We celebrate National Tamale Day on March 23 every year. It is a day where all kinds of tamales are appreciated — from the meat-filled ones to the cheesy ones. Tamales are a traditional Latin American dish that is made using corn dough, called masa, and a variety of fillings. The corn dough forms the outer pocket and the fillings make up the soft bit inside the pocket. Each tamale is wrapped in a corn husk or a banana leaf and is usually steamed or boiled before eating. One bite into it, and you can taste the pillowy taste of corn mingling with the delicious fillings.
History of National Tamale Day
Tamales originated in 7000 B.C. They were first introduced in the Aztec empire. All those years ago, corn had not been discovered yet. The outer layer was called ‘teocintle,’ the precursor to modern maize. The ‘teocintle’ was popular for its sweet-tasting stalks. Once it was pollinated by the natives, the sweet and juicy corn was discovered inside. This was not the same as the modern corn we consume today.
In 1612, Captain John Smith claimed that tamales were made by Native Americans belonging to Virginia. He went on to talk about the process he had seen of making tamales, “Their corne they rost in the eare greene, and bruising it in a mortar of wood with a Polt; lappe it in rowles in the leaves of their corne, and so boyle it for a daintie.”
In the 1800s, the Mexican bourgeoisie began to associate the word “tamal” with poverty. This food dish was looked down upon by the upper classes due to its wide availability and for being a reason for ill health in peasants. The Mexican revolution caused an overturn of judgment when the bourgeoisie class sentiments were wiped out and the tamal was reborn as the symbol of Mexican cuisine.
In the 19th century, tamales traveled across the border into the U.S. and became very popular in America. The big Spanish-speaking communities in places like California, Texas, and Arizona had put up tamale stands everywhere. Tamales were all over the streets of Los Angeles to the point that the government had to fight to remove their spread. The locals had already fallen in love with this delightful dish however and such attacks on Mexican culture and cuisine were not tolerated.
National Tamale Day timeline
Tamales are first introduced in the Aztec empire with the outer layer made using ‘teocintles.’
Captain John Smith claims that tamales are made by Native Americans in Virginia.
The Mexican bourgeoisie begins to associate the word ‘tamale’ with poverty.
They become popular in Spanish-speaking communities in California, Texas, and Arizona.
National Tamale Day FAQs
Are tamales good for you?
Tamales have healthy micronutrients, including vitamin A, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. Corn also provides fiber.
How long do tamales steam for?
Tamales are usually steamed for 20 to 30 minutes. Steaming is necessary for them to turn soft.
How do I know when my tamales are ready?
The tamales are done when the corn dough around the filling feels firm to touch. You see no more remaining bits of uncooked dough.
National Tamale Day Activities
Make your own tamale
Tamales might take some time to make but the result of your effort will be great. Try finding an easy-to-make tamale recipe on the internet.
Visit a place that sells tamales
If you want to try authentic tamales, visit any of the local tamale stalls put up by Latin American communities in your area. There are a variety of fillings so choose the one you like the best.
Post on social media
Don’t forget to post about this delicious day on social media. Make your followers drool with a picture of your tamale!
5 Facts About Tamales
The Great Tamale Incident
Former President Gerald Ford started eating tamales without even removing the husks.
Tamales all day every day
In Mexico, tamales are served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner..
Tamale means ‘wrapped’
The word comes from the ancient Aztec word ‘tamalli,’ which means ‘wrapped.’
Corn is the basic ingredient
All tamales are made with corn dough and wrapped in an outer layer then they’re steamed.
Tamales can be desserts too
That is when they are cooked with sugar and have raisins, jam, or fruit inside.
Why We Love National Tamale Day
Do we need a reason to celebrate tamales when they are so delicious? They are simply drool-worthy.
Food brings us closer
Food has the ability to surpass borders and boundaries. It brings us all together in a shared appreciation.
It is an important cultural heritage.
Tamales are a sign of Latin American heritage. There is also evidence about their origins as far back as the Aztec empire.
National Tamale Day dates