50+ Mexican Side Dishes and Drinks to Serve with Tamales


If you are wondering what to serve with tamales, look no further. Here is a list of 50 authentic Mexican side dishes, drinks, and desserts that pair perfectly with tamales. Elevate your meal into a culinary fiesta! 

Discover the perfect Mexican side dishes and drinks to serve with tamales.

Tamales, with their rich and comforting flavors, are a traditional Mexican dish often served during special occasions and holidays, such as Christmas, Day of the Dead, or Día de la Candelaría (Candlemas), but also enjoyed year-round as a delicious and comforting meal. 

What to Eat with Tamales

The traditional way many Mexican families serve tamales is as a main dish with atole, a corn-based hot and sweet beverage. This thick drink complements the spiciness of the tamal beautifully.

atole de caramelo

Now that I live in the United States, I’ve seen how families enjoy them here in a variety of different ways. So, this guide offers you a variety of accompaniments that elevate the humble tamal. 

I have divided this guide into four sections: side dishes, toppings, drinks, and desserts. But first, let me give you a few tamale recipes to try out. 

RELATED POST: How to Make Masa for Tamales.

Side Dishes to Serve with Tamales

The sky's the limit! I personally think salads are the perfect side dish for savory tamales because of their freshness. However, you can never go wrong with traditional Mexican sides like guacamole, rice and beans, or soup.

Fresh fruit is also a great option. Here are a few ideas to try with links to recipes.

​1. Guacamole

​Traditional guacamole is one of the best Mexican sides ever!

A delicious serving of guacamole on a crisp white plate.
Take me to the recipe.

2. Black beans 

Mexican black beans are one of my favorite side dishes for tamales. Try my fast recipe; it's easy to make and colorful. 

Frijoles negros a la mexicana
Fast Mexican Black Beans
This is a perfect recipe to make when you are in a hurry and need a fast, delicious and nutritious meal.
Take me to the recipe.

3. Pinto beans

Pinto beans are also great with tamales. I like them brothy. Learn how to make frijoles de la olla in a pressure cooker with this video.

4. Refried beans

​This is a great accompaniment when you are serving tamales with a sauce. 

5. Sopa Tarasca

A delicious pinto bean soup served with crunchy garnishes like tortilla chips and crispy chile ancho. I made this on PBS's The Great American Recipe. (S1 E5).

pinto bean soup - sopa tarasca
Pinto Bean Soup – Sopa Tarasca
This delightful, classic, Mexican pinto bean soup, Sopa Tarasca, satisfies with its silky texture. Served with queso fresco, cream, tortilla strips & chile ancho.
Take me to the recipe

6. Mexican rice

Another Mexican culinary classic. Mexican rice is usually prepared with tomato sauce and veggies like peas and carrots.

7. White rice

What I love about it is its versatility. You can serve cilantro lime rice or just simple white rice with peas. 

8. Coleslaw

This cabbage salad is crunchy and satisfying. Try my Mexican Coleslaw recipe.

Mexican Coleslaw with carrots and peppers on top of a white plate
Mexican Coleslaw
Take me to the recipe.

9. A green salad

Easy and fresh, combine your favorite greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, or iceberg lettuce with fresh bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, and a light vinaigrette, and you're all set. 

This is my Mexican green salad recipe; it's crunchy and refreshing.

Ensalada Mixta - Insalata Mista
Mexican Green Salad
Take me to the recipe.

10. Poblano Soup

A soup with simple ingredients but still full of flavor, learn how to make it with our step-by-step recipe.

11. Sopa de Lima

Light and fresh, this soup is a great side dish for jalapeño and cheese tamales. 

12. Squash and Carrot Soup

Creamy, easy to prepare, and with a gorgeous color, learn how to make this delicious soup here.

Creamy squash and carrot soup in a large white bowl.
Creamy Squash and Carrot Soup
Take me to the recipe.

13. Sopa de Fideo

This soup is very popular because it is economical and super easy to make. We often pair it with taquitos, too, but it also makes the perfect addition to tamales.

14. Sweet potato salad

The sweetness of this sweet potato salad balances the spiciness of the tamales. 

Mexican sweet potato salad
Mexican Sweet Potato Salad
Take me to the recipe.

15. Orange and Avocado salad

Avocado, in my humble opinion, goes well with almost anything! Try my orange and avocado salad recipe; it's easy to prepare, tangy and delicious. 

16. Pork in Chile Negro 

Pork in chile negro is one of those comforting Mexican dishes that goes great with cheese tamales. 

Carne de puerco en chile negro
Pork Loin in Black Chile Sauce
Take me to the recipe.

17. Pork in Red Sauce

Another dish Mexican families often pair with special tamales we call “corundas.” These tamales have no filling, and they are made of masa harina and butter.

18. Queso Fresco in Red Sauce

This dish goes well with corundas as well or with veggie tamales. Ideal for a meatless meal. 

19. Chorizo Nachos

Now, if you want to pair your tamales with a snack, what's more fun than nachos? My Nachos a la Mexicana recipe has chorizo and pico de gallo salsa. 

Chorizo Nachos with pico de gallo salsa on top of a green plate
Chorizo Nachos a la Mexicana
Take me to the recipe.

20. Stuffed Jalapeño Peppers

These breaded jalapeño pepper poppers are another fun snack that go great with cheese tamales or veggie tamales. 

chiles jalapeños rellenos de queso
Cheese Stuffed Jalapeño Chiles
Take me to the recipe.

21. Watermelon Pizza

My family loves to eat fruit before the main meal, and this watermelon pizza salad is colorful, fresh, and fun. 

Pizza de Sandía by mamalatinatips.com
Watermelon Pizza
Why not start with this watermelon pizza! It looks great on the table and works as an appetizer for summer parties. The kids won't be able to resist it. Below is how I do it, but have fun choosing your own fruits to top it as you wish!
Take me to the recipe.

22. Pineapple Gazpacho

Another fruit salad, prepared with pineapple and other fruits and spices. My recipe adds a little bit of orange juice to it, which makes it a great pairing with spicy tamales.

Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho
Take me to the recipe.

23. Esquites

This is a variation of the Mexican street corn served in a cup with lime juice and a chile like cayenne pepper or chile de árbol pepper. 

24. Rajas

This is the name we give to a popular combination of strips of roasted poblano pepper, onion, corn, and cream. These rajas will go great on top or next to pork tamales.

rajas con elote y cebolla en una caserola con una cuchara de madera
Poblano Chiles and Corn
Take me to the recipe.

25. Christmas Eve Salad

If you're serving tamales during the Christmas season, try my Christmas Eve Salad. It's a combination of a variety of fruits swimming in a tangy, sweet hibiscus juice. 

beet salad
Ensalada de Nochebuena
Take me to the recipe.

Toppings for Tamales

1. Tomatillo Salsa

You can serve this very easy homemade salsa verde recipe with many different tamales. I love pouring it on green tamales because it reinforces the delicious filling.

A tomatillo salsa verde recipe in a Mexican bowl with a spoon.
Salsa Verde
This salsa verde is fresh and tangy. Made with tomatillos, serrano peppers and cilantro.
Take me to the recipe.

2. Red Salsa

Salsa roja goes very well with pork tamales, chicken tamales, or jalapeño and cheese tamales.

Red salsa with a wooden spoon next to fresh cilantro and a tomato on top of a wooden table.
Chunky Red Salsa Recipe (Salsa Roja Martajada)
Take me to the recipe.

3. Avocado Salsa

Avocado salsa is creamy and tangy. It's delicious on top of cheese or green tamales, and it's a family favorite.

A Mexican ceramic bowl with avocado salsa. There is a bunch of cilantro and a half avocado on the left side of it.
Avocado Salsa
This Mexican avocado salsa recipe is a must-try for all avocado lovers! With its irresistible combination of creamy avocado, tangy tomatillos, and spicy peppers, it’s the ideal recipe for a party dip or for a topping for tacos, tostadas, and more!
Plus, give it extra points for the added benefit of being vegan and gluten-free.
Take me to the recipe.

4. Mango Salsa

The bright flavors of this mango salsa make it a great pairing with pork or beef tamales.

Salsa de Mango - mamalatinatips.com
Mango Salsa
Try this recipe

5. Pico de Gallo 

This spicy pico de gallo salsa includes fresh tomatoes, onions, serrano pepper, cilantro, and lemon juice.  

A bowl of pico de gallo salsa on a woven basket.
Authentic Mexican Pico de Gallo Salsa
This pico de gallo is super easy to make, always fresh and balanced, you can use it on top of most anything– eggs, tacos, tostadas, beans, meat, quesadillas.
Take me to the recipe.

6. Chipotle Salsa

The smokiness of the chipotle goes excellent with chicken or pork tamales.

7. Mole Sauce

This is one of the jewels of Mexican food, and it will go great on top of Oaxacan-style tamales or cheese tamales.

8. Cream and Cheese

For a simple but still rich-in-flavor option, top your Mexican tamales with Mexican crema or sour cream and cotija cheese or queso fresco. 

Corundas, the Mexican tamales I mentioned before, go so well with very spicy red salsa, lime juice, cream, and cotija cheese. 

9. Avocado Slices

Sliced avocado on a wooden board

They will add creaminess to the tamales. Add a few drops of lime or lemon juice or queso fresco. Heaven!

What to Drink with Tamales

Mexican families will tell you that the perfect complement to tamales is atole, a thick, sweet, hot beverage that elevates tamales to the next level, especially in cold weather.

But, if you are serving tamales during the Spring or Summer, maybe you would prefer an agua fresca. Here are a few hot and refreshing options for you.

1. Lime Atole

I mention this atole first because it's my favorite; it's almost effortless to prepare, and it has a subtle lime fragrance and flavor. I like this lime atole so much I served it on The Great American Recipe (S1 E3).

Lime atole (atole de limón) in a Mexican clay cup.
Lime Atole Recipe
A comforting hot beverage for cold nights. This lime atole goes very well with tamales or by itself.
Take me to the recipe.

2. Caramel Atole

​To make this caramel atole, you just need four ingredients!

caramel atole
Mexican Caramel Atole
A delicious traditional Mexican beverage made with cornstarch, cinnamon, milk and sugar
Take me to the recipe.

3. Pumpkin Atole

This pumpkin atole is thick, filling, and perfect for Autumn.

Pumpkin atole
Pumpkin Atole
Welcome the flavors of autumn with this comforting pumpkin atole. Ideal with pan dulce or tamales. Easy to make and always delicious.
Take me to the recipe.

4. Ponche Fruit Atole

​I never had ponche fruit atole when I was growing up; this recipe was born in my kitchen last year when I had a surplus of leftover fruit from my Christmas ponche that I make every year in December.

So I used the apples, tejocotes, cinnamon, and raisins to make it, and now it is part of my culinary heritage. I'm leaving it to my kids and their future families.

Mexican ceramic cup with atole on top of a fabric napkin. A cinnamon stick next to it.
Ponche Fruit Atole
This ponche fruit atole is sweet, creamy, and features a comforting fruit and spice flavor. It’s perfect for using up the leftover fruit from our Mexican Christmas punch.
Take me to the recipe.

5. Mexican Christmas Punch

This is the traditional Mexican punch we drink from the time of Las Posadas through New Year's Eve. And, of course, it goes so well with the tamales. 

ponche mexicano con frutas en almibar para la navidad
Mexican Ponche
This is a special recipe of Mexican Christmas punch for those who live in the United States or outside of Mexico and cannot find all the fresh fruits.
Take me to the recipe.

6. Hot Chocolate

Mexican hot chocolate is easy to prepare and perfect when serving tamales in Winter. 

A mug of Mexican hot chocolate next to a basket with conchas.
Traditional Mexican Hot Chocolate
Take me to the recipe.

7. Hibiscus Agua Fresca

​Known as agua de jamaica in Spanish, this is one of the most traditional aguas frescas to serve with tamales. It's refreshing, sweet and tangy.

Jamaica Agua Fresca in a glass on top of a wooden table
Agua de Jamaica, the Hibiscus Flower Drink
Agua de Jamaica is a refreshing drink made of dry hibiscus flower. Is very refreshing and light. Ideal for family gatherings or Sunday brunch. 
Take me to the recipe.

8. Lime Agua Fresca

Check out my recipe for the best lime agua fresca ever. 

Agua Fresca de Limón
Lime Agua Fresca
Take me to the recipe.

9. Horchata Agua Fresca

Horchata is a rice-based beverage that is extremely popular and even trendy now for its flavor and creaminess.

10. Strawberry Agua Fresca

Strawberry agua fresca is the perfect combo of sweetness and freshness

Strawberry agua fresca in a glass with ice and mint leaves
Mexican Strawberry Agua Fresca
A refreshing drink for a sunny afternoon, brunch or party. This strawberry agua fresca is ready in just a few minutes and needs just 3 ingredients.
Take me to the recipe.

11. Strawberry Horchata

Strawberry horchata is a refreshing variation of the traditional horchata we know and love.

Strawberry horchata
Strawberry Horchata
Strawberry Horchata combines fragrant strawberries with the rich goodness of classic horchata. No rice soaking required, ready in minutes.
Take me to the recipe.

12. Quince Agua Fresca

If you have the good fortune of finding quince in the supermarket, get a couple and make this quince agua fresca, so delicate and refreshing. 

quince agua fresca in a glass next to a slice of quince on a blue wooden table
Quince Agua Fresca
This quince agua fresca, with its crisp flavor and floral aroma, makes for the perfect, simple Autumn drink.
Take me to the recipe.

13. Pomegranate-Blueberry Sangría Mocktail

This pomegranate-blueberry mocktail is light, sweet, and colorful.

14. Guava Agua Fresca

Made with fresh guavas, a very aromatic drink.

guava agua fresca
Guava Agua Fresca
Take me to the recipe.

​15. Frozen Pineapple Margarita

Tamales go well with Margaritas as well; this frozen pineapple margarita is one of our favorites.

frozen pineapple margarita
Frozen Pineapple Margarita
Take me to the recipe.

​Desserts to Serve with Tamales

​Finish with something sweet for a complete meal. 

1. Sweet Tamales

Did you know there were sweet tamales?

When I'm in Mexico and we buy tamales, we usually buy both savory and sweet. There are many flavors available, strawberry tamales, apple tamales, pineapple tamales, chocolate tamales, and even pumpkin tamales. 

Add a dollop of whipped cream on top and enjoy!

2. Milk Gelatin

​For a lot of Mexican families, gelatin is the perfect dessert; it is easy to make, sweet, and comes in many different flavors. My family owned a gelatinería for more than 100 years, and this milk gelatin recipe is one of my favorites. 

Gelatina de leche con canela y bayas - mamalatinatips.com
Milk Gelatin
Take me to the recipe.

3. Tropical Gelatin

This tropical gelatin is easy to make with 100% juice.

Tropical Gelatin
Tropical Gelatin
Take me to the recipe.

4. Peach and Milk Gelatin

My family calls it “gelatina combinada” which is a combo of milk gelatin and fruit gelatin. This is my mom's recipe. She makes it for every gathering, and it's delicious. 

Peach and milk gelatin.
Peach and Milk Gelatin
A delicious dessert for parties and gatherings, plus, it will look amazing on your table.
Take me to the recipe.

5. Flan

Flan is creamy, silky, sweet, and very easy to make.

6. Mango Mousse

Because who can resist mango and cream?

7. Chocolate Pie

Chocolate is always a great dessert. Try our Mexican chocolate pie.

Mexican Chocolate Pie
Mexican Chocolate Pie with Cinnamon Drizzle
Take me to the recipe.
Tamales in pot by mamalatinatips.com

There you have it: More than 50 options for your next tamale party. Buen provecho!

Silvia Martinez
Latest posts by Silvia Martinez (see all)

Sharing is caring!

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

As Seen On