The Best Places in Los Angeles to Buy Tamales for the Holidays
Tamales are a Christmastime tradition that unites cultures
Tamales at Christmastime is a tradition that unites different cultures across Los Angeles, taking a starring role at holiday tables alongside other classic food and drink customs such as gingerbread, eggnog, ham, candy canes, chestnuts, Christmas cookies and hot apple cider.
Consider yourself fortunate if you know someone who makes these finely wrapped masa corn bundles with savory, veg-friendly and sweet fillings.
Consider yourself fortunate if you know someone who makes these finely wrapped (in corn husks or banana leaves) masa corn bundles filled with savory, veg-friendly and sweet fillings.
If not, there are restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores and farmers market vendors with tameleras who handcraft thousands for the holidays. Most are in East L.A. with a sprinkling in the Valley and Westside.
Your best bet to score tamales at the smaller "mom and pop" locations is to order in advance, unless you want to wait in line and watch the sunrise—in which case, you’re sure to make a few new friends.
Here are the best places in L.A. County to check out for your holiday tamales.
Angry Egret Dinette
After departing Guerrilla Tacos, Chef Wes Avila opened Angry Egret Dinette, a torta-inspired sandwich shop in Chinatown's Mandarin Plaza (970 N Broadway Ste 114, Los Angeles 90012). Pre-order Chef Avila's Holiday Tamales by the dozen: Squash & Cheese, Pork, or Chicken Mole. Pick up on December 23 or 24. The tamales are only sold by the dozen and types can't be combined - one type of tamal per dozen.
Located at the Mercado La Paloma (3655 S Grand Ave #C6, Los Angeles 90007) - a community gathering place near USC that's home to an ethnic food court, colorful shops, and a non-profit - Chichen Itza features Yucatan cuisine from award-winning chef/owner Gilberto Cetina, who is renowned for his Cochinita Pibil (achiote-marinated and shredded pork).
Order tamales at the counter or plan ahead for a party with the full catering menu, which includes Yucatan Style Meal Packages and numerous Party Trays like the not-to-be-missed Vaporcito Tamales - 25 banana leaf-wrapped tamales with a choice of Chicken, Cochinita Pibil, or Veggie (potato, carrot & tomato filling). Pricing is $75 / tray.
You may want to make another stop a few stands down at Holbox, also owned by Chef Centina, for exceptional Mexican seafood specialties like stand-out ceviche, uni, and whole grilled fish.
Located in Koreatown, the James Beard Award-winning Guelaguetza (3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles 90006) is one of the most celebrated Oaxacan restaurants in the country. Their specialty shredded chicken tamal is covered in a rich mole negro sauce made with nearly 30 ingredients - including Mexican chocolate and cinnamon - and wrapped in a shiny green banana leaf.
Offered by the half-dozen in seven flavors, Holiday Tamales are now available for pre-order for pickup on Christmas Eve from 9am to 3pm. Last day to order is Monday, Dec. 19.
A Tamal Oaxaqueño Catering Tray is available on Toast with six Black Mole Tamales (cut in half), rice and beans.
You can even gift friends and family across the country with a four-pack of tamales via Goldbelly.
Gather friends and family and host your own traditional tamalada (tamal-making party) with a Tamale Kit from Guerrilla Tacos (2000 E 7th St, Los Angeles 90021). Priced at $85, each kit makes about 30 tamales - filling options include Beef, Chicken and Veggie.
La Flor de Yucatan
Located in the Pico-Union district, the family-owned La Flor de Yucatan (1800 S Hoover St, Los Angeles 90006) is a full-service bakery, caterer and specialty shop that's served authentic Mayan cuisine since 1971. Wrapped in banana leaves, tamal options include the Tamal de Especie (Colado), which is filled with chicken and pork; the Vaporcito Tortiado, also filled with chicken and pork and topped with a tangy tomato sauce; and the Dzotobichay (aka Brazo de Reina), a spinach tamale with hard-boiled eggs.
Be sure to check out the deli case, bakery display, and imported goods - don’t miss the bestselling Hojaldra, a delicious puffed pastry filled with ham and cheese.
La Indiana Tamales
For more than 40 years, the Ramos family has been making tamales from scratch with a family recipe handed down through generations. La Indiana Tamales (1142 S. Indiana St., Los Angeles 90023) makes ordering easy with a few clicks on their website. Options include Beef, Cheese & Green Chile, Chicken, Pork, Elote (Sweet Corn) and Sweet Tamales. Purchase by the dozen, half-dozen, or a la carte.
La Mascota Bakery
Located in Boyle Heights, La Mascota Bakery (2715 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles 90023) is celebrating its 70th anniversary and has remained practically unchanged until a few years ago, when third-generation owners Francisco and Patty Aparicio gave the space a facelift. Not to worry, the baked goods are better than ever and the tamales are prepared with the same recipe that made them famous. Tamales are available for pre-order with six filling options: Red Chile with Pork, Red Chile with Beef, Green Chile with Chicken, Green Chile with Cheese, "Vegetal" (Veggies in Banana Leaf), and Dulce con Piña (Sweet with Pineapple).
Los Cinco Puntos
Opened in 1967 and set on the western edge of Boyle Heights, this grocery/butcher/sidewalk eatery is a Los Angeles institution. Tamale options at Los Cinco Puntos (3300 E Cesar E. Chavez Ave, Los Angeles 90063) include pork, beef with red chile, chicken, and cheese with chile verde - all freshly pulled from large steaming metal containers for $22.99 a dozen or $12.99 per half-dozen.
Mama's International Tamales
MacArthur Park favorite, Mama's International Tamales (2124 W 7th St., Los Angeles 90057) offers several options for vegan tamales by the dozen, priced at $69.99: Jackfruit Rojo, Jackfruit Verde, Mole with Cactus & Potatoes, Sweet Corn, Cheesy Jalapeño, Salvadorean Jackfruit, and Holiday Mixed Dozen (two of each).
Mama's also offers Holiday Kits:
- Kit #1 - Holiday Mixed Dozen or 1 dozen Pupusas, Rice, Beans, Salsa ($99)
- Kit #2 - 1 dozen Tamales or Pupusas, Fried Sweet Plantains, Black Beans, Vegan Crema, Salsa ($99)
- Kit #3 - 1 dozen Tamales or Pupusas, 9" Vegan Flan (party size), Chips & Salsa ($89)
Place your order by calling Mama's directly at (213) 487-7474. Follow Mama's on Instagram for updates.
Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales
The Ortega family started Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales as a mom and pop restaurant in the city of San Fernando, which quickly grew to a large manufacturing business—perhaps due to winning top honors at both the Los Angeles and Indio Tamale Festivals. San Fernando Valley locals can get their tamal fix at the kiosk situated in front of the 10,000 square-foot factory (13754 Van Nuys Blvd., Pacoima 91331).
Their traditional tamales are handmade with an original lard-free recipe from Puerto Vallarta. Flavors include Chicken Verde, Beef Roja, Pork Verde or Roja, Queso con Rajas, Elote, Piña and Vegetarian. Available by the dozen, half-dozen and a la carte - warm and ready to enjoy, or chilled for later.
Mi Ranchito Veracruz
"Today is a great day for a Veracruz tamal," says the wall-sized handwritten menu at Mi Ranchito Veracruz (13363 Saticoy St, North Hollywood 91605), a hidden gem that's been "making tamales the hard way since 2017." Served year-round, the banana leaf-wrapped tamales include chicken breast with mole negro, chicken breast with tomatillo sauce, pork in red or green sauce, and the veg-friendly jalapeño & cheese.
Taking place every Sunday at ROW DTLA from 10am to 4pm, the bustling Smorgasburg LA (777 S Alameda St, Los Angeles 90021) has your tamale cravings covered.
Cena Vegan (242 N Ave 25, Los Angeles 90031) pops up at Smorgasburg and offers authentic vegan street food at its Lincoln Heights kitchen, including the famed Nacho Boat and vegan tacos, burritos and tortas. The Holiday Menu features handmade Mexicali Style Chile Colorado Beef-less Tamales and Chile Verde Chicken-less Tamales - filled with gluten-free Plant Ranch protein, available by the half-dozen ($24) or a la carte ($4 each). For holiday catering, email Cena Vegan: email@example.com.
The Goat Mafia features Chef Juan Garcia's Birria Tamales from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve. The tamales are also available to order by the dozen for holiday parties. Follow The Goat Mafia on Instagram for the latest seasonal menu updates and upcoming pop-ups.
Part of the Rustic Canyon family of Santa Monica restaurants, Tallula's (118 Entrada Dr, Santa Monica 90402) is a coastal Mexican restaurant with a focus on sustainably-caught seafood, seasonal vegetables, and gluten-free tacos served on housemade Masienda corn tortillas.
Executive Chef Juan Robles showcases his family’s tamale recipes with options by the half-dozen: Chicken Verde, Beef Brisket, and Veggie with black bean puree, poblano mix, and queso Oaxaca. Pre-order by 5pm on December 20 for pickup and delivery on December 21-23.
Tamales Elena y Antojitos
Described by the Los Angeles Times in October 2020 as "L.A.'s most vital new Mexican restaurant" and named to the 2021 list of 101 Best Restaurants, Tamales Elena y Antojitos (Wilmington Ave & E 110th St, Los Angeles 90059) showcases the Afro-Mexican cuisine of Maria Elena Lorenzo. Available year-round, their signature tamales are made Hoja de Maíz (Corn Husk) with Red Pork, Green Chicken, or Cheese & Jalapeño. Tamales can be ordered a la carte, or half-dozen ($15) and dozen ($27). Protip: order the Tamale Special #2, top your tamal with onions and cilantro, then drizzle with barbacoa consomme.
To place your holiday tamale order, call (323) 485-4029. Secure your order with a 50% deposit - half-dozen and dozen only. Tamales Elena will be open on Christmas Eve from 8am to 5pm for walk-up orders - first come, first served. For more holiday info, visit the Tamales Elena website.
This family-owned business started in North Hills in 2005 and opened a second location in Reseda in 2017. Tamales are the star at Tamales House (7622 Reseda Blvd, Reseda; 15404 Nordhoff St., North Hills) and come in savory, veg-friendly and sweet varieties, including: chicken, beef and pork; rajas con queso (jalapeños & Jack cheese), spinach & cheese, fresh veggies and sweet corn; and strawberry & cream cheese, pineapple, and cinnamon & raisins. Owner Juan Gonzalez says his tamales contain no GMO, no lard, are not frozen and are gluten-free.
Located next door to Melrose Umbrella Co, Umbrella Taco (7461 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles 90046) is inspired by taquerias in Baja, Acapulco Guerrero and LA. Chef Juan Catalan features three tamales, available a la carte for $3.50 each. Tamal de Vegetariano is made with Oaxacan cheese, jalapeños, carrots, green beans, Roma tomatoes, Yukon potatoes, and salsa roja. Tamal de Pollo features chicken breast and Teloloapan mole. For the Tamal de Puerco, Catalan slow cooks pork shoulder in a tomatillo green salsa. Order for pickup or delivery at the Umbrella Taco website. A Tamale Six-Pack is available for $21 from the Catering Menu (72-hour advance notice required).