Tamales are a traditional Mesoamerican food. They tend to be made of a corn dough, known as masa, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed.
They are also sometimes wrapped in a corn husk. You can get savory or sweet tamales and there are a huge number of variations available.
Tamales are believed to have existed since around 8000 BC. The indigenous people of Mexico and Guatemala are credited with inventing them and spreading their knowledge across the rest of Latin America.
Ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations loved tamales as they were a portable food source for hunting trips. They were ideal for long journeys and were used by the army due to this.
They have long held a spiritual significance too. The Aztec, Mayan, Tolteca, and Olmeca peoples thought of themselves as people of the corn. They believed that corn was a food provided to them by the gods.
As such, tamales have played a large role in religious festivals and ceremonies.
There are many varieties of tamales nowadays. I have rounded up 25 of my favorite sweet tamales recipes for you to try this summer. I have everything from fruity flavors to rich and indulgent chocolate tamales.
These tamales are classically flavored with cinnamon and raisins. I suggest using a combination of black and golden raisins to give the tamales some variety.
The raisins will need to be placed in a bowl of hot water for 10-15 minutes to rehydrate before being added to the tamale dough.
These tamales are traditionally served during festive periods and are colored to give them a holiday feel. The color works best when you use a commercial chemical food coloring.
If you prefer to use natural dyes, beetroot and hibiscus juices do work. Be aware that these are likely to result in a more purple color.
These tamales are perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth. They are ideal served with vanilla ice cream. The creaminess perfectly offsets the sweet hit of the honey.
The tamales have a little chipotle chili powder incorporated to give them a little kick.
These tamales incorporate pineapple jam into the traditional tamale recipe. This gives them an extra kick of fruity sweetness without being overpowering.
The flavorings are mixed into the masa paste and portioned out. Each corn husk encases approximately ⅓ cup flavored masa dough before being steamed.
Strawberry tamales are the perfect summer dessert. You can make them with chopped fresh strawberries stirred through the masa dough.
Alternatively, you can juice them and replace some of the liquid in the dough with the sweet pink liquid. These tamales will have a pink color and be super sweet and delicious.
Dulce de leche literally translates from Argentinian to “sweet from milk”. It is a form of thickened, sweetened milk similar to caramel. The incorporation of dulce de leche into your tamales makes them sweet and very rich.
Mix one can of dulce de leche into the masa dough before encasing them in corn husks and steaming.
This recipe for blueberry tamales comes from Key Ingredients. They are made using fresh blueberries, although frozen ones would work too.
You need to make a coulis from the fruits, butter, sugar, cinnamon, and raisins. The blueberries should still retain some of their shape. The coulis is then combined with the masa dough before steaming.
These tamales are also known as tamales de elote. They are perfect at any time of the day, even as a breakfast dish.
They are delicious served with Queso fresco, a type of Mexican cheese. If you want to serve them as a dessert, top with condensed milk or cajeta.
These are traditionally served in Mexico as part of the Three Kings Day festivities. This recipe uses unsweetened shredded coconut, the seeds from a vanilla bean, and coconut milk as the flavorings.
It also calls for some diced dried pineapple and raisins that have been soaked to rehydrate in dark rum.
There is no better combination of flavors than apple and cinnamon. These are ideal as a winter’s dessert with the flavors reminiscent of Christmas.
They are very warm and filling. Use brown sugar to sweeten the masa dough and enhance the caramel notes of the tamale.
Blueberry cardamom may sound like a strange combination, but the flavors meld together in an exquisite manner.
The tamales themselves are just sweet, but not heavily flavored. This allows them to provide the perfect backdrop for the blueberry cardamom sauce to steal the show.
These tamales are super simple to make and can be completed in under an hour. The recipe only calls for 5 ingredients, most of which are likely to be in your store cupboard.
These tamales are not steamed, instead, they are placed in the refrigerator until the filling has set.
These tamales are also known as tamales Canarios. They take an hour and a half to make and call for a whopping 15 ingredients.
The comprehensive list of supplies includes 5 eggs, 3 egg yolks, brandy, and pecans. You know these are going to be rich and indulgent.
The masa dough for these tamales is infused with lime zest so that the citrusy flavor permeates the entire dish. Ensure you purchase unwaxed limes for this recipe.
This recipe is also vegan, meaning no one has to miss out on the fun.
Peach and blackberry may not be the most common combination of flavors, but trust us, it’s delicious. Once you try it you will never go back!
The filling is flavored with cinnamon, black pepper, almond, and anise seeds. It is sweetened with a combination of white and brown sugar to bring more layers of flavor.
This recipe calls for mango nectar, a non-carbonated drink made from the pulp of mango fruits. This is mixed into the masa dough, which is then folded around a filling of chopped mango.
For an extra mango hit, this recipe includes instructions for making a mango topping flavored with orange liqueur and cinnamon.
Peach cobbler is a classic American dessert that works brilliantly as a tamale flavoring. To make these tamales you will need a can of sliced peaches in heavy syrup. They are flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla.
These tamales use white rice as a replacement for the masa. They are filled with a blueberry cream cheese that has been sweetened with confectioner’s sugar. Steam for an hour and a half before serving.
This vegan tamale recipe is fantastic and means that no one has to miss out on the fun. It calls for a combination of strawberry jam and fresh strawberries, chopped into small chunks.
They take around 2 hours to make and come out at about 180 calories apiece. There are no specialist ingredients required, just dairy-free alternatives to butter and milk.
These tamales are filled with a combination of finely chopped pecans, Pepper Jack cheese, cream cheese, and pomegranate seeds. They are served with an evaporated milk sauce flavored with pomegranate juice and brown sugar.
Pumpkin spice is ubiquitous with fall months. You can get pretty much everything flavored with pumpkin spice now, so it seemed remiss to not include a recipe for pumpkin spice tamales.
They are moderately sweet and are perfect served alongside a cup of coffee. I love the incorporation of chopped pecans for a little extra richness.
Who doesn’t love snacks flavored with chocolate and caramel? It’s a match made in heaven sure to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.
This recipe requires you to make a rich chocolate ganache flavored lightly with chili powder, cinnamon, and almond. This is then encased in the masa dough for a melt-in-the-middle result.
Cream cheese is the perfect accompaniment to sweet guava in this fantastic tamale variation. You will need to source some ate de guayaba, or guava paste, to make this recipe.
This is essentially a thick and dense guava jam, so thick that you slice it instead of spooning.
These sweet tamales combine 2 of the best flavors known to man, sweet bananas and rich dulce de leche. They are super easy to make and the perfect thing to cook with your kids.
Serve these with lashings of cream and a dusting of cinnamon to finish off.
Chocolate and cherries are a traditional combination that works beautifully inside of a tamale. The semi-sweet chocolate flavor married with the slight tartness of black cherries is like a Mexican take on a black forest gateau.