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What's Inside A Tamale?

What is inside a tamale? Tamales can have just about anything that is edible tucked into them. They can be like an Easter egg, you might not know what to expect, but for sure, you’ll find a mouthwatering surprise.  Sometimes you’ll find a savory filling, another time you’ll find a dollop of sweetness.

The Mexican tradition of tamales is to fill masa or corn dough with a savory filling. If you enjoy Mexican food then you know that it’s trademark is chile, hot and spicy. With so many kinds of chiles available the challenge tends to be more in how to balance the perfect amount of chile into a dish so that it will enhance it and not overpower it. Some people say “The hotter the better” But those folks just need to have the salsa sitting in front of them.Traditional and proven spices and herbs like cumin, cilantro, garlic and onion powder, oregano, chipotle combined with chiles or chili powder, contribute to the delicious flavors that brand Mexican food. Armed with these ingredients, fillings are created, of either red or green sauces. These then will simmer in meat or veggies. Tamales con queso, will have some of these authentic flavors to accompany the cheese in your tamal. Sometimes, those Mexican spices will enhance beans that are used to fill tamales. 

For those that crave sweets, there is also a wide variety of tamales dulces. When you cut into a delicious sweet tamal, you might not see any filling, why is that? Some sweet tamales have been prepared simply by enhancing the masa with a type of sugar called piloncillo, cinnamon and raisins. These are the sweet tamales my own ama made, served up with coffee and or champurrado .  These might be considered the “original” kind of sweet tamales. However, most tamaleras will create a wide array of delicious fruit mixtures for tamal fillings. As I write this post, I have in my freezer tamales that were generously given to me, made with a strawberry filling. I haven’t tasted them, and honestly, I am a little hesitant, but eventually I will go into uncharted waters and pull out these fruit-filled tamales and try them. In the past few years, I’ve also appreciated the rich, sweet Creamy Pumpkin tamales from Texas Lone Star Tamales. 

Authentic tamales have a confusing trait about them, which is that they tend to all look alike. Tamaleras have their own way of “classifying” them. My ama tied her savory tamales at each end and her sweet tamales she folded. Even with that said, sometimes you will have to ask “What’s in this tamal?” It will prepare your taste buds as you bite into a tamal with either sweet or savory “insides”. 

En Conclusíon
What’s in a tamale? A savory filling cooked in Mexican tradition form either mild or hot tamale spicy! You can also find inside a tamale a sweet comforting and delicious filling. There’s nothing better than what’s inside a good tamale,  go ahead and try one today.

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