Are Tamales Gluten Free? Let’s Find Out

If you suffer from celiac or gluten intolerance, you might want to know whether your favorite tamales are gluten-free so you can relish them without health concerns. 

Traditional tamales are gluten-free because they are made of masa harina wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves. But you must be cautious about the filling and sauces, as they can contain gluten. If you are in doubt, review the ingredients or check for the “Gluten-free” label on the tamales packaging.

In this detailed guide, we’ll answer, “Are tamales gluten free?” We’ll also discuss whether its masa dough and sauces contain any gluten to give you complete insight. 

How Do You Describe Tamales?

How Do You Describe Tamales?

Tamales, a traditional Mesoamerican dish, consist of masa filled with various ingredients. The tamales are wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves, discarded before eating, or used as a plate.

It is a popular dish in Mexico, Central America, South America, and many Hispanic communities.

Are Tamales Gluten Free?

Are Tamales Gluten Free?

Traditional tamales are gluten-free because they are made with masa harina and wrapped in corn husk or banana leaves. However, many tamale recipes include wheat flour or other gluten-containing ingredients, especially in the filling or the sauce for topping. 

Let’s explore in detail whether your favorite restaurants or stores offer gluten-free tamales.

Trader Joe’s Tamales

Trader Joe’s tamales are gluten-free, as they contain masa harina dough and are wrapped in a corn husk. 

Here are the different types of tamales that Trader Joe’s offers:

  • Beef Tamales.
  • Chicken Tamales.
  • Chile and Cheese Tamales.
  • Sweet Corn Tamales.

NOTE: Although Trader Joe’s tamales lack a “Gluten-Free” label on the packaging, thoroughly examining the ingredients can help you confirm your suspicion.

Delia’s Tamales

Delia’s Tamales has delicious and authentic gluten-free tamales in Texas, perfect for those with gluten intolerance who want to enjoy them without worrying about cross-contamination.

Below are some of the best tamales that Delia’s Tamales offers:

  • Sweet Cream Cheese Tamales.
  • Chicken Tamales.
  • Bean and Cheese Tamales.
  • Veracruzano Pork Tamales. 
  • Spicy Pork Tamales. 
  • Beef Tamales.

Costco Tamales

Tamales at Costco usually do not contain any gluten, making them suitable for individuals with dietary restrictions. However, its availability can vary depending on the rotating selection of brands they sell. Moreover, gluten-free tamales stock also might differ between the individual Costco stores.

Therefore, it s best to check the gluten-free label on the tamales at Costco and carefully read the ingredients before purchasing.

Does Masa Dough Have Gluten?

Masa or masa harina is a naturally gluten-free dough made from nixtamalized corn. Nixtamalization involves soaking the corn in an alkaline solution, cooking it, and grinding it into flour. This makes the corn easy to digest and gives it a richer flavor. 

Masa dough might be cross-contaminated with gluten if processed in a wheat product facility. So, check the “Gluten Free” label before buying Masa dough at stores.

NOTE: Some recipes use jasmine or black rice flour to make tamales. 

Are Sweet Tamales Gluten-Free?

Sweet tamales might be gluten-free, depending on the ingredients used during the preparation, making them safe for individuals with gluten restrictions.

But different brands or homemade recipes may vary, so always confirm the list of ingredients used in your tamales before eating them. 

What Brand Of Tamales Are Gluten Free?

There are many brands that offer gluten-free frozen tamales, including:

  • Tom Tom Tamales.
  • Texas Tamale Company.
  • Cedarlane.
  • Tucson Tamale.
  • H‑E‑B.

Is Tamale Sauce Gluten Free?

Is Tamale Sauce Gluten Free?

Traditional tamale sauce is generally made with gluten-free ingredients, especially if you make the sauce at home. However, if you purchase store-bought tamale sauce, it may contain gluten, depending on the brand.

Here are some gluten-free sauces that you can serve with tamales.


Salsa is the perfect choice for those who are gluten-intolerant, as it contains tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables. Be careful when using the brand’s salsa, as it may contain gluten ingredients, such as wheat-based thickening agents or white vinegar.  

Ranchero Sauce

The traditional ingredients in Ranchero sauce, i.e., tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, and herbs, do not have any gluten. However, some store-bought Ranchero sauces might contain gluten-containing ingredients, such as wheat-based thickeners.

Mole Verde

Mole Verde, a traditional Mexican sauce, has ingredients like tomatillos, green chilies, poblano pepper, cilantro, and other herbs. It is generally gluten-free and is a good source of vitamins A and C. 


Made from avocados, tomatoes, onions, garlic, lime juice, and cilantro, Guacamole sauce is considered a safe choice for those following a gluten-free diet. It adds a flavorful and creamy element to your tamales, enhancing the overall taste experience.


Crema is a Mexican sauce containing sour cream, milk, and spices, which is a good source of protein and calcium and adds a creamy, flavorful touch to your tamales. 

It is typically gluten-free but contains dairy items, such as milk and cream.

What Is Usually In A Tamale?

What Is Usually In A Tamale?

Tamales can be savory or sweet depending on the filling and seasoning used. Savory tamales often consist of slow-cooked meats like pork, chicken, beef, spices, and sometimes gluten-free vegetables.

On the other hand, sweet tamales have gluten-free ingredients like dried fruit, nuts, sugary filling, chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, or cinnamon.

Here’s the list of ingredients used to make delicious and authentic tamales at home:

  • Masa Harina.
  • Broth.
  • Cheese.
  • Salt and Cumin.
  • Banana Leaves or Corn Husk.
  • Lard or melted butter.
  • Slow-cooked chicken, pork, or beef meat.
  • Beans and vegetables. 

NOTE: If you have gluten intolerance or follow a gluten-free diet, it is important to be careful when ordering tamales at a restaurant and inquire about the cooking method and ingredients used in the dish.  

Tips For Making Gluten Free Tamales At Home

Tips For Making Gluten Free Tamales At Home

Let’s explore some useful tips before making tamales at home to assist you along the way:

  • Buy a masa harina dough or flour with a gluten-free label on the packaging.
  • Use gluten-free broth to cook the filling for your tamales. 
  • Don’t use Mole sauce as it contains gluten-containing thickener.
  • Avoid cross-contaminating your tamales with ingredients or products that contain gluten.


In this article, we’ve explored “Are tamales gluten free?” We’ve also described this delightful dish in detail and discussed whether the masa harina dough or tamales sauces also come without gluten. 

We hope with this information, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about including tamales in your diet and enjoy eating the dish at home or when dining out. 

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I am a kitchen appliances expert with years of experience on my back, which motivated me to share insightful tips with people who face issues while cooking, defrosting, melting, or reheating their food. I’m also a food enthusiast and spend my free time traveling the country, trying out the best recipes, reviewing cookware products, and sharing my experiences with others.