Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

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During a time when we are looking for different ways to stay or become healthy, we are seeking cuisine from across the globe to achieve our goal.

Some of these foods are brand new and invented in labs for our pleasure, some are a hybrid fusion of multiple different cooking styles and flavors, and others still are dishes so traditional that they are unchanged from the first time a human made them millennia before. One of the most modern ways to become healthier is the idea of becoming gluten-free.

For some unfortunate people like those who have celiac disease, eating gluten is not an option, but for the rest of us even cutting down on gluten a bit, could help us and our bodies in the long run. The trouble is finding out what has gluten in it and what does not.

This becomes even trickier when you are trying food from across the globe, after all, unfamiliar cuisine means unfamiliar ingredients you would have to research. For example, tamales.

This incredibly popular snack and meal are wonderful, but does it have gluten in it? In this article, we will look at tamales a little and see whether there is any gluten in sight in these little dough treats.

What Are Tamales?

Before we answer whether Tamales are gluten-free or not, we should answer the question about what they actually are.

Tamales are a traditional cuisine enjoyed by the people of central and South America but are particularly close to the hearts of descendants of the Mesoamerican people.

First, field corn is dried and cooked in a slaked lime or wood ash solution before it is soaked for a few hours. This soaked corn is then washed thoroughly to produce hominy, which is then ground into corn flour.

This flour is called masa harina and is mixed with water to become a dough. The dough is then placed on a corn husk or banana leaf, at which point you can add your fillings.

Tamales can be filled with any flavor you like and many sweet and savory tamales exist, with some variations coming about only in the modern day, like Nutella tamales.

The filling is placed inside the dough and the husk or leaf is wrapped before it is steamed in a pot. Once the steaming is done, you can use the wrap as a plate or remove it completely, either way, you have yourself a beautiful, delicious treat that the tamale can be.

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

If you get the authentic mole sauce from Mexico City by that lovely lady we mentioned earlier, then you should be fine, as she may use corn flour or cornstarch to thicken the sauce, but if you get it in a place that is slightly less traditional, it is likely they use a wheat flour thickener, which is best avoided.


Original, authentic, rustic, and true tamales have absolutely no gluten and so should be no problem for a gluten-free lifestyle.

Yet, that doesn’t mean that a Mexican restaurant will stick to the original recipe that has been passed down for generations.

As such, you should still be wary before chowing down on one. On the other hand, if you trust the chef and know that everything in your tamale is traditional, there is absolutely no reason you should not enjoy Central America’s favorite food.

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