Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

Tamales might be gluten-free. It depends, read on for more information.

About Tamales

What Are Tamales?

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

Tamales are a Mexican dish. They contain meats, beans, or cheese inside of a corn-based dough. They are often wrapped and cooked in banana leaves or corn husks, which are removed before they are eaten. The tamales are made with two primary elements. The dough is called masa, and it is spread on the corn husk. You don’t eat the corn husk, as it is used to wrap the dough and filling. The second element is the filling, which can be meat, beans, and/or cheese. 

History of Tamales

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

The word tamale comes from the Aztecs, and it means steamed cornmeal dough. Tamales existed as far back as 8000 BC to 5000 BC. The Maya had a hieroglyph for the tamale, showing that it was an important part of pre-Hispanic civilizations. Different regions and cultures had their own variations on the tamales. The Maya filled them with roasted squash seeds, beans, turkey, deer, and fish. The Axtecs were known to use plants, turkey, frog, salamander, fruit, squash, and beans. 

Today, they are still very popular in Mexico, Central, and South America. They are made with different fillings, and they are wrapped in corn husks or leaves from banana trees or avocado trees. In Mexico, they are eaten every day, but they are even more widely eaten during festivals. 

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

Tamales can be gluten-free, but you need to check the ingredients. Corn husks and plantain leaves from the banana tree are naturally gluten free. The filling can be gluten-free, but it depends on the ingredients. When you buy tamales at the store, you can check the ingredients. The difference is in the corn flour that they use to make them. 

Masa harina is ground corn flour, which is naturally gluten-free. If you eat tamales made with pure masa harina, they will be gluten-free. However, some tamales are made with corn flour that does contain gluten, and you usually find them as packaged food. 

Often, homemade tamales are gluten-free because they are made with masa harina. If you make tamales at home, make sure that you use gluten-free ingredients to create a gluten-free dish. If you use masa, then make sure that you choose fillings that do not contain gluten, such as meat, chili, and vegetables. You also need to make sure that any spices, sauces, or seasonings are gluten-free. 

Interesting Facts About Tamales

1. Tamales have been eaten since more than 9,000 years ago.

2. The Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas enjoyed tamales.

3. Tamales were made by the Atecs during the festival Atamalcualiztli to celebrate the birth of the corn god and show respect for the fire god.

4. National Tamale Day is celebrated on March 23 each year.

5. Tamales didn’t make their way to America until the beginning of the 20th century.

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

6. During “The Great Tamale Incident,” President Ford ate a tamale without removing the husk.

7. There are thousands of types of tamales available today, including tamales with rice, beans, potatoes, kale, jalapenos, chocolate, and more.

8. The Aztecs served tamales to the Spanish explorer, Hernan Cortes. In 1612, Captain John Smith said that they were made by Native Americans in Virginia. 

9. Tamale is actually pronounced with a silent -e at the end.

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Most Popular Tamales

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

There are many different types of tamales, but here are some of the most popular.

1. Tamales verdes: they are a mix of tomatillo and green chilies along with chicken or pork wrapped in corn or plantain. 

2. Tamales de mole: usually made with chicken.

3. Tamales de rajas: chilies mixed with melted cheese, and spicy. This type is popular in Central Mexico,

4. Tamales de frijol: pureed beans and cheese. They are often found in Puebla and Morelos.

5. Tamales oaxaquenos: This is a generic term for tamales wrapped in plantain leaves with traditional fillings.

6. Tamales de elote: corn tamales that are used between spicy, savory, and sweet dessert tamales.

7. Tamales dulces: sweet tamales made with pink masa and raisins, and they may contain chocolate, pineapple, berries, and other sweet fillings.

8. Vaporcitos: Found in the Yucatan peninsula, they are made with pork and chicken and a spicy mix called recao. They are often topped with habanero sauce. 

How to Make Tamales

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

It takes a little bit of time to make tamales, but anyone can do it. Take a look at the following recipe.


  • 24 dried corn husks
  • 1 broiler chicken
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 crushed garlic clove


  • 1 cup shortening
  • 3 cups masa haryana


  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cans sliced ripe olives, drained
  1. Soak the corn husks in a large bowl covered with cold water for two hours.
  2. Cook the chicken in a large stockpot with water, onion, salt, and garlic. Bring to a boil and simmer until chicken is tender (45 minutes to an hour).
  3. Remove the chicken from the broth and let it cool. Pour the broth in a bowl and skim fat from top.
  4. Make the dough in a large bowl. Beat the shortening for one minute. Measure two cups of broth and beat in the masa harina. Continue until the dough has even textures.
  5. Heat the oil over medium heat and stir in flour. Brown the flour and stir in seasonings and shredded chicken along with four cups of broth. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  6. Assemble the tamales.
  7. Steam the tamales for 45 minutes.
  8. Enjoy! 

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Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

Chicken tamale:

  • Chicken
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Dried chile pepper
  • Salt
  • Masa harina
  • Chicken broth
  • Baking powder
  • Larrd
  • Sour cream

Nutritional Information

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

Chicken tamale:

Serving size: 1 tamale (128g)
Calories 280Calories from Fat 166
% Daily Value
Total Fat 18g28%
  Saturated Fat 7.2g36%
  Trans Fat 0.1g
Cholesterol 50mg17%
Sodium 575mg24%
Potassium 184mg5%
Total Carbohydrates 17g6%
  Dietary Fiber 1.5g6%
  Sugars 1.7g
Protein 11g
Vitamin A3%
Vitamin C2%


Calories in Chicken Tamale |

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With 350 Varieties, Tamales Are as Diverse as They Are Delectable |

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