Place of originChicago
Main ingredientsTamale, chili, hot dog bun
Chicago-style tamale, used to make a mother-in-law

The mother-in-law is a fast food dish of Chicago, consisting of a tamale topped with chili, served in a hot dog bun.[1][2][3] The mother-in-law is made with Chicago's unique style of tamale, a machine-extruded cornmeal roll wrapped in paper instead of corn husks, which is typically cooked in a hot-dog steamer.[4][5]


Mexican-Americans brought the tamale to Chicago, and African-Americans from the Mississippi Delta area brought the hot tamale to the city.[6][7] But no one knows how the mother-in-law sandwich developed.[8][9] Some speculate it may have had its beginnings in Mexico City's torta de tamal, a tamale on a bolillo. The precise origins of the Chicago-style tamale are also obscure.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "Making a Mother-in-Law Sandwich", NPR, May 19, 2007. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  2. ^ Kindelsperger, Nick (November 9, 2012). "Fat Johnnie's Mother-In-Law Deserves Fame", Serious Eats. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  3. ^ "Delta Tamales in Chicago: The Mother-in-Law Sandwich", Southern Foodways Alliance. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Zeldes, Leah (December 18, 2009). "The Unique Chicago Tamale, a Tuneful Mystery" Archived 2018-01-18 at the Wayback Machine, Dining Chicago. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  5. ^ "'Mother in Law' = 'Tamale with Chili'",, May 31, 2005. Retrieved January 28, 2016.
  6. ^ Sula, Mike (September 16, 2013). "The Great Tamale Migration". Chicago Reader. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  7. ^ Sula, Mike (May 15, 2008). "On the Trail of the Delta Tamale", Chicago Reader. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  8. ^ Katz, Jamie (April 19, 2009). "Searching for a Mother-in-Law Sandwich", Smithsonian magazine. Retrieved January 23, 2016.
  9. ^ Stevens, Ashlie D. (May 5, 2022). "The Murky Origins of the Mother-in-Law, a Chicago Tamale-Hotdog Hybrid". Retrieved May 5, 2022.