National Tamale Day – March 23rd

National Tamale Day is a celebration rich in history, culture, and flavor, highlighting the beloved dish that has been enjoyed for centuries. From the traditional masa and filling combinations to the diverse regional variations, tamales hold a special place in the hearts and kitchens of many.

This article delves into the origins of tamales, and the significance of National Tamale Day, and explores traditional recipes, health benefits, and tamale-making techniques. Join us on a journey to discover the cultural importance of tamales and how this iconic dish continues to evolve and inspire festivities across the country.

1. History of Tamales

Origins of Tamales

In 2015, Richard Lambert, the owner of Tamales-To-Go in Santa Barbara, established National Tamales Day to honor his family’s passion for tamales and his famous recipe. March 23rd was selected as the date to inspire people to savor tamales throughout the year, as it was the only food competition scheduled on that day – Melba Toast.

Evolution of Tamale-Making Techniques

Over the centuries, tamale-making techniques have evolved and been passed down through generations. From using corn husks for wrapping to modern adaptations like banana leaves, the process of making tamales has adapted to different regions and ingredients.

2. Significance of National Tamale Day

Cultural Importance of Tamales

Tamales hold significant cultural importance in Latin American and Hispanic communities, often being a staple dish during celebrations and holidays. They symbolize tradition, community, and the richness of Indigenous culinary heritage.

Community Celebrations

National Tamale Day is a time for communities to come together and celebrate the art of tamale-making. From shared recipes to collaborative cooking sessions, this day fosters a sense of unity and pride in cultural food traditions.

3. Traditional Tamale Recipes

Classic Masa and Filling Combinations

Traditional tamales often feature a corn-based masa filled with savory ingredients like shredded meats, cheese, or vegetables. Classic combinations like pork with red chili sauce or chicken with green salsa showcase the versatility of tamale fillings.

Vegan and Gluten-Free Variations

For those with dietary restrictions, there are vegan and gluten-free tamale variations available. Using plant-based fillings like beans, roasted vegetables, or vegan cheese, these tamales cater to a wider audience without compromising on flavor.

Homemade Tamale Recipes

Tamales are a delicious and traditional Mexican dish made with masa (corn dough) filled with various savory or sweet fillings, wrapped in corn husks, and steamed. Here’s a basic recipe for making homemade tamales:


For the masa:

  • 2 cups masa harina (corn flour for tamales)
  • 1 1/3 cups chicken or vegetable broth (warm)
  • 2/3 cup lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

The filling:

  • Cooked shredded chicken, beef, pork, or beans (as per your preference)
  • Salsa, cheese, olives, or any other desired fillings

For assembling:

  • Dried corn husks, soaked in warm water for about an hour until pliable


Preparing the masa:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the lard or vegetable shortening until fluffy.
  2. Gradually add masa harina, baking powder, and salt to the beaten lard, mixing well.
  3. Slowly add warm chicken or vegetable broth to the mixture, continuing to beat until the dough is smooth and fluffy. The consistency should be similar to peanut butter. If it’s too thick, add more broth; if too thin, add more masa harina.
  4. Cover the masa dough and let it rest while preparing the filling.

Preparing the filling:

  1. Prepare your desired filling ingredients. Common choices include shredded chicken mixed with salsa, shredded beef cooked with spices, refried beans mixed with cheese, or vegetables cooked with spices.
  2. Make sure your filling is cooled before assembling the tamales.

Assembling the tamales:

  1. Take a soaked corn husk and spread a thin layer of masa dough over the wide end of the husk, leaving a border around the edges.
  2. Spoon a small amount of filling down the center of the masa.
  3. Fold one side of the husk over the filling, then fold the other side over to enclose the filling completely.
  4. Fold up the bottom of the husk to seal the tamale.
  5. Repeat with the remaining masa dough and filling until all tamales are assembled.

Cooking the tamales:

  1. Arrange the assembled tamales upright in a steamer basket.
  2. Steam the tamales for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the masa is firm and easily pulls away from the husks.
  3. Allow the tamales to cool slightly before serving.


  1. Serve the tamales warm, with additional salsa, guacamole, or sour cream if desired.

Enjoy your homemade tamales! Feel free to experiment with different fillings and flavors to suit your taste preferences.

4. Regional Variations of Tamales

Mexican Tamales

Mexican tamales come in a variety of styles and flavors, from the spicy pork tamales of Oaxaca to the sweet tamales of Veracruz. Each region in Mexico puts its spin on tamales, showcasing the diversity of this beloved dish.

Central American Tamales

Central American tamales differ in ingredients and preparation methods from their Mexican counterparts. Tamales in countries like Guatemala and Honduras often feature ingredients like olives, capers, and prunes, reflecting the unique culinary traditions of each region.

5. Celebrating National Tamale Day

Tamales are not just a delicious treat but a cultural experience wrapped in a corn husk. National Tamale Day is our time to honor these tasty bundles of joy. So grab your forks and get ready to celebrate!

Tamale Festivals and Events

From coast to coast, tamale festivals bring together tamale enthusiasts, aficionados, and the curious who just can’t say no to that savory goodness. These events offer a chance to sample a variety of tamales, from traditional classics to innovative creations.

DIY Tamale-Making Parties

Why just eat tamales when you can make them yourself? Gather your friends and family for a tamale-making party where the masa flows as freely as the laughter. It’s a hands-on way to connect with the heritage of tamale-making and create memories that are as tasty as the tamales themselves.

6. Health Benefits of Tamales

Who says indulgence can’t be nutritious? Tamales pack a punch when it comes to health benefits, offering a balance of flavors and nutrients that make them a guilt-free pleasure.

Nutritional Value of Tamales

Despite their reputation for being rich and indulgent, tamales are surprisingly nutritious. Packed with protein, fiber, and essential vitamins, tamales can be a wholesome addition to your diet when enjoyed in moderation.

Healthy Ingredient Substitutions

For those looking to lighten up their tamales, fear not! With a few clever swaps and substitutions, you can create healthier versions of your favorite tamales without sacrificing flavor. Think lean meats, whole grain masa, and an extra dose of veggies for good measure.

7. Tamale-Making Techniques

Crafting the perfect tamale is an art form in itself. From choosing the right cooking method to mastering the art of wrapping and tying, these tamale-making techniques will elevate your culinary game to new heights.

Steaming vs. Boiling Tamales

The age-old debate of steaming vs. boiling tamales continues to divide enthusiasts. While both methods have their merits, steaming is often favored for its ability to impart a moist, tender texture to the masa and filling.

Wrapping and Tying Tamales

Mastering the art of wrapping and tying tamales is essential to ensuring they hold together during cooking. Whether you opt for corn husks or banana leaves, a well-tied tamale is a thing of beauty that promises a delicious reward.

8. Future of National Tamale Day

As National Tamale Day gains momentum, the future looks brighter and more flavorful than ever. With a growing awareness of tamale culture and a willingness to experiment with modern flavors and trends, the humble tamale is poised to take its well-deserved place in the culinary spotlight.

Growth of Awareness and Participation

As more people discover the joy of tamales, National Tamale Day has the potential to become a beloved tradition celebrated by food lovers of all backgrounds. Through education and outreach, the cultural significance of tamales can be shared and appreciated by all.

Incorporating Modern Flavors and Trends

While traditional tamales will always hold a special place in our hearts, there is room for innovation and creativity in the world of tamale-making. Incorporating modern flavors and trends, from fusion fillings to inventive toppings, ensures that tamales remain a dynamic and exciting culinary experience for generations to come.


As we celebrate National Tamale Day and indulge in the delicious flavors and traditions of this iconic dish, let us continue to honor its heritage and share the joy of tamale-making with future generations. Whether enjoying classic recipes or exploring modern variations, tamales bring people together in a celebration of culture, community, and culinary delight. Cheers to National Tamale Day and the enduring legacy of this cherished treat!

Image by Freepik


1. What is the history behind tamales?

2. How are tamales celebrated on National Tamale Day?

3. Are there health benefits to eating tamales?

4. What are some common mistakes to avoid when making tamales?

Urza Omar
  • Urza Omar
  • The writer has a proven track as a mentor, motivational trainer, blogger, and social activist. She is the founder of a blog intended for avid readers.

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