Tamales: an icon of Mexican cuisine
Tamales are served during candlemas - Photo: File Photo/EL UNIVERSAL

Tamales: an icon of Mexican cuisine

Newsroom/EL UNIVERSAL in English
Mexico City
Aline Nicolas, Arisbeth Araujo
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On January 6, Mexican families get together to eat rosca and whoever gets Baby Jesus inside their bread, has to buy tamales on February 2

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According to the National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH), Candlemas is the end of the holiday period in Mexico and the perfect time to enjoy tamales!

One of Mexico's most famous traditions includes eating tamales during Candlemas. On January 6, Mexican families get together to eat rosca and whoever gets the Baby Jesus inside their bread has to buy tamales on February 2 to celebrate Jesus, as you are now his godparent.

And even if Candlemas is a Catholic celebration, in Mexico the celebration is combined with some Pre-Hispanic rites.

During Candlemas, people take their Baby Jesus to church so they are blessed and later, they eat tamales to celebrate.

Carmen Anzures y Bolaños, an expert from the INAH, explains that before colonization, Indigenous communities ate them during the agricultural cycle, which took place around the same times as Candlemas.

Indigenous people cooked tamales to ask gods such as Tláloc for rain during the planting season.

Since then, tamales became one of the most beloved dishes in Mexico.

In Mexico, tamales are made with corn dough, which is spread on a corn or banana leaf, then its filled up with salsas and meats or marmalade, fruits, or chocolate,  and then cooked using the bain-marie method.

The word tamales come from the Náhuatl word “tamalli”, which means “wrapped up”.

They are especially beloved in Mexico City, where they are hailed as the most complete breakfast once you place the tamal inside a bolillo, bread, which is called “guajolota.” It is often paired with atole, a hot beverage made with milk and cornstarch.



Tamal de café, helado de jengibre, panal.

A post shared by Pujol (@pujolrestaurant) on

Tamales are so popular you can find them in every corner of the city, in markets, restaurants, and even in famous restaurants such as Quintonil and Pujol. Recently, commercial brands have started selling tamales that you can just microwave, but nothing beats a warm, freshly-made tamal from your tamalero.

Nevertheless, cooking tamales isn't as easy as you might think. You need your family's recipe and moral support from them. These corn delicacies have become one of the icons of Mexican cuisine and the perfect dish to celebrate Candlemas.


Tamal Fair in Mexico City

If you found a little baby Jesus inside your Rosca de Reyes, you should drop by the fair and buy lots of tamales for your family and friends
Tamal Fair in Mexico CityTamal Fair in Mexico City


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