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Best Tamale Recipes

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Everyone loves tamales- and they are a staple of Latin American cuisine in almost every country. There are as many tamale recipe variations as there are families, and competition is fierce for who makes the best tamales in town.

In Costa Rica, we eat tamales mostly at Christmas, during Holy Week and at Easter. However, tamales are so popular that it’s not uncommon for people to eat them every day. Tamales in Costa Rica are often eaten for breakfast or with coffee as a snack. We almost always eat them with Salsa Lizano.

Around the world tamales are a very popular Christmas food. Mexico tamales can come in both red and green tamales and are made from corn masa. Venezuelans call their tamales hallacas. Puerto Ricans love them too- but call them pastelitos.

For this holiday season, I’ve rounded up the best Christmas Tamale recipes I could find. There are spicy versions and mild, sweet versions and savory, and even vegan tamales and vegetarian tamales. All you have to do is find a group of family and friends and plan your tamalada.

For complete, step by step instructions on how to make tamales, consider checking out this post- how to make Costa Rican tamales.

Without further ado- our favorite tamale recipes on the internet (in no particular order).

1. Costa Rican Tamale Recipe – Pura Vida Moms

This Costa Rican Tamale recipe (perfect tamales ticos) includes easy step-by-step instructions to make tamales de puerco from Costa Rica.

2. Tamal Mudo Recipe Costa Rica – Pura Vida Moms

This Costa Rican tamal mudo is a traditional Costa Rican Holy Week food. Made from a corn dough filled with either mashed potatoes or pureed black beans, wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled.

3. Costa Rican Tamal de Masa Recipe – Pura Vida Moms

This gluten-free Costa Rican tamal de masa dessert is slightly sweet with a unique texture. Traditionally served during Holy Week and at Christmas, the Costa Rican tamal de masa is the perfect complement to a steaming hot cup of coffee or agua dulce!

4. Vegan Tamales – Vegan Blueberry

Easy vegan tamales that taste south-of-the-border but are good for you too! Whip up this simple masa recipe, and fill with one or both of the flavorful vegan tamale fillings shared here. You can cook them either in your instant pot or in a stove-top steamer.

5. Tamales Dulces (Sweet Tamales) – In Mama Maggie’s Kitchen

Tamales Dulces (Sweet Tamales) are a favorite during the Holidays. A mixture of fruits and nuts wrapped in corn husks. They make a delicious and yummy Mexican dessert.

6. Red Pork Tamales – In Mama Maggie’s Kitchen

Red Pork Tamales (or Tamales de Puerco en Chile Rojo) is traditional Mexican food at its best. So tasty. So incredibly delicious. They are worth the effort to make.

7. Roasted Chicken and Salsa Verde Tamales – Muy Bueno Cookbook

This is the perfect stress-free rotisserie chicken and salsa verde tamales to prepare during the holidays.With Thanksgiving around the corner these tamales can also be made with leftover shredded turkey. Packaged like a small gift waiting to be unwrapped, tamales are one of Mexico’s most popular party foods.

8. Tamal Dough (Masa para Tamales) – Muy Bueno Cookbook

Fresh masa can be purchased in one of two ways, prepared and unprepared. Our family prefers to purchase unprepared masa and then we add lard, salt, broth, and baking powder, giving it the muy bueno touch.

9. Apple Cinnamon TamalesMama Latina Tips

This is a delicious and fun dessert tamale recipe striaight from Mexico. My recipe calls for pecans, they are my preference because I like their crunchiness balanced with the softness of the apples, but if you are not a fan, you can omit them.

10. Green Tamales with Chicken – Mama Latina Tips

Learn how to make Green Tamales with Chicken, easily, without a mixer and without lard. Ideal for Christmas, Candlemas or any other occasion- try them!

11. Red Chile Jackfruit Tamales – Dora’s Table

These vegan red chile jackfruit tamales are made with spicy guajillo chile seasoned jackfruit and masa, stuffed inside corn husks and steamed to perfection.

12. Potato Adobo Vegan Tamales – Whole Food Bellies

A healthier, vegan tamale stuffed with adobo spiced potatoes and peas. The perfect big batch cooking project to get the whole family involved, especially around the Holidays.

13. Jalapeño and Chihuahua Cheese Tamale – Mexican Made Meatless

Tamales are little pouches of stuffed corn dough wrapped in either corn husks or banana leaves, and cooked by steaming. In Mexico they are one of our traditional Christmas foods and I’d like to share a vegetarian version that I love to make.

14. Vegan Jackfruit Tamales (Instant Pot or Stovetop) – Where You Get Your Protein

Homemade vegan jackfruit tamales are easier to make than you may think. This step-by-step recipe will guide you through the tamale making process with ease. Steam them in the Instant-Pot or on the stovetop. Instructions for both are included!

15. Homemade Chorizo Tamales with Ground Beef – 24 Bite

Homemade Chorizo Tamales are little bundles of Mexican chorizo and ground beef encased in a seasoned masa dough then steamed in little pockets for a moist and delicious treat for special occasions or any time of year.

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About the Author

Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa! I fell in love with Latin America in my 20s, and I’m still head over heels! Here at Pura Vida Moms I celebrate what it means to be bicultural- Costa Rican recipes, bilingual parenting and family travel.

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Christa profile image

Hi- I’m Christa, and I’m on a mission to help the world fall in love with Costa Rica through food, language and travel. I’m a Latina mom, bicultural, bilingual (English/Spanish), and 100% in love with celebrating parenthood in all its forms, (even the sucky parts). I’m so happy you found the site- WELCOME! Find out more about me here.

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