If your Christmas routine involves unwrapping your presents AND your meal, then you’re probably familiar with holiday tamales. To keep up the tradition without toiling in the kitchen, many local families leave the cooking to the experts and order bundles of these heartily-filled pockets of steaming masa by the dozen. If you’re new to the game, get your orders in quickly before the deadlines approach. But if you end up waiting in long lines for your holiday tamales, that’s traditional too. Though you can find them throughout the year, now is peak tamale season for shops and stalls like these.
Tamara’s Tamales, Culver City
Crafting tamales at Christmas as a child in East LA was the inspiration for Alice Guadalupe Tapp to open her own shop in Culver City. Tapp wanted a place to enjoy tamales year round, and now her establishment steams hundreds of tamales per day. Customers come for the variety she offers. Chicken mole and machacha beef are some of the top carne choices. Some unique offerings include a Nicaraguan tamale with chicken wrapped in banana leaves, and this month’s special, king crab. Vegetarian and vegan options are available as well, such as wild mushroom and jalapeno pesto carrot. Tamara’s Tamales is taking Christmas orders through Dec. 15. Most batches of 12 range between $34 and $54, with some premium varieties costing more. Individual tamales on their daily menu range from $3 to $9.50.
13352 Washington Blvd, Los Angeles / 310-305-7714
Vendors have been selling street tamales in Los Angeles since the horse-drawn buggies of the late 1800s. Los Tamaleros is a food truck proving tamales are still a hit on the streets. This traveling tamale nursery keeps them steamed and warm in four varieties: pork, chicken, cheese, and sweet corn. Tamales are $3 each or $35 per dozen. Los Tamaleros is accepting bulk orders for the holidays and can arrange a delivery or pickup destination of your choice. A minimum of two dozen is required. Place orders by Dec. 17 to ensure availability by Christmas. The truck frequents the San Fernando/Sylmar area, announcing their whereabouts on Facebook and Instagram. Their regular menu includes tacos, burritos, tortas, sopes, and agua frescas, though wintertime gives you an excuse to try the champurrado, a hot chocolate drink thickened with corn flour. Mention “Foodzooka” and receive a 15% discount on your order. Offer valid until Jan. 31, 2018.
Yuca’s, Los Feliz and Pasadena
While Yuca’s usually only serves tamales on Saturdays, the holidays present a rare opportunity to stock up. This decades-old taco hut is known for crafting a Southern Mexican style tamale with a ground pork filling, seasoned with a reddish achiote sauce, and wrapped in banana leaves. Tamales on Saturdays are $3.50 each, and holiday orders are $38 per dozen. Orders of six or more need to be placed by Dec. 11, and those can be picked up on Dec. 23. You can place your order at both locations in person, by phone, or by emailing [email protected]
2056 Hillhurst Ave, Los Feliz / 323-662-1214
1075 S. Fair Oaks Avenue 91105 / 626. 788-7448
Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales, Pacoima and farmers markets
If Santa had a tamale workshop, this would be it. Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales in Pacoima is a small factory where thousands of tamales are made by hand each week and sold from their walk-up window or delivered to local farmers markets and festivals. The company recommends placing your order by Dec. 18 to get your tamales by Christmas. These award-winning pockets of corn dough are sold at farmers markets for $3.50 each or $39 per dozen. Those who trek up north to the San Fernando Valley outpost are rewarded with a discount price of $25 per dozen.
13754 Van Nuys Blvd, Pacoima, CA 91331 / 818-896-8789
Farmers markets: Brentwood, Larchmont Village, Atwater Village, Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw, Hollywood, Marina Del Rey, Burbank, Northridge, Boyle Heights, and many more.
La Mascota Bakery, Boyle Heights
This Boyle Heights landmark has been feeding tamales to lines of customers since 1952. Coming here for Christmas tamales is an annual tradition for many families that’s passed down from generation to generation, much like the recipes used in the shop. Five choices are available: red chili with beef or pork, green chili with pork or chicken, and sweet corn with pineapple. Tamales are sold at $24 per dozen or $1.95 individually. The deadline for holiday bulk orders is Dec. 12. After that, walk-ins are welcome to try their luck, even on Christmas Day when the bakery is open from 5am to 6pm.
2715 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, 90023 / 323-263-5513
Tamale Treats and More, select farmers markets
Corn Maiden began its venture in Culver City where it first impressed locals with unique fillings more than 20 years ago. Now a national retailer, the company has stayed local friendly, supplying more than a dozen farmers market stalls under the name Tamale Treats & More. And they still offer hard-to-find flavors, such as BBQ chicken, blue corn, black bean, apple, and goat cheese. As a bonus, the tamales are gluten and lard free. Individual tamales are $3.50 or available by the dozen for $30 to $34. Corn Maiden recommends orders be placed a week before Christmas to be ready before the holiday. Orders can be picked up at farmers market stands or at Corn Maiden’s headquarters in Harbor City.
24201 Frampton Ave., Harbor City 90710 / 310-784-0400
Farmers markets: Culver City, Tuesday; downtown L.A. (Figueroa), downtown L.A. (Little Tokyo), Westwood and South Pasadena on Thursdays; Torrance, Calabasas and La Cañada on Saturdays; and Hollywood, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica and Studio City on Sundays.
More Holiday Hot Pockets
LA’s mighty mole maker Guelaguetza in Koreatown offers oversized tamales stuffed with chicken and their famous coffee-colored sauce. Guelaguetza can whip up orders within a four hour notice.
La Indiana Tamales in East LA is a take-out only market stall located within shoulder distance of the 5 freeway. The humble shop’s popularity has earned it celebrity endorsements from LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold and Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am. La Indiana Tamales will be taking its last orders for Christmas on Dec. 19.
And for bulk orders only, customers can get frozen batches of El Cholo’s green corn tamales for $42. Usually customers have to wait until May to taste these seasonal wonders that are prized for their sweetness as the corn is harvested straight from the cob. Orders should be placed by Dec. 18 and can be picked up at any of El Cholo’s six locations or shipped for an extra charge.