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10 Uses For Leftover Tamales

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

'Tis the season for tamales. From Thanksgiving through the New Year, tamales are a staple of many Latino kitchens. Their smell is intoxicating: warm, pork-rich masa blankets a filling of tender stewed meat and chiles, and unwrapping the hojas can feel like opening a new present each time.

RELATED: How to Make Shredded Beef Tamales

That is, until you've consumed nothing but tamales for the past week and still haven't made a dent in the pile amassed in your fridge. Yes, you love them, but the thought of eating one more tamal is starting to make you sweat. You know you've reached an impasse when you start craving salad instead.

When tamal fever turns into tamal overload, it's time to do what Latinos do best: repurpose those packets of joy for other, non-culinary uses. These innovative tips will ensure that no tamal goes wasted.

1. A pretty (and practical) candle
Skip traditional wax or messy oil and use a tamal fitted with a wick instead. When paired with your favorite candle holder, they provide a warm, romantic glow to brighten your holiday home.

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

2. A sheer lip gloss
Nothing soothes dry chapped lips like manteca-rich tamales. Use it alone for a glossy, kissable pout, or over your favorite lip color for an extra hint of sheen. Pro tip: a dab of red chile sauce heats your lips up better than any expensive lip-plumper.

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

3. A perfect bookmark
You'll never lose your page again with this creative placeholder.

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

4. A sturdy paperweight
Have a stack of papers you still need to sift through? Keep them stacked and organized with the help of a spare tamal. Even with a fan blowing, these papers aren't moving. Plus, if you accidentally knock the tamal on the floor, it won't shatter into a thousand little pieces.

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

5. A powerful deodorant
Everyone loves the scent of tamales, they are savory and intoxicating. That heavenly aroma can transform the stinkiest of armpits into something magical. Rub briskly and feel confident that you smell delicious.

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

6. A fun centerpiece
Vases are so last year. Make a festive floral arrangement for your table with tamales and a few of your favorite flowers. Up your holiday centerpiece game by adding fall décor like dried sticks and dead leaves. Be prepared to wow your friends and family.

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

7. A quick way to balance wobbly furniture
Don't put up with your plate slipping off the table. If your furniture is off-kilter, you can save money and time by using a tamal to adjust the height instead of tacky folded-up cardboard or beer bottle caps.

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

8. A car air freshener
Forget the cheesy car fragrances that only last a week. A tamal makes a perfect car freshener that will keep your ride smelling like the holidays for months.

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

9. An incense holder
Don't have a burner to hold the incense your hippy niece bought you for Christmas? Use a tamal to hold the aromatic sticks and let them fill your house with fragrant smoke while keeping the evil spirits away.

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

10. As Christmas ornaments
Don't settle for a basic tree. Tamales add the right amount of feliz navidad to any home décor. Simply hang from your branches or string along the tree in place of boring popcorn.

Photograph by Bryanne Salazar

(Just to be clear: You should obviously eat all of abuela's tamales and these suggestions are just meant to give you a laugh. Never waste tamales — even if you have to put them in the freezer for a few months.)

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