Do Tamales Have Gluten And How It Fits Into Your Diet?




Are you a fan of Mexican restaurants and enjoy tamales? Or wondering how this food fits into your gluten-free diet?

Living a gluten-free life is inconvenient, there is no denying it. It seems gluten always finds its way into the most delicious food.

Whether you make them yourself, buy them at the store or love to order them at your favorite restaurant, here we’re going to learn all about this meal and most importantly – do tamales have gluten?

What Are Tamales?

Tamales are a delicious Mexican food that is made of a few ingredients and cooked in a unique way –  inside the leaves of bananas or plantains or corn husks.

They are a complete meal with protein, carbohydrates and fat. This dish of corn dough is wrapped around meat, vegetables, or chills, then wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf. This is then steamed and cooked and usually served with salsa or hot sauce. But they can come with a variety of fillings such as meat, cheese, chili peppers, and even fruits.

tamale history

Tamales have been a long-standing Mexican traditional staple food commonly served for dinner or breakfast. They are traditionally made with cornflour and or an alternative corn-based dough.

A Little Bit of History

The tamales are served during festive times such as Christmas and birthdays. It is a beloved tradition among families with Hispanic heritage to make tamales on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This tradition has been since the early 1900s. However, the origin of tamale goes back even further.

It is believed that the original tamale was invented in Mesoamerica over 7,000 years ago. Of course, the early original was quite a bit different than how tamales are made now. Some variants include beans and meat, fungus, honey, etc. There are now a dozen variants. However, some of the oldest recipes are both the best tasting and the most complicated.

Nowadays, this dish is very popular and you can eat it anywhere in the world.

Is Masa Gluten-free?

The masa covering is why people ask if it is gluten-free or not. Masa or masa harina is a dough that comes from ground corn that has undergone nixtamalization*.

*Nixtamalization

This term means the corn is soaked in lime water, cooked, then dried and ground up to flour that is then used to make tamales or corn tortillas. It is a pre-Columbian way of softening corn and other grains through wood ashes. Nixtamalization paved the way for the boom of “tamalized” food.

Since masa comes from corn which is naturally gluten-free, masa seems like an ingredient you don’t have to worry about. Also, banana or plantain leaves, as well as filling, are gluten-free.

But…

Tamales can sometimes contain gluten, which depends on the corn flour that is used when preparing this Mexican meal. So it all depends on if the corn flour includes gluten. You are most likely to find gluten tamales in store-bought tamales. Before buying, read the ingredients list and you’ll know if there are any gluten-containing grains added. If you eat tamales in a restaurant, ask the waiter which flour the chef uses. For homemade tamales you don’t have to worry – you will surely choose gluten-free flour.

tamales served

How to Avoid Tamale Filing That Contains Gluten?

Well if you are sensitive to gluten like if you have Celiac disease, you should look for a gluten-free label on the packaging. This label means there is no more than 20ppm (parts per million) of gluten in the product.

Except for masa, be aware of the spices and seasoning blends you want to add to your tamales. You can make delicious gluten-free tamales with filings such as shredded meat, jalapenos, cilantro, tomatoes, garlic, sea salt and olive oil.

Are Sauces Used For Tamales Gluten-free?

Depending on the brand of sauce you want to serve with your tamales. Here we’ll talk about mole sauce, Mole Verde, salsa and crema.

tamale sauce
Mole sauce is traditionally not gluten-free, as it contains thickeners that contain gluten.

Mole Verde is considered safe for a gluten-free diet if used broth doesn’t contain gluten. Salsa is generally gluten-free, whether homemade or store-bought. Crema is safe for gluten-sensitive people, but it contains dairy.

By opting for sauces like salsa and Mole Verde while avoiding sauces like Mole, you can easily avoid gluten in this meal.

Gluten-free Tamales Recipe

AuthorIvanaDifficultyBeginner

Yields2 Servings
Prep Time30 minsCook Time20 minsTotal Time50 mins

 1 oz dried cornhusks (at least 25)
 2 cups masa harina
 ½ cup coconut oil
 1 tsp chili powder
 ¾ tsp sea salt
 gluten-free broth

1

Soak corn husks for several hours or overnight in a large pot of water

2

In a large food processor combine masa harina, coconut oil, salt and chili powder. Pulse for 1 to 2 minutes or beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

3

Slowly stir in ½ cup vegetable broth while pulsing with the food processor or mixing with a stand mixer. Add ¼ cup more broth, if the dough isn’t holding together or is still crumbly.

4

Lay 1 soaked corn husk on a board with the tapered end facing you. Scoop out 2 to 3 tablespoons of masa mixture and squeeze it in your hand to form an elongated ball of dough. Spread the dough out to 1/8 to ¼-inch thickness in the middle of the husk, leaving at least a ½-inch border on all sides

5

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of Refried Black Beans or another filling of choice in a line down the middle of the masa like a cigar. Drizzle Mole sauce or salsa over top (optional).

6

Bring the 2 long sides of the husks together gently so that the masa curls around the filling like a blanket and the 2 sides of the masa just touch. Spread the husks out again and the masa should stay in the middle, folded around the filling.

7

Bring up the bottom of the husk and fold over the masa. Then fold 1 long side over and then the other long side over. Finally, fold the top of the husk over and flip the tamale to keep that last flap closed.

8

Tear thin strips out of two husks to make “strings.” Tie 2 strings around each tamale to keep the husks closed. Repeat with remaining masa dough and husks.

9

Line a steamer basket with additional husks. Fill the bottom of a steamer or large pot with water and insert the steamer basket. Cover and heat until the water boils and steam forms.

10

Place the individual wrapped tamales inside the basket and cover with additional cornhusks and the lid. Steam 15 to 20 minutes.

11

Tamales are done when they’re still moist but peel away from the husks easily.

Serve warm with additional Mole sauce for dipping and with homemade guacamole and refried black beans.

Ingredients

 1 oz dried cornhusks (at least 25)
 2 cups masa harina
 ½ cup coconut oil
 1 tsp chili powder
 ¾ tsp sea salt
 gluten-free broth

Directions

1

Soak corn husks for several hours or overnight in a large pot of water

2

In a large food processor combine masa harina, coconut oil, salt and chili powder. Pulse for 1 to 2 minutes or beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

3

Slowly stir in ½ cup vegetable broth while pulsing with the food processor or mixing with a stand mixer. Add ¼ cup more broth, if the dough isn’t holding together or is still crumbly.

4

Lay 1 soaked corn husk on a board with the tapered end facing you. Scoop out 2 to 3 tablespoons of masa mixture and squeeze it in your hand to form an elongated ball of dough. Spread the dough out to 1/8 to ¼-inch thickness in the middle of the husk, leaving at least a ½-inch border on all sides

5

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of Refried Black Beans or another filling of choice in a line down the middle of the masa like a cigar. Drizzle Mole sauce or salsa over top (optional).

6

Bring the 2 long sides of the husks together gently so that the masa curls around the filling like a blanket and the 2 sides of the masa just touch. Spread the husks out again and the masa should stay in the middle, folded around the filling.

7

Bring up the bottom of the husk and fold over the masa. Then fold 1 long side over and then the other long side over. Finally, fold the top of the husk over and flip the tamale to keep that last flap closed.

8

Tear thin strips out of two husks to make “strings.” Tie 2 strings around each tamale to keep the husks closed. Repeat with remaining masa dough and husks.

9

Line a steamer basket with additional husks. Fill the bottom of a steamer or large pot with water and insert the steamer basket. Cover and heat until the water boils and steam forms.

10

Place the individual wrapped tamales inside the basket and cover with additional cornhusks and the lid. Steam 15 to 20 minutes.

11

Tamales are done when they’re still moist but peel away from the husks easily.

Serve warm with additional Mole sauce for dipping and with homemade guacamole and refried black beans.

Gluten-free Tamales Recipe

tamale with eggs11

As a final tip, remember to experiment with different fillings and combinations. Although you can’t et gluten, don’t let a gluten-free diet feel limiting. There is plenty of ingredients to choose from when it comes to tamales.

To Wrap It Up

If you have been wondering how tamales fit into your gluten-free diet, I hope you find all answers in this post. We tried to clarify some things related to this delicious meal and the most common questions we’ve heard. Enjoy tamales and try to replicate our recipe, it’s even tastier when it’s homemade.



Ivana
Ivana is always desirable for adventures so she was working in restaurants on the Croatian coast, participated in Caffe barista tournaments, led a gardening business, and more. She is a healthy food enthusiast, prefers vegetarianism, and practices yoga. In her free time, she likes to study ancient Buddhist scriptures as well as psychology.