Empanada Vs Tamale: Can You Spot These Differences?

If you’re anything like me, you love a good empanada or tamale.

But do you know the difference between these two delicious dishes?

I’m here to give you a crash course in all things empanada vs tamale.

Keep reading this empanada vs tamale guide to learn about the key differences between these two Latin American favorites.

Read more: What To Do With Leftover Boneless Pork Ribs?

What are empanadas?

Empanadas are pastries that are typically filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables.

They can be baked or fried, and they’re often served as appetizers or snacks.

Empanadas originate from Spain, but they’re popular in Latin American countries like Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Peru.

What are tamales?

Tamales are also pastries, but they’re typically made with cornmeal dough and filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables.

Tamales can be steamed or boiled, and they’re often served as main dishes.

Tamales originate from Mexico, but they’re popular in Latin American countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Empanada vs tamale – The main differences

Origins

In terms of origins, empanadas come from Spain while tamales come from Mexico.

It’s believed that the Spanish brought empanadas to Latin America, and the Mexicans brought tamales to Latin America.

Ingredients

Empanadas are typically made with wheat flour dough, while tamales are made with cornmeal dough.

Empanadas can be filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables, while tamales are usually filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables.

The wheat flour dough makes empanadas a bit more dense and chewy than tamales, which are lighter and softer thanks to the cornmeal dough.

Preparation

Empanadas are typically fried, while tamales are typically boiled or steamed.

The frying gives empanadas a crispy crust, while the boiling or steaming gives tamales a softer texture.

When frying empanadas, you need to be careful not to overcook them or they’ll get dry and tough.

Serving

Empanadas are often served as appetizers or snacks, while tamales are often served as main dishes.

Empanadas usually range in size from 2-4 inches in diameter, while tamales can be up to a foot long.

The reason why empanada is often used as a snack is that they’re portable and easy to eat.

Tamales are a bit more difficult to eat on the go since you need a utensil to scoop out the filling.

Shapes

Empanadas can be round or crescent-shaped, while tamales are typically cylindrical.

The shape of an empanada is typically determined by the type of pan that it’s cooked in.

Tamales are always rolled into a cylinder shape before being steamed or boiled.

The cylindrical shape gives tamales a nice presentation and makes them easier to eat.

Taste

The taste of an empanada is typically savory, while the taste of a tamale is typically sweet and spicy.

This is because the dough for an empanada is usually made with salt, while the dough for a tamale is usually made without salt.

Empanadas usually have a crispy crust and a soft filling, while tamales are light and fluffy.

Cost

Empanadas are typically more expensive than tamales because empanadas require more ingredients and a longer preparation time.

Empanadas can also be more difficult to make than tamales.

Tamales, on the other hand, are relatively easy to make and only require a few simple ingredients.

Nutritional values

Empanadas are higher in calories and fat than tamales.

This is because empanadas are fried, while tamales are boiled or steamed.

Empanadas also tend to have more sodium than tamales.

Tamales, on the other hand, are a good source of fiber and protein.

Calories per serving

One serving of empanadas (two empanadas) has about 300 calories, while one serving of tamales (one tamale) has about 200 calories.

Fat per serving

One serving of empanadas has about 14 grams of fat, while one serving of tamales has about 9 grams of fat.

Popularity

When it comes to popularity, empanadas are more popular than tamales.

This is because empanadas are more widely available and can be found in most Latin American countries.

Tamales, on the other hand, are only popular in Latin American countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

What are their similarities?

empanada vs tamale

Both empanadas and tamales are made with dough that is filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables.

They are both cooked in a pan, either fried or boiled/steamed.

And they are both served as main dishes or appetizers.

Which one tastes better?

In my opinion, empanadas taste better than tamales.

This is because empanadas have a crispy crust and a soft, savory filling, while tamales are light and fluffy with a sweet and spicy filling.

However, this is just my opinion.

Some people may prefer the taste of tamales over empanadas.

I also find tamales to be a bit more difficult to eat than empanadas since you need a utensil to scoop out the filling.

So, if you’re looking for something savory and portable, then go for an empanada.

If you’re looking for something light and fluffy, then go for a tamale.

Tips for making empanadas

If you want to make your own empanadas, here are a few tips:

  • Use a food processor to quickly and easily mix the dough.
  • Don’t overfill the empanadas or they’ll be difficult to fold and cook evenly.
  • Use a brush to coat the empanadas with eggs before frying them.
  • This will give them a nice golden color and crispy crust.
  • Let the empanadas cool for a few minutes before serving so that the filling doesn’t escape.
  • Serve empanadas with a dipping sauce like salsa, guacamole, or sour cream.

Tips for making tamales

Keep these tips in mind if you want to make your own tamales:

  • Mix the dough by hand to avoid over-mixing.
  • Use a corn husk to line the bottom of the steamer so that the tamales don’t stick.
  • Don’t overcrowd the steamer or the tamales will take longer to cook.
  • Let the tamales cool for a few minutes before serving so that you don’t burn yourself.
  • Also, try to avoid opening the steamer too often while the tamales are cooking, or else they will become dry.
  • Serve tamales with a dipping sauce like salsa, guacamole, or sour cream for the best mix of tastes.

Empanada vs tamale – Conclusion

In the end, even though both empanadas and tamales are popular Latin American dishes, they are still quite different.

Empanadas are usually more expensive than tamales, have a longer preparation time, and are fried instead of boiled/steamed.

Tamales, on the other hand, are relatively easy to make, only require a few simple ingredients, and are a good source of fiber and protein.

So, if you’re looking for something savory and portable, go for an empanada.

If you’re looking for something light and fluffy, go for a tamale.

Mariana Rouco

Mariana Rouco is the editor-in-chief of Elpasony.com. She loves traveling and writing about foods and cooking in general. She has a degree from the New England Culinary Institute and enjoys Mexican, Italian, and Chinese cuisines the most.

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