National Tamale Day Date in the current year: March 23, 2024

National Tamale Day If you’re a fan of Latin American cuisine, treat yourself to some delicious tamales on March 23 because it is National Tamale Day. This amazing holiday was created to celebrate a dish that has been around for thousands of years – and this is not an exaggeration!

Tamales consist of masa (maize dough made from nixtamalized corn, i.e. corn that has been treated in an alkaline solution) and various fillings. They are wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks and then steamed; the wrapping can be used as a plate or discarded before eating.

Tamales originated in Mesoamerica sometime between 8000 and 5000 BC. The dish was most likely invented by the indigenous peoples in what is now Mexico and Guatemala and then spread to the rest of Latin America. The Olmecs and Toltecs, and then the Aztecs and Maya used tamales as easily portable food during hunting trips or to feed soldiers when their armies were on the march.

Today, tamales and their variations (corundas, guajolotas, uchepos) are popular in Belize, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. Tamale-like foods also exist in Guam and the Philippines, which used to be governed by Spain as a province of Mexico.

Tamales come with many fillings that can be savory or sweet, but they can also have no filling. Popular tamale fillings include meat (beef, chicken, pork, turkey), cheese, rice, beans, vegetables (potatoes, chilies, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, squash, sweet potatoes, olives, corn kernels), fruit, nuts, raisins, recado rojo (a spice mixture popular in Belizean and Mexican cuisines), and rapadura (unrefined cane sugar). Dessert tamales are usually smaller than savory tamales.

National Tamale Day, also known as National Tamales Day, was created by Richard Lambert, the owner of Santa Barbara Tamales-To-Go. One day in 2014 Lambert googled “National Tamale Day” and was surprised to discover that there wasn’t a holiday celebrating tamales. That’s when he decided that the world needed one.

Lambert picked the date of March 23 for the holiday for two reasons. First, demand for tamales usually declines by springtime, once the holiday season is over, so March is a good month to give their popularity a boost and remind people that tamales should be enjoyed all the year round. Second, back in 2014, National Melba Toast Day was the only food day celebrated on March 23 so there was little competition (it should be noted, however, that this has changed, and now we also have National Chia Day and National Chip and Dip Day fall on the same day).

There are many ways to celebrate National Tamale Day. You can go out to your favorite place that sells tamales or invite your friends to a “tamale crawl” to find the best tamales in town, try tamales with different fillings to find the one you like the best, make your own tamales at home, sign up for a cooking class where they teach to make authentic tamales, teach a friend or a family member to make tamales, and share your favorite tamale recipes on social media with the hashtags #NationalTamaleDay and #TamaleDay to spread the word.

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National Tamale Day, food days, unofficial holidays, observances in the US, Latin American cuisine, tamales