Tamales are my today’s topic. Actually, my main topic is discovering if tamales are gluten-free or not, and I’ll soon explain why.

I’m sure many of you love tamales. I personally love preparing them. Although it takes a lot of time, I admit. But, I like experimenting, you know that already.

Are Tamales Gluten-Free


I also have a friend that’s just crazy about tamales. She absolutely adores eating them. The thing is, she has recently discovered she’s gluten sensitive, so she was forced to begin a gluten-free diet, and now she pays a lot of attention to the food.

She knows that I try as much as I can to avoid gluten in my family’s food. None of us has problems with gluten, but I know what the benefits of not consuming it often are.

Knowing how much I like reading about and investigating new foods, she approached me to inquire if eating tamales would be risky given her current circumstances.

Her question was as simple as whether or not tamales contain gluten. Obviously, I was delighted to be of assistance, and I promptly began my investigation.

Now that I’ve finished it, I want to say how grateful I am for the opportunity to help her and so many others like you. Also, I’m relieved that my understanding of the topic has grown substantially.

So, I will list in brief some of the information which I think is useful and answer the question: are tamales gluten-free or not?

What Are Tamales?


Tamale is a dish that originates from today’s Central America. Some sources say it dates from the times of the Olmec, Toltec, Maya, and Aztec civilizations, which is 8000 – 5000 BC.

They are still widespread across Central and South America, but also in North America and Europe. It is food that makes a great breakfast or a dinner and offers great possibilities for experimenting with different fillings, besides the most common ones like cheese, meat, fruit, or vegetables.

The preparation of tamales takes some time. They are made of masa (dough, usually corn starch), which is steamed in corn husk, banana, or plantain leaves wrappers. Luckily, these days both corn masa and corn husk can be bought in almost every grocery store.

Tamales Variations



There are many variations of tamales that differ in size, shape, and fillings.

Tamales can have various fillings, such as:

Let’s talk about gluten now.

What Is Gluten And Where Can Gluten Be Found?

Gluten is a word used to name the proteins helping the food to maintain its shape, found in different types of wheat and its varieties, but also in rye, barley, and triticale, which is a cross between wheat and rye.

Gluten is found in various food types.

Foods Where Wheat, Barley, Rye, And Triticale Are Commonly Found



Wheat is common in:

Rye is common in:

Barley is common in:

Triticale is common in:

You should be careful; gluten is also found in other foods where you wouldn’t expect it, such as energy bars, candy, candy bars, soy sauce, cheesecake filling, and many others.

Gluten Sensitivity

Health or digestive problems caused by eating foods that contain gluten are very common, especially in recent times. The number of people that have some sort of gluten-related issues is increasing by the day.

Three medical conditions can cause those problems, and those are:

If you have some sort of intolerance to gluten, you should always read the label and the ingredient list. It is also important to remember that products labeled wheat-free are not necessarily gluten-free because they may contain other foods that contain gluten.

What Does Gluten-Free Mean?



Gluten-free means foods that don’t contain gluten or any traces of it.

Gluten-Free Diet And Its Benefits

A gluten-free diet is a way of nutrition that strictly forbids gluten.

Although gluten proteins don’t have a very high nutritional value, and the grains that contain gluten aren’t essential to our diet, it’s necessary to select your food and the gluten-free replacements properly so that you wouldn’t suffer from nutritional deficiencies.

The best advice for all of you who need to be on this diet is to get some dietary education.

Some of the noted benefits of this diet are:

What Is Masa Harina, And Does It Contain Gluten?

Masa Harina is a nice ground corn flour. It is made from dried corn, which is cooked in water with slaked lime, hulled, ground up, and dried again.

It contains only ground corn, and it is gluten-free. When it’s mixed with water or oil, it forms a dough called “masa” used for making tamales and tortillas.

If you want your Masa Harina to be gluten-free, you have to be sure you are buying real Masa Harina and not one blended with other flours that do contain gluten, so always check the package before buying.

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?



Tamales are gluten-free if they are made of real masa harina dough that doesn’t contain any blends which may contain gluten and fillings which are also gluten-free.

What about the sauces?

Does anyone eat tamales without a good, delicious sauce? I highly doubt it. One of my readers reminded me to pay attention to this topic as well (thank you again, Lori) because you’ll rarely get tamales with no sauce, and even though tamales are gluten-free, the same might not be true for the dip.

So, what are the most common sauces, served with tamales?

Here’s the list:

Mole sauce

Mole Verde






So, the conclusion is that tamales can be gluten-free, but they can also contain gluten.

The most foolproof method is to whip them up in the kitchen using gluten-free components that you’ve personally selected. It’s hardly much of a piece of advise, I know, seeing as how they’re not exactly simple to produce and necessitate a significant investment of time.

However, if you’re gluten-free, you probably won’t eat the tamales you find in stores or restaurants.

Thankfully, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has defined the term “gluten-free” for use in the labeling of foods. That means that all foods labeled gluten-free after August 5, 2014, must meet the requirements of the agency’s gluten-free labeling rule.

It’s encouraging to be able to buy our food with more confidence when we see the label “gluten-free.” Betty was so thankful after she heard all the information that I had gathered.

I hope you will find them useful as well and enjoy your gluten-free tamales!

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