Side dishes are an essential part of any meal. From vegetables to desserts, they bring variety and flavor to the table, making your meal more exciting and satisfying. Tamales are no exception—they’re delicious on their own, but they can be even better when paired with a few side dishes. Here are some of our favorites side dishes for tamales:
What to serve with tamales: 21 Best Side Dishes
A delicious treat on its own, guacamole is also great served with tamales because it’s creamy and rich, which helps cut through the spiciness of the meat filling. Try mixing in diced tomatoes or black beans for extra flair!
2. Pico de Gallo
Pico de gallo is basically salsa’s spicy cousin—it has all of the same ingredients as regular salsa but adds fresh chopped chiles for an extra kick (and heat!). It pairs especially well with chicken or pork tamales since they tend to be milder than beef varieties.
3. Pinto beans
Pinto beans are a traditional side dish for tamales. They’re easy to make, and they taste great with the spicy pork filling.
To make pinto beans, first, soak about 2 cups of dried beans overnight in water. The next day, drain the water and put the soaked beans in a large pot with enough water to cover them by about an inch. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 3 hours or until tender. Add salt after 2 hours of cooking time has passed. You can also add some diced garlic and onion if you want!
4. Mexican Rice
Rice is a staple at any Mexican feast, but it doesn’t have to be boring! We love this recipe for spicy Mexican rice that gets its flavor from roasted poblanos, jalapeños, and green chiles. Add some cilantro and lime juice to round out the flavors.
5. Air Fryer Plantains with Cinnamon Honey Drizzle
Plantains are a wonderful alternative to rice as a side dish—they’re naturally sweet and starchy, so they go great with anything spicy or savory. They’re also easy enough to cook on their own in the oven (you can even cook them directly in their skin!), but if you have an air fryer, we highly recommend making these plantains in it! The cinnamon honey drizzle will add just enough sweetness without overwhelming the natural flavor of the plantain itself.
6. Cilantro Lime Rice
This recipe is simple, flavorful, and delicious. The cilantro adds just enough flavor without overpowering the basic rice flavor (which is already delicious). This side dish goes well with many different types of meals—you can use it as an accompaniment for any kind of meat or fish dish, or even just eat it by itself!
7. Cucumber Tomato Avocado Salad
This light and refreshing salad is the perfect complement to any meal. Plus, it’s super easy to make! Just chop up some cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocados into small pieces and toss with olive oil and some salt and pepper. That’s it! You can also add other ingredients such as onion or garlic depending on what flavors you like best. This dish pairs well with many different types of main dishes including chicken or beef tacos as well as tamales themselves!
8. Tortilla Chips
There’s nothing better than dipping tortilla chips into hot chili con carne sauce! It’s also great for scooping up guacamole or salsa too! If you’re making your own tortillas then these are a must-have addition to any meal because they’re so versatile and easy to throw together while other things cook in the oven or on top of stovetop burners (like soups) without having to worry about burning them up too much before they get done cooking properly.
9. Black Beans
Black beans are an excellent side dish for tamales. They’re also low-carb, high-protein, and high-fiber, which means they’ll keep you feeling satisfied while helping you lose weight. Black beans are also loaded with iron and calcium, which makes them an ideal choice for people who are iron-deficient or pregnant.
To make black beans: Rinse 1 cup of dried black beans under running water and place them in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with water until the water level is about one inch above the top of the beans. Let soak overnight at room temperature. Drain off the water and rinse again before using.
10. Grilled Vegetable Skewers
Skewers can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge until ready to serve. Simply cook on a grill or under the broiler until vegetables are tender and browned on all sides (about 10 minutes). Serve as another delicious side dish for tamales!
11. Refried Beans
Refried beans are a traditional Mexican side dish, and they’re made by cooking down dry pinto beans until they reach a paste-like consistency. They’re often served with corn tortillas, but they make a delicious addition to any meal.
12. Jicama Slaw
Jicama is a tuberous root vegetable that looks similar to an apple on the outside, but when cooked it has a satisfying crunchy texture. It’s also high in fiber, which means it will keep you full longer than other foods. This recipe uses jicama in place of cabbage in a classic coleslaw recipe—the result is a light and crunchy salad that pairs perfectly with warm tamales!
13. Caesar Salad
Caesar salad is a classic, and it’s a great addition to your tamale menu. This recipe for Caesar dressing uses anchovies and garlic, which give it a rich flavor that will complement your meal perfectly. If you’re looking for something lighter, try our lemon-dill dressing instead.
14. Corn Chowder
Corn chowder is another delicious side dish option. This recipe includes bacon, jalapeño, and green onion—all ingredients that go well with tamales. You can also try our crab chowder recipe if you want something different!
15. Cilantro Lime Crema
This crema is delicious on its own, but it also makes a great side dish for tamales. To make it, simply combine 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons of lime juice and 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
16. Cucumber and Avocado Soup
This soup is light and refreshing, perfect for a summer meal. To make it, simply combine ¼ cup of Greek yogurt with ¾ cup of coconut water and ½ teaspoon of grated lime zest in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or mint leaves and blend again until combined. Transfer to a medium bowl; stir in ¼ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 diced avocado, 2 thinly sliced Persian cucumbers (or any other type), and 1 diced jalapeño pepper (optional). Serve immediately!
17. Mexican Street Corn
If you’re looking for something that’s a little bit sweet and a lot spicy, Mexican street corn is the way to go. This dish is made from grilled corn on the cob that has been slathered with spicy mayonnaise and topped with cotija cheese. The best part? You can cook it right on your grill! This side dish is perfect when paired with any kind of Mexican cuisine, but I especially love eating it with tamales because they’re both so flavorful.
18. Feta-Stuffed Peppers
This side dish is great if you’re looking for something that’s light but still has a lot of flavors. It combines feta cheese, which adds an unexpected tanginess to the peppers; rice; and parsley for an easy-to-make rice dish that will leave your guests wanting more! These stuffed peppers make a great pairing for tamales because they have similar textures (softness) and flavors (spiciness).
Horchata is a Mexican beverage made with rice, almonds, cinnamon, and other spices. It’s creamy and delicious, and it goes great with tamales because it has a mild sweetness that balances out the heat of the tamale filling.
20. Guacamole Salad
This dish is perfect if you’re looking for something more substantial than just a side dish but less heavy than a full meal. It combines cool guacamole with fresh veggies like tomatoes and lettuce in a light dressing that has just enough kick to keep things interesting without overwhelming your palate or giving you indigestion after eating too much of it.
Curtido is a traditional cabbage salad that is served with tamales and other Mexican dishes. It’s best when it’s made with sour cabbage, which you can find at some grocery stores but not others. If you can’t find it, you can substitute sauerkraut or kimchi instead.
Curtido is easy to make and goes well with just about anything, so consider making a big batch of it to have on hand for snacking or to serve with your favorite Mexican meals!
We have provided you with a variety of side dishes for tamales. Whether you are looking for something sweet or savory, we believe that these recipes are sure to please. We hope you enjoy them!