Are Tamales Vegan, Dairy Free & Gluten Free?

What are tamales made of? Are tamales vegan? Let’s find out. In this post we will cover the tamales ingredients, how they are made and if vegans can eat them.

Tamales are a traditional Mesoamerican dish, made of masa, a dough made from nixtamalized corn (Some tamales are made of a paste of freshly ground corn), which is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf.

The wrapping can either be discarded prior to eating or used as a plate.

Tamales can be filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, herbs, chilies, or any preparation according to taste, and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned.

In order to determien the vegan status of Tamales, let’s start with the ingredients list.

Tamales Ingredients:

The main tamales ingredients are :

  • Mixture of corn dough (masa).
  • Filling
  • Wrapped in a banana leaf or corn husk, and then steamed.

Now, let’s go back to our main question “are tamales vegan?”.

Are Tamales Vegan?

The answer is: NO. The traditional tamales are not vegan friendly.

The corn based dough mixture is filled with various meats and cheese.

But you can make tamales vegan by filling the dough mixture with mushrooms, or legumes, squashes, tomato, peppers, and other vegetables.

Are Tamales Vegetarian?

The Mexican tamales are not vegetarian. They contain animal derived products( various meats).

To make it vegetarian, the filling can be made with fresh corn, tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, and cheese.

Are Tamales Dairy Free?

The traditional tamales without fillings are dairy-free.

But, numerous types of tamales contain cheese fillings and are not considered dairy free.

Store bought tamales recipes are differents and can dairy free or not.

So always double check ingredients label before buying.

Are Tamales Gluten-Free?

The corn husk, banana or plantain leaves are naturally gluten-free, which means your tamale dough won’t contain any gluten

The filling can be gluten-free, but it will depend on what the ingredients are that are added.

If you’re buying store-bought tamales, review the ingredients list.


I am Jennifer, a fervent animal lover, and a dedicated vegan. Am the person behind the I offer insights, advice, and personal stories that have inspired many in their journey towards a plant-based lifestyle. My journey into veganism has also been coupled with a love for writing. I used this passion to share my vegan experiences, to educate others about the benefits of plant-based living, and to advocate for animal rights. Find out more about me on the about page.