Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

Are tamales gluten-free? Sometimes they are. And in my opinion, the best-tasting tamales are actually gluten-free. Ingredients to look for include quinoa, brown rice, and certain types of flour. Here’s some helpful advice on how to find, make, and enjoy gluten-free tamales. 

What Are Tamales?

Before diving into the art of finding gluten-free tamales, let’s start with a description of what tamales are. Tamales are a hand-held Mexican delicacy that millions of people enjoy. One thing you should know about tamales is that they are made from masa dough and the husks from corn or bananas. 

So, are tamales gluten-free? Ingredients to look for make up the most significant factor that determines whether they are gluten-free or not. 

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

Now that you know more about tamales, it’s time to discuss whether they are gluten-free or not. The answer is yes and no. It all depends on the ingredients!

One of the ingredients to watch out for is what type of flour is used. True authentic masa harina is gluten-free, which means your tamale dough won’t contain any gluten. Corn and bananas are both gluten-free in their natural state. 

As such, you can make gluten-free tamales by using genuine masa harina for your dough and either corn or banana husks.

You have to be very careful about what kind of flour is used. Many types of flour contain gluten, so it’s so important to avoid anything other than authentic masa harina, which is gluten-free. 

The next thing to take into consideration when seeking gluten-free tamales is the filling! The dough and the shell are essential factors. However, you must also consider what the tamales will be filled with. 

Certain fillings are sure to contain gluten, while many others are gluten-free. Let’s take a look at some of the most common fillings used in tamales. We will also take a look at which types of filling are gluten-free. 

How to Avoid Tamale Filling That Contains Gluten

Ingredients to look for include fillings and sauces that don’t contain any gluten. The filling that you use when cooking tamales plays a crucial role in determining whether your tamales will be gluten-free or not. 

You can make delicious gluten-free tamales with fillings such as:

  • Shredded meat 
  • Jalapenos 
  • Cilantro 
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic
  • Sea salt 

You can complement this unique selection of ingredients with olive oil, which is also gluten-free. 

As for fillings that do contain gluten, you will want to avoidbrown rice and quinoa. Quinoa is to be avoided because there is a high chance of cross-contamination by gluten. Quinoa itself is gluten-free. However, how it is processed often leads to cross-contamination by gluten, making it an ingredient to avoid when seeking a gluten-free dining experience. 

Of course, you also have to consider the sauce that you use. Sauces like Mole Verde and salsa are typically gluten-free. Crema is another gluten-free alternative when selecting a sauce for your tamales. Keep in mind that Mole by itself usually contains gluten as it is a thick sauce. 

By opting for sauces like salsa and Mole Verde while avoiding sauces like Mole, you can successfully avoid gluten in your tamales! 

How to Shop for Gluten-Free Tamales

Shopping for gluten-free tamales is easy when you have a list of gluten-free ingredients. In some cases, you can find pre-made tamales that are gluten-free. However, the availability of such products depends on your location.

The most effective way to eat gluten-free tamales is to prepare them yourself from scratch. All you need is corn or some bananas for the husks, masa harina, and your choice of gluten-free fillings. 

You can purchase authentic masa harina online. Take a look. There are plenty of options. The best tamales are made with pure unco.

How to Order Gluten-Free Tamales at a Restaurant

While cooking tamales can be a lot of fun, it’s always nice to treat yourself to some tamales from a nice restaurant. When ordering tamales at a restaurant, you should examine the menu and see if there is any mention as to whether the tamales are gluten-free or not. 

If you don’t see anything on the menu that explains whether the tamales are gluten-free or not, you can ask your server. Remember, always be courteous when asking your server if the restaurant is willing to make gluten-free tamales. 

Some restaurants are more than happy to accommodate anyone with a gluten-free diet. However, there are a few restaurants out there that don’t serve gluten-free tamales. 

Final Tips

Here are a few final tips! When making gluten-free tamales, always research whether the ingredients could have been cross-contaminated by gluten. 

As a final tip, remember to experiment with different fillings and combinations. Don’t let a gluten-free diet feel limiting. There are plenty of gluten-free ingredients to choose from when it comes to tamales, so have fun with it!

For more ingredient substitutes and culinary principles take advantage of our wealth of knowledge in the Kitchen Ambition Cooking School.

About the author

Jessie is an on-the-go mother of two, who takes pride in introducing her kids to fresh, healthy options from local growers. She is an author and documentary-style photographer focused on natural light work with food, families and community organizations.

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