Tamales are as ubiquitous to Los Angeles as palm trees. Tamales are delicious “masa” (corn dough) that can be filled with various meats, cheeses, or sweet fillings and wrapped in a corn husk, or banana leaf. Tamales are a common staple in Latino households for the Holidays, but everyone can enjoy this delicious food in a variety of ways. LA natives will tell you that the best tamales are made from homemade recipes and won’t always be featured in Zagat Guide. Below is a list of our favorite places. While this list is not all-inclusive, we promise these will not disappoint. Place your orders early, or prepare to wait in line. Either way, they will be worth the wait!
Two locations 4629 East Cesar Chavez Ave., Los Angeles CA 90022 or
3448 E. First Street, Los Angeles CA 90063
This place has lines all year long! You can eat inside the restaurant or you can order tamales to go. They have cheese, pork, green chile, red chile and sweet flavors like pineapple. The cheese has a slight jalapeño kick making it one of our favorites! While you are there grab some authentic Mexican “Dulce de Coco” or champurrado.
3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90006
You need to go here, and not just for the Tamales, but for the best Oaxacan food in the country! With its soft texture, and wrapped in a banana leaf the Mole Negro tamales are a must this time of year. They also have a sweetened corn tamal with raisins that you won’t regret. Order online or via phone or bring a group to the restaurant.*
If you’re in a hurry and need to bring something to a holiday party, we recommend you visit one of Northgate’s 41 locations for a delicious assortment of tamales. If you want to make them from scratch they even offer a tamale making class!
2715 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90023
This is a favorite for locals! Not only because of the tamales, but because of all the delicious food from tortas to pan dulce. For the holidays, people drive from all over the city to wait in line for these delicious tamales that have been sold in Boyle Heights for over 65 years.
Los Cinco Puntos
3300 E. Cesar Chavez Blvd., East Los Angeles, CA 90063
This is another East LA staple. Rachel Ray once said it had one of the best tacos in America. But we want you to come and taste the tamales! If you come on a weekend, there will be a long line as people all over LA who have come for the masa and the delicious tamales. They can attest that it’s completely worth it especially if you have a delicious “sope” with all the toppings while you’re waiting.
The Ramos Family has been keeping their mother’s delicious tamale recipe alive for over 25 years. They offer all the traditional tamales with chicken, beef, vegetables, and sweet tamales. The good news: you have until December 17th to place your order and you can place them online! This is not a restaurant so you can place your order for your next holiday party. I once had a boss have me drive all the way across town to order one for every person in the office; that’s how good they are!
4504 E. Third St., L.A.
With about a dozen King Tacos in L.A. (and some on the outskirts), you’re bound to run into one in your travels. So it’s good to know that you are never far from a reliable tamale. King Taco does the basics — chicken, pork, cheese with jalapenos, or sweet (sugar and pineapple pieces). It also lists calorie counts on the menu, in a font so small you need to squint to see it.
3655 S Grand Ave #C6, Los Angeles, CA
Chichen Itza Restaurant is a family owned and operated a business inside the Mercado la Paloma in south Los Angeles. We specialize in Yucatecan Food, maintaining the authentic flavor of this original Southeast Mexican Cuisine.
8905 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood,
Gracias Madre — If you badly want tamales for the holidays but happen to be vegan, Gracias Madre is here to help. The West Hollywood vegan Mexican restaurant is making holiday tamales and is taking orders until Dec. 21. (Orders need to be picked up by Dec. 23.) There are two versions, one savory and one sweet: a butternut squash and mole tamales, and a tamale with apple filling. Both are $36 per dozen.
6333 W. Third St., Los Angeles;
Loteria Grill — You can order Jimmy Shaw’s tamales this time of year, when he puts them on the menu at five of his restaurants (not at LAX or downtown). But if you need your tamales to make it home, you can pick them up at any of the same five restaurants if you order them 48 hours in advance from their catering department or online. The tamales Loteria is making: zucchini and roasted corn succotash; chicken in mole poblano; carnitas in chile morita sauce; poblano chiles, panela cheese and tomatillo sauce; and pineapple. Tamales are sold by the half-dozen ($24 to $26) and dozen ($48 to $52). 6333 W. Third St., Los Angeles; 6627 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, and three other locations, (323) 465-2500
*Disclosure: I also work for Supermamas, the fabulous local podcast by Guelaguetza sisters Paulina and Bricia Lopez. I really do love their tamales!!