Tamales usually consist of a dough known as masa (made from corn), wrapped around some sort of filling, which can be either sweet or savory. You can stuff any number of healthy meats, vegetables and fruits into a tamale, but the dough is what disqualifies it as a Paleo food.
Why Avoid Corn
Corn is a starchy, nutrient-deficient grain that has no place in a diet full of meats and vegetables. The one thing masa has going for is that it’s made from nixtamalized corn.
The Benefits of Nixtamalization
The nixtamalization process involves soaking corn in a mixture of water and lime (calcium hydroxide, not citrus) or ashes from burnt trees (which provides potassium hydroxide). You bring the mixture with the corn in it to a boil, reduce the heat, and let it soak for a while.
The process not only reduces the level of antinutrients found in corn, it also makes the corn more nutritious.
Despite these benefits, tamales are still not strictly Paleo. If you have a chance to eat quality tamales and feel like indulging, you could do much worse for a cheat meal.