The first tamales were made as early as 7,000 B.C. and for thousands of years it was an important ritual food. But nowadays it’s just a big hit amongst foodies. Ground beef or pork (or any other sweet or savory fillings), lard, baking powder, processed corn, husk wrappers and you got yourself a great treat. But are there keto tamales for those of us who are doing clean keto (and vegan like myself?).
In this post I am trying to figure out how keto-friendly your traditional tamales are and how to cook the best possible version of this dish that will keep you in ketosis.
Are you interested in a particular question about keto tamales? Then use the table of contents below to jump to the most relevant section. And you can always go back by clicking on the arrow in the right bottom corner of the page. Also, please note that some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. For more details, check the Disclosure section at the bottom of the page.
Here's what we'll cover:
Interesting facts about tamales
- This dish has been around for so long – even before traditional corn existed. The Aztec and Maya civilizations used tamales as easy to carry food for hunting trips. Tamales also played a large part in their rituals and festivals and were considered sacred food of the gods.
- Some of the typical tamale fillings in pre-Columbian included rabbit, flamingo, frog, axolotl, pocket gopher, etc.
- Longest tamale in the world was 50.05 m (164 ft 2.47 in) long and created by H. Ayuntamiento de Centro Villahermosa (Mexico) on 25 November 2018.
- Making traditional tamales is very labor-intensive, and some recipes include more than 120 discrete steps. That’s why it’s common to cook it by large groups of people and in large quantities too.
Are tamales healthy?
As I’ve mentioned above, there are certain ingredients in tamales that might not be as great for any kind of diet – e.g., lard. Also, as some of my friends once noted, if you know how they cooked it, you will never eat it… And that is so true.
Traditional “homemade” variations are often a family-owned business. And you can’t possibly guarantee that all the necessary sanitary norms were followed during the manufacturing process. So sometimes it makes sense to make tamales at home to make sure that you are using the healthiest ingredients.
But let’s say that safety is not an issue and have a look at your typical homemade tamale nutrition facts.
E.g., this red chili pork recipe is made with corn, water, lime, pork, chili water, flour, lard, cornstarch, etc. It has 230 calories per 1 tamale (~100g), 7g of protein, and 12g of fat (3g of saturated fats).
There are also 24g of carbs in this recipe, including 6g of fiber (so it’s 18g of net carbs per tamale). This recipe is also high both in sodium (440mg per 1) and cholesterol (15mg). So overall, I wouldn’t call it healthy.
Are tamales keto?
If traditional tamales might have anywhere from 15 to 40g of net carbs per 100g of product (depending on the recipe), it can hardly be called keto.
And given that the most traditional and permanent part of the dish is the masa or dough (starchy, and usually corn-based) I’d definitely recommend looking for substitutes.
As starch and corn can kick you out of ketosis in no time. But thankfully, there are some options for making keto-friendly tamales that won’t disappoint. Read on for one great (and delicious! And healthy!) suggestion.
How long are tamales good for in the fridge?
It’s safe to keep tamales in the refrigerator for up to a week, just wrap them well. However, they are also safe to freeze. In that case, place tamales in a plastic container. And store in the freezer for up to 4-6 months, depending on the recipe.
Keto tamales recipe
Low carb cauliflower tamales
Thanks for the graphics: Canva.com
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