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Posted on Aug 31, 2007 in Bento, Corn Tortillas or Masa, Curry, Fish or Seafood, For Kids, Gluten Free, Poultry, Rice, Salad | 11 comments

Tamale box lunches

Tamale box lunches


Costco has changed the brand of frozen tamales they sell, and now they’re light, fluffy, and delicious (better than the old kind they stocked, which were a little too dense and heavy). Frozen tamales are great to have on hand for a fast dinner or lunch, especially if you have a large microwave steamer. Just pop them in the microwave for a few minutes, let sit for another minute, and they’re ready. These actually start to approach the quality of homemade! Evidently they’re from Del Real Foods — very nice. (Disclaimer: I have no commercial affiliation with Del Real Foods or Costco.)

Tamale lunch

Contents of my lunch: Steamed chicken tamale with containers of spicy salsa Taquera and Greek yogurt, plum slices, blueberries, and salad with pitted cherries, pine nuts, fresh mint and feta cheese (plus homemade apple-balsamic vinaigrette). We ran out of crema (Hispanic sour cream), so yogurt was a fine stand-in.

Morning prep time: 6 minutes, using leftover tamale and salad. I packed the tamale the night before when cleaning up from dinner, so in the morning I sliced the plum and filled the sauce containers (I was out of pre-filled sauce containers with salad dressing).

Packing: Quick reminder to pack salad dressing separate from the salad itself in a container so you don’t have wilted, soggy salad at lunch. Yuck! Lunch packed in two 350ml tiers of a Lock & Lock lunch set.

Tamale lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler lunch: Same as mine, with a slice of crisp Asian pear (nashi) and a little container of yogurt for the tamale.

Morning prep time: 5 minutes, using leftover tamale from dinner and leftover Asian pear from an earlier snack for Bug.

Packing: Packed in one 350ml tier of a Lock & Lock lunch set, and a 220ml metal container from the Daiso in Daly City, CA. Daiso is a great Japanese dollar store with branches internationally.

Contents of husband’s lunch: Grilled skate wing (a.k.a. ray or stingray) with Nonya-style sambal sauce on top, on a layer of rice. The left hand side holds more of the same salad that I had, plus a couple of cherry tomatoes. The chili ray is the last of the leftovers that I used earlier in the week in lunches for Bug and myself — my husband was happy to get another taste of the spicy ray after all the effort he put into making it! Delicious.

Nonya skate wing lunch

Morning prep time: 9 minutes, using all leftovers. I microwaved leftover cold rice to restore the texture, then removed the skate wing from the bones to make it easier to eat (my husband doesn’t have a lot of patience for deboning fish when eating on the run).

Packing: I packed the sauced skate wing right on top of the rice layer, with the rice absorbing a little bit of sauce (”donburi bowl style” — it wasn’t so liquidy that the rice became sodden). Packed in a 500ml Leaflet box with movable divider.


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  1. Yummy!! Looks goooood! I have a question though- how do you keep from the oil staining into the bento box?

  2. @1 from R: Good question, R. If I were to microwave the tamale layer in the box, this would definitely stain the plastic container — not good. But I packed the tamale after dinner when it was cool, and ate it at room temperature outside (no access to a microwave when we eat our bentos).

  3. Thanks for the heads up on the tamales. We love tamales and we’re big fans of Costco. I’ll check them out.

  4. Tamale review…THATS news I can use…though truth told, I rather like dense, heavy tamales! I’m always afraid to buy mass market frozen tamales, because so often I think, “It tastes fine, but it’s not what I’d call a tamale.” Have you seen the “snack size” beef and cheese burritos at Costco? I threw the box away to conserve freezer space, so I don’t have the brand name. Highly recommended, and a good size for bentos and small people.

  5. @3 from Beanbean: Yes, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the new tamales. A significant improvement!

  6. @4 from Jeri: You know, I hadn’t actually noticed the little burritos at Costco — I’ll check them out next time I’m there (too bad, though, I was there just yesterday!). A friend yesterday was just telling me that her sixth grader loves leftover burritos in her packed lunch, so I should make some soon and try it out!

  7. I am simply crazy about Costco! Haven’t had these tamales but the Del Real Carnitas are very good for a pre-made food product. And no, I’m not affiliated with Costco either, but I talk about them so much on my blog they should be paying me a commission!

  8. @7 from Kalyn: Hey there, Kalyn (of Kalyn’s Kitchen blog fame), and welcome! Do I ever hear you about Costco! I should be getting checks from them, plus Ichiban Kan and Daiso as well (but there would go my credibility)… I like the Del Real Foods carnitas too, maybe I should check out their other products.

  9. Where do you find the tiny little containers you use for your sauces and dressings? I just found your site last week (actually my oldest daughter pointed me in your direction), and it’s been great. My high school daughter enjoys taking her lunch to school again. Alittle more work but well worth it for a healthier choice. Thank you!

  10. @9 from Kathy: I usually get them from Japanese dollar stores in the Bay Area (Ichiban Kan, Daiso) for cheap, but you can also repurpose other containers (if they’re made of food-safe materials) or buy them online through stores such as, eBay (see the Bentolunch community online shopping guide linked from my Shop page), etc. Tupperware Smidgets are reputed to be excellent (they’re discontinued, but you can still get them cheaply — they’re in my Amazon store linked in the left hand sidebar). And Ichiban Kan (Japanese dollar store in the Bay Area where I get all of this kind of stuff) is going to be opening an online store later this year (supposed to be November). Hope this helps!