Let's talk tamales

A coworker has started selling tamales at our workplace lately. One coworker suggested they’d taste better with cheese, and I was suprised. When I grew up in eastern Washington state, an elderly lady would go door to door selling tamales. In the decades we bought her tamales, we never ate anything with them. I have heard of people putting sauce on them, but never cheese. So do you eat anything with tamales? Do you make them yourself, buy homemade, or get them from a store? And what meat do you use and how are they prepared? The ones at work were made with turkey and heavily spiced. A coworker even claimed he’s heard of goat and guinea pig:eek: used.

The school band usually sells tamales as a fund raiser every winter. We’ll buy a couple of dozen, freeze them, and eat through the spring. Usually we buy chicken, beef and pork varieties. Rarely do I eat them with sauce. Good tamales just need tastebuds.

Maybe it’s location.

This is just another example of one of my personal rules: everything tastes better with cheese :smiley:

I like tamales in a corn husk with just the right balance of masa and meat (preferably shredded pork). The only thing I add is some salsa.

Where I live there used to be a Mexican restaurant that made tamales with what I thought was the ideal proportion of masa to meat. Unfortunately, the owners retired and I have yet to come across a place that makes tamales with the perfect masa-meat balance. (This place also made the best salsa I’d ever eaten.)

A good tamale is just good. And there is nothing worse then a bad one! I have always eaten them just as they come, and agree with NDP about the masa/meat ratio. I like the ones my mom made and am always on a quest to find a good tamale but alas I live in the northwest. Not a mecca for good mexican food.

I eat tamales a lot during the summer-- There’s a lady at the farmer’s market who primarily sells a variety of really good salsas, but she also sells tamales so people have something to try samples of her salsas on. They’re one of the cheapest meals at the market, and the salsas are all really good.

Had tamales with and without sauce. Always good. I don’t recall eating a bad tamale. Some of the best came from a Cuban restaurant in Miami, and had chunks of ham mixed in the meal instead of shredded meat. I’ve made my own a couple of times. They came out pretty good in a pressure cooker, not perfect, but much faster without getting stiff. Recently someone told me to wrap them in parchment paper instead of fussing with husks. I’ll try that next time.

I like tamales just as they are, too, but I wouldn’t say no to adding cheese and salsa. I believe I’ve had both chicken and pork.

That last bit doesn’t particularly surprise me. Guinea pigs are a fairly common Peruvian foodstuff. (I don’t know if they’re eaten in the rest of South America or not.)

Last time I visited New Mexico all the tamales had beef in them and you could get red or green sauce but red was for tourist.

Huh - I recently had some tamales from a Mexican place in Chicago that were stuffed with mild peppers and cheese.

My mom has a Mexican friend who makes tamales every year for Christmas. Yummy, but her recipe includes olives, with the pits still in them. Never could figure out why.

Fresh home-made tamales, thrown on the grill…add some green sauce and BAM!

Cheese is a personal matter, but I agree with some of the other posters: A good tamale needs nothing except you to enjoy it.

Nothing or salsa. This is the time of year that I get to craving them since when I was a kid a lady used to go door to door in our neighborhood selling them we’d always buy 4-5 dozen beef or pork tamales. Despite working in New Mexico I can’t find a decent tamale here to save my life.

When I make them I use shredded pork, cooked in broth with a ton of spices. When you’re done cooking the meat use the cooking liquid to make the masa mixture. I’ve never had them with cheese and while I’m sure it would taste good, I really don’t think it’s necessary. Maybe some hot sauce, but that’s about all I want on them.

It’s not a rule, it’s the law! And I like pork tamales best. Nice and moist, with just the right amount of masa.

Goat and guinea pig? Goat is common in Mexican cooking, isn’t it? I have had goat fajitas in a tex-mex restaurant, so no surprise it would be used in tamales. Guinea pig is a common food in Peru, as mentioned by Mairra, so again no surprise. In the Good Eats episode on tamales, Alton Brown points out the meats available when tamales were invented would have been turkey, rabbit, and dog. He opts for the turkey.

Cheese is not quite an abomination to the tamale, but is not needed. Sauce is optional, but I would go with whatever is locally popular and made.

And now I want tamales. Columbus is a very diverse city, and good Mexican food is easy to find. But tamales are not overly popular. Must search out a taco truck this weekend.

The best tamales I’ve ever had are from the lunch counter in the Fiesta Mart salchichoneria (deli/lunch counter) in Austin’s Maplewood neighborhood. Shredded beef, good with or without any of their various salsas, no cheese needed.


I saw a tamale pot on sale at Walmart, so I’ve started to make tamales. Mine are super simple. Masa, jack cheese, jalapeño, Sriracha and Tapatio. They’re not hard to make, but you’ve got to get the steaming time down correctly. I’m going to try to graduate to pork this Christmas.

I still like those Americanized ghetto frozen tamales with canned chili on them, but any Mexican would be horrified.

Tamales, to me, are the exception that proves the rule.

Almost everything tastes better with cheese and chances are that if a food doesn’t taste better with cheese it probably doesn’t taste good in the first place and should be avoided. (example - sushi) But tamales are delicious without cheese, adding cheese makes them weird.