Ketchup on Tamales: Harmless Topping or Culinary Abomination?

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
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Don’t get between Latinos and their tamales—especially during the holidays. And don’t argue about what the best topping is to pour over them either.

Everyone has their personal favorite—from salsa verde to chili sauce to queso. But, what about ketchup? What about the people who drown a perfectly tasty tamal with the table condiment?

Is ketchup on a tamal a harmless way to eat the traditional dish or is it a cultural and culinary abomination? If the latter, why does the idea of ketchup on a tamal trigger such strong feelings on the subject? Isn’t life complicated enough? Do we have to start tamale shaming people, too?

Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times writer and author of the syndicated ¡Ask a Mexican! column, says he usually tops his tamales with “crema and salsa.” Besides that, he thinks people should let others eat their tamales however they want.

“While I don’t use ketchup, I have no problem with those who do,” Arellano told Remezcla.

That’s not such an easy sentiment for some people to support, especially on Twitter where putting ketchup on tamales seems as bad as not buying your abuelita a Christmas present. Or worse, telling her that her tamales are a little dry this year. ¡Que vergüenza!

Who knows? Back when President Barack Obama shared a meal with the late Anthony Bourdain, he told the celebrity chef that unless you were eight years old, it was never OK to put ketchup on a hotdog. Maybe the same rule should be applied to tamales.

So, how about tamales with mustard? Let’s leave that one for next Navidad. Here are some funny tweets we found on the topic of ketchup on tamales.