The 16 Absolute Best Tamales In The US

The tamale is a humble, communal dish, but don't be fooled by its simple looks. When made with heart and soul, tamales are capable of leaving enduring flavor long after the last bite. To eat a tamale is to take a deep dive not only into what masa truly is but also into the story of Latin cuisine and how it crossed the border and into our hearts. At first, tamales were considered the deep cuts of Latin cuisine — romantically familiar to those exposed to them at a young age, and a culinary epiphany to others who stumbled upon them later in life. Now, tamales are sculpted, tied, and universally celebrated across countless kitchens nationwide.

We'd argue that even the simplest of places create the most delightful packages. The best tamale restaurants aren't necessarily the ones winning James Beard Awards or are dog-eared in Michelin guide books around coffee tables. They're the ones reminding us, plate after plate, that there's meaning behind these bundles of masa and what they continue to bring to the table. They're restaurants branding flavor onto our taste buds seconds after we've put down the fork and hours after we've left the parking lot. That doesn't mean these places don't have hordes of raving customers (they absolutely do), but one thing that ultimately ties each of these restaurants together is the hard work that translates into unforgettable flavors. These are the absolute best tamale restaurants across the United States.

Las Cuatro Milpas - San Diego

You'd be lucky to make it to Las Cuatro Milpas without a line swerving out the sticker-mauled door. But the second your foot leaves the Barrio Logan concrete and onto the interior brown tile? You're on Estudillo family grounds. NY Daily News described it as "stepping into the home of an abuelita" and they couldn't be more right. Here, cooking is a three-generational family affair.

Amiel Stanek, a longtime Bon Appétit contributor, characterized Las Cuatro Milpas' food as heaven-sent. He swore, even after his dizzying state of fullness, that he saw "halos around [the] heads" of the women who cooked behind the scenes here. Stanek isn't the only one raving about the lip-licking goodness of Las Cuatro Milpas, though. The San Diego Reader described their tamales as being akin to a work of "Mexican food majesty".

Manuela, Bili, and Leticia are a few of the fairy cooking godmothers who work here, and when it comes to their tamales — well, they're no delicate matter. With a quick glance, they look volatile, like they're about to burst from their own masa-zipped jeans. But for many faithful tamale seekers, Las Cuatro Milpas' food looks like it could be the last brick you need to fill that bottomless "tamale-hole" as your lasting foundation. Be sure to punch your ATM before you visit though — as their register only has an appetite for cash.

City Tamale - Bronx, New York

The more than 2,000-mile distance from the southern border didn't stop Israel Veliz from achieving his dream. Ever since immigrating to New York from Puebla, Mexico he dreamed of making tamales a mainstay in the Big Apple. What started as a small entrepreneurial venture in his apartment blossomed into something big. Now, his creation, City Tamale, has since been featured on Thrillist, Univision, and counting. In short, people accept his masa with open arms.

"It's a taste of what it means to live here", Veliz shared with NPR about his border-defining food. Although he started City Tamale with the traditional corn bundles he'd scarf down in Mexico, he soon branched out with flavors to excite the myriad of palettes in NYC. He's since captured stomachs with exciting concoctions like the fair-inspired Fried Oreo, and even the seasonal favorite, Pumpkin Spice.

Despite its countless tamale experiments and over 30 flavors, City Tamale still sticks true to its roots. They pride themselves on sourcing ingredients directly from Mexico while blending local products from the infamous Hunts Point Produce Market down the block (per City Tamale's website). So, you're probably wondering, how do their tamales sit on the tongue? Let's just say it's a memorable experience. The New York Times compared their tamales to a Beanie Baby, calling them "hefty, but delicate enough to eat with a spoon". When tamales are made with that amount of care — you know they're worth every, crumbling bite.

Sabroso! Mexican Grill - Garden Grove, California

Once Guy Fieri walks through your doors, you're hardly a neighborhood secret anymore. That's exactly what happened at Sabroso! Mexican Grill. Although their tamales only hold a small spot on the menu, they've transformed into an actual hearty meal featuring sizzling refried beans and spiced Mexican rice to boot. In short, they're no joke. Fieri salivated over their tamales on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," calling them "delicious" with the perfect ratio of "masa-to-meat".

Customers seem to be agreeing with Fieri. One peek at their Yelp page which now has over 3,000+ rave reviews tells a story of their pork tamales as being a common favorite time after time. Some customers describe them as the "best tamale" they've ever had in their life, while others dove in a little deeper to describe their "robust" flavor as being satisfying to the taste buds.

Beyond the rave tamales, for Sabroso! Mexican Grill, their food has meaning. Here, food is more than just a business, it's a way of life and an honest means to make a passionate living. Owner Tito Munoz — who's from Guerrero, Mexico — designed each and every dish to replicate the cooking of his father. "Growing up, my dad was the chef at home", Munoz told LA Times, "he was very inventive in the kitchen." The inventiveness seems to be working as they keep sending customers shortcuts to Flavortown bliss.

Arnaldo Richards' Picos Restaurant - Houston

Texas never has the short end of the stick when it comes to Mexican restaurants (ever heard of Tex-Mex?). But, let's be honest, the constant traffic jams ward off even the hungriest of cravings. Yet we promise you, it's worth the gas money to visit Arnaldo Richards' Picos Restaurant for truly authentic Mexican cuisine. They've not only perfected the traditional but even the authenticity down to the border.

While each and every one of the dishes here is carefully crafted, the tamales stand out as being phenomenal. Houstonia Magazine relishes Pico's yearly holiday tradition of serving a dozen or more tamales calling Pico's a "tamale wonderland." The flavorful superpowers coming from this kitchen are no small matter — they're spicy, palatable, and memorable all at once. Each dish is made with the intent to send palettes to a tourist destination of the "seven regions of Mexico" by whisking you away with every plate.

The chef behind these beautiful concoctions is none other than Arnaldo Richards himself. A three-generational restaurateur, Richards has been cooking in family kitchens and throwing spices around since he was 14. By 19, he accomplished a phenomenal feat. He became kitchen manager for a 400-seater restaurant in New York. Cooking isn't just a personal endeavor for Richards, it's a means for letting his culinary impulses take shape. Not looking to deal with the occasional road rage to get a sample? Picos has your tank covered as their tamales are available nationwide on Goldbelly.

Tucson Tamale Company - Tucson, Arizona

If you've shopped around for tamales at your local Sprouts Farmers Market, the Tucson Tamale Company has probably found its way onto your grocery list. For Todd and Sherry Martin, the founders of the company, it was the way into each other's hearts. But neither of them realized after their humble start in 2008 that they'd become award-winning and sought after nationwide. We'll break it down.

For starters, the Tucson Tamale Company has been named "The Best Tamale" by Tucson Weekly consecutively since 2009. Additionally, Alton Brown, James Beard Award winner and best-selling author, named their pit stop in Arizona a must-see, telling USA Today, "I would have spent another 20 minutes" waiting for their tamales. In short, people taste the love they fold in and it shows.

The company is mindful of its offerings, too. They feature both vegetarian and vegan options — alongside the universally loved meat-filled staples — so they cater to all kinds of diets and eaters alike. They also keep the indecisive eaters in mind by featuring a bundle called, "Lots of Happiness in a Box", which you can find on their website to be shipped straight to your door (and eventually your stomach). This favored box highlights the company's myriad of flavors from Green Chile Pork and Cheese to Black Bean and Cheese while seemingly living up to its name of making sure everyone is leaving with lots of happiness in their bellies.

Tamale Co. Mexican Street Food - Orlando

For some, tamales are more of an appetizer than a main dish, but Tamale Co. Mexican Street Food is out to change that. Here, tamales aren't an afterthought; they're inspirations for full-fledged, flavorful meals. One example is their Tamale Sunrise which features chicken tamales topped with two, creamy sunny-side-up eggs — sounds delicious, huh?

Owners Fernando and Jennifer Tamayo's success started out small when they began on all four wheels as a food truck. Soon enough, fame started following them everywhere they drove. From Bungalower featuring them on a segment about local food trucks back in 2018 to Orlando Weekly calling them the "third-best food truck" in the area — the notoriety began pouring in as their mileage kept counting upward.

Even though chef Tamayo left his longtime stint as a restaurant chef for the title of a food truck cook, he craved the growth an actual restaurant could bring. So, it shouldn't be surprising that they've since launched several bustling brick-and-mortars in multiple locations across Orlando (while still keeping the gas running as an opportune food truck here and there). But don't think the acclaim stopped when they put bricks up, it kept pouring in. In 2020, The Orlando Sentinel recognized them as a "runner up" for the best Mexican Restaurant of the year. Since their growth, they've stuck to their motto. They still pride themselves on bringing about food that fills the void between fast and slow dining.

La Casa Del Tamal - West Valley City, Utah

If you ask anyone who makes the best tamales, they'll most likely point to their mother or grandmother who was always huddled over the kitchen counter. So the second you see a family-owned restaurant, you should probably find a seat at their table — and that includes a spot at La Casa Del Tamal.

This place is a Utah local's tamale dream, but it may not seem that way from the outside. It doesn't look like your typical hole-in-the-wall as it's surrounded by franchises left and right. One of their most raved-about items on the menu is their Mole Poblano tamales which City Weekly describes as a tamale that "embraces your whole body like a warm hug". Given Utah's namesake as the Beehive state, you could say a tamale as lovingly described as this shouldn't come as a sweet surprise.

Things weren't always beehives and rainbows when they started. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, this family-owned restaurant faced an uphill battle at the beginning. When the pandemic took hold, they were pretty much nameless — but their daughter, Frida Guerrero, had an idea that eventually became this small family-owned restaurant's saving grace. She had the connection to what future generations were looking for in food and actively sought it out by marketing the restaurant via an entirely new brand design. Since her change, more people have been making the pilgrimage to try La Casa Del Tamal's delicious tamales.

The Tamale Place - Indianapolis

A backpacker and a Mexican with a Russian name step into a bar and the rest is history. At least that's the story behind The Tamale Place — and boy, do they serve tamales (yes, someone truly describes them as being "the size of your forearm" on Yelp). It's yet another tamale restaurant on the ever-growing list of places born out of love and yet another place that makes them absolutely splendid to eat.

If you took one look at the menu, it seems like The Tamale Place designed it with the thought of prepping for every taste bud imaginable. They have everything. From traditional favorites like beef in red sauce and chipotle chicken to sweet temptations like apple with pecans and pineapple and raisin, their creations will cover the appetites of even the pickiest eaters. Owners Angela Green and Vladimir Ronces made it this way for a reason.

Indianapolis was lacking in the tamale department. While they had quite the number of Mexican restaurants available in the area, there weren't many that offered an authentic and memorable experience when it came to tamales — so these two lovebirds set out to fix just that. The Tamale Place later managed to capture the attention of Guy Fieri as it's been featured twice on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." Despite them mind-bogglingly selling on average a number of 400 tamales a day, each one is handled with just as much care as the last.

Delia's Tamales - San Antonio

With a restaurant that's famed as being the "best tamale maker" in Texas, Delia's Tamales has quite the torch to carry. There are lines frequently of people packed like sardines outside the door of their now seven and counting locations across Texas, San Antonio Current called them the "Best Tamales of 2021," and despite their booming success, the business still remains in the Delia Ludin family. In short, they carry their torch well.

Like most tamale-centric restaurants, they started off small. For Delia, that meant only 20$ in her pocket and five pounds of masa to her name — but she made it work. And by work, we mean she managed to turn that small handful of change and masa into a nationwide success that ships tamales across all 50 states. "Everyone knows you can't go wrong with Delia's," reads Texas Highways, "... they [craft] tamales with the sabor perfecto they still strive for today."

If that isn't enough to convince you of Delia's constant striving for perfection — let their menu change your mind. They feature mouth-watering favorites like spicy pork, bean & jalapeno, and even sweet cream cheese tamales. You can buy them by the dozen or half-dozen if you happen to not live in Texas. And if you live anywhere near the state's capital — get your pocket change ready, because Delia's is planning on expanding close to you (per MySanAntonio).

Good Golly Tamale - Knoxville, Tennessee

Good Golly Tamales are just as memorable to the tastebuds as their name is to the tongue. But do they really make you go "good golly!" after every bite? Just ask happy customers who describe their tamales as being "to die for," "[a place that] take[s] tamales to another level", and worth driving "300 miles for" (via Google Reviews). There seems to never be enough good things to mention about this place – which the owner, Matt Miller, isn't complaining about at all.

"A good tamale [is] harder to come by," Matt Miller told Native Maps when asked about what sets them apart, "Our tamales are different than what most native Knoxvillians think of." At Good Golly Tamale, they don't just pivot from traditional flavors, they reimagine them. While pulled pork and chorizo might seem typical offerings, "Purple Pig" (a tamale made with purple sweet potatoes and pork cracklins) and "Lamb" (a tamale filled with ground lamb, black-eyed peas, and yes, sweet potato) bring about different images. But here, people adore them.

Maybe the reason people adore them so much is that, in Knoxville, tamales actually have a history dating back to the 1800s. "We're kind of picking up where they left off", Chris Watson, fellow owner of Good Golly Tamale told UT Daily Beacon about the tamale manufacturers that started off in the Old City. Even if today, Good Golly does things differently, locals keep finding their way back for its experimental tamales.

Tamale Boy - Portland, Oregon

There's somewhere in Portland where the tamales look like Christmas. That somewhere is Tamale Boy. One unwrapping of their red, green, or silver ribbon-wound tamales unfurls a warm, spicy experience that Portland needed — at least that's what Jaime Soltero Jr. thought after his visiting Mexico.

"I really wanted to educate the Northwest on what true and how diverse Mexican food is ...," Soltero Jr. shares on his website. His plan to educate Portland wasn't as clear-cut as he imagined, though. Tamale Boy's beginnings were as a catering company run out of his family's kitchen which soon outgrew its britches and took the form of a food truck. Soon enough, they even outgrew their four wheels and took a life of its own into several locations across Portland (one of which features exclusive "gastrobrew-focused" menu items per Eater).

Their most important path to their mission now? "We know we can't beat grandma's tamales, but for us, it's very much about community," says Soltero Jr. and that shows (via Mercatus). Even though their tamales aren't made by the hands of grandmothers, they're made with tradition in mind. A nod to that tradition is a common favorite off their menu — the Mole Negro, which their Dekum location menu describes as cooked with the "Traditional Oaxacan preparation" in mind. It features a mouth-watering mix of chicken with traditional black mole tightly wrapped in white corn masa. One merry Yelper described it as a "party in [their] mouth."

Tamaliza - Sedona, Arizona

When you commonly think of authentic Mexican food, images of rich sauces, cans of lard, and blankets of mole with little room for clean, gentle flavors come up. The tamales at Tamaliza though — they leave room for it. In fact, they deliver a lot of bang in the flavor department. But being in Sedona, Arizona means staying artsy, unconventionally quirky, and Tamaliza's fiesta aesthetic fits the bill from beginning to end. It all starts at the welcoming, bright red door.

If it doesn't, the kitschy inside and aromatics will. Here, colors abound from wall to wall. If there's one thing Tamaliza hopes to communicate to you, it's that it's time to sit back and dig into fresh, scratch-made food as if it were plated by your own grandmother. Similar to most familial comforts, coming here is like going on vacation, as Sedona's city website likes to describe it — sitting on the porch, you'll be hugged by "sweeping views and colors of nearby mountains."

The beautiful views surrounding this cute, laid-back dig only seem to compliment the equally beautiful plates of Tamaliza's food. And if you're on a health kick — don't hesitate to dig in. There are absolutely no GMOs, absolutely no lard, and absolutely all organic ingredients used in every single dish crafted behind the scenes. 

Xocome Antojera - Chicago

There are few restaurants like Xocome Antojeria and here's where x marks the spot — nearly every dish here is touched by glorious, earthy masa. To The Infatuation, Xocome's masa isn't the side-kick, it's "the protagonist", the base, and the main character that shines through on every plate. No matter if it's a taco, tlacoyo, or a flauta; at Xocomo, masa has probably been in it. And if masa abounds here, so does the flavor in their tamales.

The brains behind the masa fever at Xocome is none other than Bertha Montes Garcia and her son, David Rodriguez who both come from culinarily rich backgrounds. According to Chicago Magazine, Bertha spent most of her time growing up and working behind sweltering street stalls in central Mexico, an experience she often takes from when making her tamales. David, on the other hand, spent most of his culinary prowess as a cook in the "high-end restaurant world" of Chicago. They tag-team it up to create mouthwatering tamales, one of which is their Pork Red Tamal that holds a juicy package inside — slowly braised pork shoulder in a spicy, heart-warming red guajillo sauce. As they divulge in being number four on Chicago's top-rated restaurant of 2019 — this mother and son duo will continue conquering Chicago's stomachs one tamale, one masa bundle at a time.

Taco Trio - South Portland, Maine

Taco Trio, a small joint that sits on the corner of Ocean and C street, is a place warmly-loved by South Portland locals. It's also a place where Maine's most craved tamales hail from, even if they only take up a small scribbled spot on the whiteboard specials menu. Here, the tamales aren't a predetermined menu item, but a daily change. Even though your tamale fate is left up to the chefs — their past specials hint to your appetite being in good hands.

News Center Maine has featured the owner and signature chef, Manuel Pena multiple times for his tamales, calling them "just the way madre makes them." His wife, Karen Rasmussen, is also a figure in the restaurant's success. Just from the overflowing press — it's obvious to see that Taco Trio is deeply appreciated by the people who live here. They were even featured on DownEast which dazzled them on a long list as being one of the best Mexican restaurants in Maine.

Even in the midst of some bumps in the road, Maine was there waiting with open arms. As reported by the Portland Press Herald, shockwaves were felt through the restaurant after revealing Manuel Pena had stage-four prostate cancer. The prognosis, however difficult, didn't dampen their spirits. After a much-needed familial hiatus, Taco Trio returned better than ever. They plan to feature new items "people in Mexico are very familiar with" and additional plant-centered dishes, because, according to Manuel's wife, the vegetarians are hungry.

Teresa's Tamales - Cleveland, New Mexico

If you happen to be driving through Cleveland, New Mexico, make sure not to sneeze. If you do, you'll miss an unassuming, little joint called Teresa's Tamales that could easily be mistaken for a suburban house in the middle of nowhere. But trust us and look out for the red and white rusted sign that reads, "Casa De Teresa's Tamales" while on the road — this hidden gem deserves your foot on the brakes. 

They serve what dedicated customers call "legendary" tamales (per RestaurantGuru). It's a running joke on their about page that the lady behind these legends, Teresa Olivia, taught her daughter how to tie a tamale before she taught her how to tie her own shoes. It all began in Teresa's mother's kitchen — that's where her love for tamale-assembling began and eventually flourished into a venture that's craved by locals and visitors of New Mexico alike. 

Tamales only take up a small bit of menu real estate, but they're worth the down payment. If you're not hankering for a full-on tamale plate that also carries beans and papitas (crispy fried potatoes), Teresa's Tamales also offers flavors a-la-carte (like red pork and veggie). Are you curious about these legendary tamales but don't live anywhere near to taste the tale? Visit New Mexico's YouTube offers a video that gives salivating viewers a peek into Teresa's tamale routine as she dishes on one of her most popular recipes — Green Chile Chicken.

The Tamale Kitchen - Kansas City

In the midst of the 2020 pandemic, inside a church in the middle of Kansas City, a group of Latin American women mold, shape, and create tamales. Here, at The Tamale Kitchen, they're doing a lot more than just tying tamales together — they're building a better life. Tamales, for them, are just a pathway to independence. Velia, GiGi, Maria, San Juana, and Cece all lost their jobs during the pandemic but didn't let it shake them. For Gigi in particular, The Tamale Kitchen was a life-saving opportunity. She told KMBC that because of the opportunity made possible by Father Koch and Becky Gripp (the founder), it became possible for her to hire a lawyer to help with her immigration.

Although they're a small endeavor, they're an honest one. They only offer four different kinds of tamales (pork, chicken, vegetarian, and sweet). They only have two reviews on Yelp (both of which rave about the flavor these tamales offer) — and even though they don't have a dine-in spot just yet, what they're doing here is magical. As told by Feast, the magic happens on Tuesdays when these women come together to make the tamales. Success, however, is just beginning for them. 

As of 2022, they've since started showcasing their tamales in a local coffee shop called Café Corazon (via City Lifestyle). A pretty sweet deal for something as meaningful as The Tamale Kitchen, don't you think?