Different Styles of Authentic Tamales by Region
If you’re like most Americans throughout the American West, then you’ve got a special place in your heart for tamales. Whether it’s a favorite place to stop when you are in town or the memory of staying up all night with grandma to make 16-dozen tamales for a family get together, there’s something special about those delicious little packages of cornmeal, meat, and spices.
At Texas Lone Star Tamales, we’re another link in the chain of authentic Texas tamales. Our pork tamales are to die for, our chicken tamales open doors for folks who don’t eat red meat, our vegan tamales go even one step further, and of course, we’ve got classic beef tamales that will take you back to those special memories we were just teasing you with above. However, the tradition of Texas tamales runs deeper than our business and goes even deeper into the geography and history of Mexico, South, and Central America. So in today’s blog, we’re going to examine some truly authentic tamales as represented by the various styles you can find throughout Latin-America.
If you’re looking to purchase some tasty tamales for yourself, then visit us online and shop our wide selection of authentic style tamales today.
Mexican Food By Region
For many Americans, so many different styles of the same type of food might seem like overkill. However, for those of us who grew up in the American Southwest, understanding Mexican food has always meant understanding that each region of Mexico has a unique and rich culinary tradition. It’s a lot like eating barbecue in the states — each area has its own unique spins, takes, seasonings, styles, and flare, even though the core ingredients are largely the same.
Authentic Chiapas Tamales
Bordering Guatemala and the Pacific ocean, Chiapas is the southernmost state in Mexico and still has many connections to traditions and foods of the past. While the tantalizing tamales of Chiapas are widely sought after, they are some of the most labor-intensive tamales one can make.
Tamales de chipilín are made with the chipilín plant, a type of legume that is native to Central America. These leafy green tamales are often also made with chicken or beef.
Authentic Oaxaca Tamales
Our next stop for authentic Mexican tamales takes us West along the coast and slightly North into the state of Oaxaca. Oaxaca is famous all the world over for its iconic mole negro, a dark sauce made from peppers, spices, chocolate, and the hoja santa plant.
Cornmeal tamales with beef, pork, or chicken are smothered in the decadent and feisty mole negro sauce and served in bunches here. However, if you’re looking for something off the beaten tamale path, Oaxaca is a great place to find it as iguana meat tamales are also relatively standard fair in this part of Mexico.
Authentic Sinaloa Tamales
Moving right along. Our next deep dive into authentic tamales from Mexico leads us to the Mexican state of Sinaloa, just South of Sonora and Chihuahua. Given its position along the mouth of the Gulf of California, Sinoloa has always had a strong tradition of “Baja style” food with an emphasis on bright, creamy sauces and fresh seafood. As such, when in Sinaloa, one should always look to take advantage of proximity to the ocean and enjoy their tamales bare-bones made from traditional ingredients and fresh-caught shrimp.
Although the protruding shrimp beards from the tamales may be off-putting to some, we assure you that these authentic tamales are amazing.
Authentic Michoacan Tamales
Immediately due-East of Mexico City and just South of Jalisco is the state of Michoacán. Michoacán tamales are called corundas. These tiny, triangular tamales are traditionally filled with cheese and steamed vegetables and topped with a spicy red sauce. Seasoned with the local tequesquite — a type of mineral salt — these authentic Michoacán tamales represent some of the best examples of traditional Michoacán cooking.
Authentic Yucatan Tamales
The state of Yucatan is a hotbed of cultural exchange and diffusion, even centuries after the Spanish colonization of modern-day Mexico. That’s because the Yucatan Peninsula was the heart of the Mayan Empire and is still a destination-location for some of the world’s best Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá, Ek Balam, and Uxmal. It’s a place where a vibrant and ancient culture refuses to ever quite be snuffed out. In some small towns and rural areas, native Mexicans need interpreters to help understand locals who speak a hybrid language of Spanish and Mayan languages.
The food has stuck around as well, but modern examples have snuck in, too. As such, you’ll find a wide array of tamale styles in Yucatan ranging from small to large, and relatively plain to spicy. As a matter of fact, Yucatan might just be the home of the spiciest traditional tamale in Mexico. These authentic tamales are made with the incredibly hot brazo de reina habanero chili.
Authentic Guanajuato Tamales
Just northwest of Mexico City sits the central Mexican state of Guanajuato. Guanajuato's most famous tamale is specially made for the Did de los Muertos celebration every October. Unlike other authentic-style Mexican tamales, the tamales made in Guanajuato are made with blue corn, giving them a slightly, cold, and even ashen appearance. It’s no wonder that these are the tamales made to honor and “feed” dead ancestors.
Every October, large batches of these tamales de muerto — or tamales of the dead — are made and laid out on the traditional family offering altars.
Authentic Huasteca Tamales
The Huasteca region of Mexico isn’t as clearly defined as the previous locations we have discussed. It’s actually more of a cultural sub-region northeast of Mexico City and exists inside of the states of Hidalgo, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Pueblo, and Querétaro. The tamales made here are unlike anything else you will find anywhere in Mexico and own the title of the world’s largest tamales.
Typically in the range of eight to ten feet long and weighing up to 100 pounds, these tamales are cooked in large stone hearths and are intended to be enjoyed at large community events and gatherings.
Authentic Veracruz Tamales
Just a hop, a skip, and a jump away is the state of Veracruz. Sitting on the southernmost point of the Gulf of Mexico, Veracruz offers some of the best tamales that can be found anywhere in Mexico. The people of Veracruz prefer a sweeter tamale made with ripe corn kernels that, unlike most other forms of authentic Mexican tamale, have not been soaked in lime juice. This allows the naturally sweet flavor of the corn to come through in these soft, tender tamales.
However, don’t be fooled when we say, “sweet.” While the natural sweetness of the corn can come through, the people of Veracruz love to spice their tamales up with chilies and fiery spices.
Mexico City’s Tamale Twist
Like any urban environment, Mexico City is a place where tradition, culture, innovation, and creativity are colliding with one, another day in and day out. This has led to the creation of a tamale trend that, although highly non-traditional, has become a staple on the streets of Mexico city anyway. The guajolota — a tamale wrapped in either the husk of a loaf of bread or in between two slices of white bread — has taken the traditional tamale and made it mobile.
While this caloric colossus isn’t the right choice for every situation, many people favor it for its heartiness and affordability.
Get Your Authentic Authentic Texas Tamales Today
Here at Texas Lone Star Tamales, we have our own way of making authentic Texas-style tamales that are sure to please, but we have learned a lot from the traditional methods of tamale-making throughout Mexico. We invite you to discover your favorite style of Lone Star Texas Tamale today by shopping online for chicken tamales, pork tamales, veggie tamales, beef tamales, and pre-made tamales party packs and gift sets.