For many Mexican families, a tamalada (the Spanish word for “tamale party”) is synonymous with the holidays. Multiple generations gather around the kitchen to make a ridiculous amount of tamales, oftentimes in the hundreds. The tamales are shared and enjoyed with family and friends throughout the season, sometimes given as a gift (I'd happily accept!). Traditional rituals include the Grandma’s prayer to the tamales and Spanish guitar music in the background, to name a few.
To me, a tamalada is an excellent excuse to gather your crew for a memorable dinner party. The whole point of a tamalada is to enjoy the company of your friends while you prepare the tamales together. But, if hundreds of tamales seem a little much, rest assured you can host a simple tamale party on a more doable scale. I’m talking about a dinner party for 4-8 people to make 18-36 tamales. And you don’t have to be a tamale expert, and it doesn’t have to take all day. How’s how…
First of all… yes, tamales take time but they’re so worth it, especially if you make it a team effort. As a host, I try to prep as much as possible beforehand so I can thoroughly enjoy my time with my guests. That said, your main duty is to get all the ingredients and prep, baby, prep. You can even start the day before with the filling. For a more traditional pork tamales, this would mean simmering the pork with garlic and onions, and making a homemade red chili sauce. About an hour before your guests arrive, start soaking the corn husks and making the masa.
If you’re not sure where to get the ingredients or exactly how to go about this, lean on Global Grub for a little help! The DIY Tamale Kit makes it easier for you to make authentic tamales from scratch. The Tamale Kit features New Mexico, Ancho, and Pasilla chiles, plus spices, that you use to make a savory traditional red chile sauce. There’s also masa, corn husks, and complete instructions (including a video tutorial), so you only have to purchase a few fresh ingredients (like meat) and you’re good to go. Each kit makes 18 tamales, so grab a DIY Tamale Kit or two for your next gathering.
Have your guests arrive 3 hours before you want to stuff your faces. That time is padded for all the socializing that’s to come. Set the mood as they arrive with some tunes from Pandora. Alejandro Fernandez is a great romantic Mexican singer - let’s call him the Josh Groban of your tamale party. If you’re looking for something a little more modern, the Mexican band Reik is an upbeat boy band akin to Justin Timberlake.
Now, get your guests a cold and refreshing Mexican brew and assign them a duty in the tamale assembly line. The jobs include:
While the tamales are steaming, make sure you guests have a beverage in hand and some munchies within reach. Now is a good time to break out the blender for some icy margaritas. My absolute favorite way to get my fruit serving for the day is from this genius recipe for Whole Fruit Margaritas. For non-alcoholic Mexican-themed drinks, serve a sweet, fruity jamaica or creamy, cinnamon sprinkled horchata. You can also make your own aguas frescas with a simple combination fresh fruit, water, sugar, and ice. For some simple munchies, create a sexy salsa bar with chips, guacamole and of course, a plethora of salsas (that can double as your extra tamale toppings).
If you want to be the Hostess with the Mostest, let’s talk about more food. For the tamales, you can include a spread of other filling ingredients like cheese, olives, and just about any vegetable, to mix things up and cater to your vegetarian guests. Check out some other tamale filling ideas here. You can also have a spread of extra toppings, like cilantro, sour cream, and the aforementioned guacamole and salsas. Lastly, while tamales are traditionally eaten by themselves, some simple side dish ideas include Mexican rice, refried or black beans and a simple tomato/onion salad. Remember to keep it simple because the tamales deserve their Super Star status.
And there you have it! It’s time to plan your simple tamale party and create some new traditions amongst your family and friends this holiday season. Happy eating, or as they say in Mexico, provecho!