out of a cooler in different cities of New Mexico. If you see this while traveling here, I highly recommend giving it a try, as tamales are a truly wonderful New Mexican snack!