Are Tamales Plant Based?

A holiday menu staple in most families, Tamales are a combination of Mexican and American foods traditionally made by wrapping masa dough and a filling of meat, spices, cheese and other ingredients in a corn husk or banana leaf and steaming. Let us try to find out whether you can enjoy this nutritious, delicious dish on a plant-based diet. 

So, are tamales plant based? Yes, tamales are plant based. Tamales are steamed bundles of corn dough with varied stuffing options and the main ingredient is corn dough obtained from plants. Traditional tamale recipes contain masa or maize flour.

Are Tamales Plant Based?

Below, let us discuss all you should know about plant-based tamales so that you can incorporate them well into your daily diet. 

Why Tamales Are Plant Based?

Tamales are steamed bundles of corn dough with varied stuffing options ranging from beef, chicken and meat to mushrooms, cheese and a lot more. The recipe can be easily tweaked to be a plant-based option because the main ingredient is corn dough obtained from plants. 

The animal-derived fats in tamales can be easily substituted with vegetable oils to keep it plant-based. The filling can be kept wholesome with choices like soy, beans, vegetables and herbs to maintain the protein content while making it healthy and plant-based. 

What Are The Main Ingredients In Tamales?

Traditional tamale recipe contains masa or maize flour along with other ingredients like lard and chicken broth. However, plant-based tamales can be made with animal fat substitutes like vegetable oil for the right texture and taste. 

Tamales generally have a filling of meat, chicken or beef along with other ingredients. To make plant-based tamales, these animal products are replaced with vegetables, beans and other wholesome ingredients. 

Tamales Nutrition

Tamales are one of the healthiest meal options and deliver some essential nutrients. Traditional tamales are high in sodium and fat yet provide minerals and vitamins that boost health. The inclusion of lard in this dish increases the fat content. Substituting animal products makes the food healthier and suitable for a plant-based diet. 

Here is the nutritional info of one serving of plant-based tamales:

  • Calories: 124
  • Carbohydrates: 8.6g
  • Fiber: 0.8g
  • Protein: 1.5g
  • Fat: 9.4g

Traditional tamales have a high protein and fiber content for daily nutrition requirements. When substituted with plant-based ingredients high in fiber and protein, tamales make an excellent addition to your daily diet. 

Being a wholesome food, tamales deliver essential nutrients including iron, zinc, niacin, calcium, potassium and vitamin C. While the original recipe is high in sodium content, you can always look for ingredients low in sodium to balance the nutrient profile. 


So, tamales are a great option to add to a plant-based diet for several health benefits. However, you should watch your portion and use nutrient-rich ingredients for a balanced meal. Look for low sodium foods to improve the nutritional benefits further. It is best to make your own tamales with ingredients that fit your plant-based diet.