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Banana leaf tamales from Tamales Elena.
Banana leaf tamales from Tamales Elena
Wonho Frank Lee

17 Essential Tamales in Los Angeles

Explore the tamales of Latin America

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Banana leaf tamales from Tamales Elena
| Wonho Frank Lee

In Los Angeles, tamal season begins just before Thanksgiving, when Mexican and Central-Americans eat and share these Mesoamerican masa parcels made from nixtamalized or sweet corn, along with Caribbean and South America counterparts.

For Venezuelans it’s hallacas, for Brazilians it’s pamonhas, and for Puerto Ricans its pasteles that mark the holidays — just to name just a few of the different varieties found around town. From now until February 2 (Dia de La Candelaria), there is no better time to explore the tamales of the Americas. Here now are 17 essential Latin American destinations for tamales in Los Angeles.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Rosy's Tamales

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10981 Glenoaks Blvd
Pacoima, CA 91331
(818) 834-6948

What sets this hidden gem apart from other shops specializing in corn husk tamales are the regional recipes from Maria Luisa Esparza’s hometown of Zacualpan, Nayarit. The chicken in red sauce includes sliced vegetables, the chicken in green sauce is made with jalapeños, and there’s sweet corn and cheese that Esparza learned from her mother. There’s no rice and beans here, a combo plate-free zone — just warm champurrado (chocolate and corn masa drink) to pair with delicious, heartwarming gifts wrapped in corn husks. 

2. Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales

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13754 Van Nuys Blvd
Pacoima, CA 91331
(818) 896-8789
Visit Website

You can tell that tamal season is here by the long lines at the shop in front of a 10,000 square foot tamal factory on Van Nuys Boulevard, at the beginning of Pacoima’s Chicano restaurant row. Old school Mexican-American flavors of green and red salsas fuel a range of fillings from meats, pineapple, chile and cheese, to sweet corn and vegetarian that satisfy their San Fernando Valley customers, as well as tamal lovers nationwide. 

3. Guatemalteca Bakery

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7630 Van Nuys Blvd
Van Nuys, CA 91405
(818) 782-8430
Visit Website

This Guatemalan chainlet offers baked goods, Guatemalan plates, antojitos, and of course, tamales. Like most tamales in Central America, these are big. Most of the bakery’s tamales are wrapped in banana leaves, like chicken, pork, and patches, which are made with mashed potatoes instead of corn masa. They all come with rich stews of mild chiles called recados. Chuchitos are pork tamales in corn husks, as are tamalitos de chipilín (legume), which are served with tomato sauce, and hard cheese. They have locations in Rampart Village and East Hollywood as well.

4. Panaderia El Salvador

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4015 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 284-8368

With a pair of locations easily accessed from Koreatown and Hollywood, this Salvadoran bakery offers moist, delicious tamales wrapped in banana leaves, as well as Salvadoran pastries and breads. You can order tamales de elote, made with sweet corn in green corn husks, that are eaten with Salvadoran cream (which you can buy here), as well as pisques, which are refried bean tamales in banana leaves traditionally eaten with tomato sauce and curtido. The beef and pork also come in banana leaves, and if you’ve never had Salvadoran tamales, they are boiled instead of steamed and come out soft, and sooth on the surface.

5. Angry Egret Dinette

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970 N Broadway Suite 114
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Chef Wes Ávila’s latest venture focuses on Mexican-American tortas packed with soft scrambles, and low and slow cooked meats, some burritos, and whatever he feels like adding to the menu. Right now he’s offering the Chicano-style tamales he’s become well known for on cooking shows, like beef with red chile, duck tamales, and a squash, cheese and rajas (chile stripes). While his pre-orders for Dececember 24 and 25th are closed, you can order tamales on the restaurant’s website for the rest of the season. And tamales with fried eggs on top is a regular menu item.

6. Vcho’s Truck

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5905 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Chef Wendy Centeno of this popular Salvadoran food truck is making chicken tamales for the holidays, cooked in a tomato and sweet pepper sauce, sliced potatoes, carrots, in fresh masa wrapped in banana leaves. Centeno’s modern Salvadoran approach means vegan versions of her chicken tamales are on the menu. Call your order in to reserve a dozen and throw in some pupusas while you’re at it.

Vchos Truck in Mid-Wilshire in November 2018 Wonho Frank Lee

7. Guatemalan Night Market at 6th and Bonnie Brae St.

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Pull up to Westlake’s “humo en tus ojos” (smoke in your eyes) churrasco stands for a vision of the lakeside town of Panajachel, next to MacArthur Park Lake. On the northeast corner of Bonnie Brae and 6th Street are chapines (Guatemalans) serving tamales de arroz (rice flour tamales), paches (mashed potato tamales), and pork and chicken tamales wrapped in banana leaves all flavored by tomato-based recados (stews) and sweetened by bell peppers and mild chiles guaques. There are chuchitos, too, wrapped in corn husks, for contrast in perhaps in one of the greatest tamal cultures in Latin America.

Tamales on the street at Bonnie Brae & 6th Street in Los Angeles
Tamales on the street at Bonnie Brae & 6th Street in Los Angeles
Wonho Frank Lee

8. Sabor Colombiano

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847 S Union Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 338-1608
Visit Website

There are two kinds of Colombians: team tamales vallecaucanos (tamales vallunos) or team tamales tolimenses from the Tolima region. At the best Colombian restaurant, tamales tolimenses are made with seasoned corn flour mixed with cooked rice and filled with pork, chicken, hard-boiled eggs, carrots, and peas, served with hot chocolate and bread, or an arepa. Tamales vallunos are formed with ground corn, and filled with pork, chicken, tomatoes, and onions. Clear your schedule for these behemoths as they are meals unto themselves.   

9. La 27th Restaurante Nicaraguense

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1830 W Pico Blvd # C
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 387-2467
Visit Website

When you feel like a hearty breakfast during this holiday season, grab a Nicaraguan nacatamal with a cup of coffee and a bread roll (or tortillas). The nacatamles are boiled for five hours in banana leaves, notable for its signature flavors of chile congo and spearmint added to the pork, tomato and potato slices pressed into the masa. Purchase a dozen to-go at this Byzantine-Latino Quarter conservatory of nicaragüense cuisine.

10. La Flor De Yucatan Bakery

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1800 Hoover St
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 748-6090
Visit Website

At one of LA’s oldest regional Mexican bakeries, vaporcitos (pork and chicken tamales), and colados (fine masa tamales) are available every day. But if you want to go deeper, the catering menu offers brazo de reina (spinach log roll tamal), dzotobichay (spinach and pumpkin seed tamal), and the “whole tamale,” mukbil-pollo, a baked tamal pie filled with chicken in a creamy sauce stained by achiote customarily served for dia de los muertos. Order a nine-pounder for your holiday table, and begin a new family tradition of the carving of the tamal. 

11. Tamales Lilianas

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4619 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90022
(323) 780-0989
Visit Website

During the holidays, a pre-dawn line of Eastsiders cue up for red and green pork tamales, three kinds of sweet tamales, and chicken with a vegetable medley in red sauce, while the team of veteran cooks spreads, fills, wraps, and steams nearly 18,000 tamales a day. All tamales are wrapped in corn husks, and are beloved for its flavor, moist texture, and consistency over decades.

12. Gish Bac

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4163 W Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90018
(323) 737-5050
Visit Website

Oaxacalifornia’s best restaurant, famous for its Valles Centrales barbacoa, is also your destination for artisanal moles. Steamed in banana leaves for two hours, the tamales de mole negro (black mole) with shredded chicken yields moist bites of palate pleasing flavors: Mexican chocolate, dark and smoky notes of dried chiles, and a mélange of sweets, savories, and spices. 

Maria and David Ramos of Gish Bac
Maria and David Ramos of Gish Bac
Matthew Kang

13. Los Cinco Puntos

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3300 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90063
(323) 261-4084
Visit Website

You’ll find everything to make your own tamales at one of the city’s most established “Mexicatessens,” but upon seeing the impressive large scale production amidst fragrant fumes of steaming masa, it’s better to leave it to the pros. Perfect for large orders, the beef in red sauce, and the chicken in green sauce, are perfect sides to Mexican-American holiday meals, where turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and tamales belong together.

14. La Indiana Tamales

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1142 S Indiana St
Los Angeles, CA 90023
(323) 262-4682
Visit Website

The “best kept secret,” according to its website is no secret at all to Angelenos of all stripes when the holidays arrive. If you’re looking for large number of the standards: chicken, pork, beef, green chile and cheese, corn, and sweet, head to East LA where the tamalada (tamal making party) never stops. Durango-born Luar Salcedo Ramos took over the business in 1979, and has made its mark as a stalwart producer of Mexican-American tamales. 

15. Chichen Itza

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3655 S Grand Ave C6
Los Angeles, CA 90007
(213) 741-1075
Visit Website

With a short provincial list of tamales from Mexico’s most diverse region of tamales, Mercado La Paloma’s Yucatecan institution serves tender tamales colados filled with chicken in a tomato salsa scented with epazote, and firmer tamales horneados colored by the ubiquitous condiment of the Yucatán: recaudo rojo, or achiote. Come here to stock up on vaporcitos for Dia de La Candelaria (February 2) to make good on your tamal debt if your slice of rosca de reyes happened to have the niño on Dia de Los Reyes (January 6).

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16. Tamales Elena Y Antojitos

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8101 Garfield Ave
Bell Gardens, CA 90201
(562) 674-3043
Visit Website

Great news for tamales fans. Afro-Mexican traditional cook, Maria Lorenzo and her talented daughters opened a drive-thru location earlier this year that features a pozoleria, regional dishes from La Costa Chica like mole costeño, beef tongue with plantains in a rich sauce, and tamales in banana leaves. Whether pork in salsa roja, chicken in salsa verde, or cheese and spinach, the banana leaf tamales are the real tradition from Lorenzo’s region in the Mexican state of Guerrero, with a fatty masa that soaks up the spicy stews and delivers a lot of flavor. Corn husk tamales are available as well.

Banana leaf tamales from Tamales Elena.
Banana leaf tamales from Tamales Elena
Wonho Frank Lee

17. Sinaloa Express

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4174 Tweedy Blvd
South Gate, CA 90280
(323) 749-0117
Visit Website

Head to South Gate, in one of LA’s local Sinaloan communities, for the simple pleasures of sweet buttery, fresh corn tamales, beloved by Sinaloans all over Los Angeles. Tamales are not its specialty, but the limited offerings are well made, including a pork tamal in red sauce with green olives and potatoes if you’re looking for tamales out of the ordinary. 

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1. Rosy's Tamales

10981 Glenoaks Blvd, Pacoima, CA 91331

What sets this hidden gem apart from other shops specializing in corn husk tamales are the regional recipes from Maria Luisa Esparza’s hometown of Zacualpan, Nayarit. The chicken in red sauce includes sliced vegetables, the chicken in green sauce is made with jalapeños, and there’s sweet corn and cheese that Esparza learned from her mother. There’s no rice and beans here, a combo plate-free zone — just warm champurrado (chocolate and corn masa drink) to pair with delicious, heartwarming gifts wrapped in corn husks. 

10981 Glenoaks Blvd
Pacoima, CA 91331

2. Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales

13754 Van Nuys Blvd, Pacoima, CA 91331

You can tell that tamal season is here by the long lines at the shop in front of a 10,000 square foot tamal factory on Van Nuys Boulevard, at the beginning of Pacoima’s Chicano restaurant row. Old school Mexican-American flavors of green and red salsas fuel a range of fillings from meats, pineapple, chile and cheese, to sweet corn and vegetarian that satisfy their San Fernando Valley customers, as well as tamal lovers nationwide. 

13754 Van Nuys Blvd
Pacoima, CA 91331

3. Guatemalteca Bakery

7630 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91405

This Guatemalan chainlet offers baked goods, Guatemalan plates, antojitos, and of course, tamales. Like most tamales in Central America, these are big. Most of the bakery’s tamales are wrapped in banana leaves, like chicken, pork, and patches, which are made with mashed potatoes instead of corn masa. They all come with rich stews of mild chiles called recados. Chuchitos are pork tamales in corn husks, as are tamalitos de chipilín (legume), which are served with tomato sauce, and hard cheese. They have locations in Rampart Village and East Hollywood as well.

7630 Van Nuys Blvd
Van Nuys, CA 91405

4. Panaderia El Salvador

4015 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004

With a pair of locations easily accessed from Koreatown and Hollywood, this Salvadoran bakery offers moist, delicious tamales wrapped in banana leaves, as well as Salvadoran pastries and breads. You can order tamales de elote, made with sweet corn in green corn husks, that are eaten with Salvadoran cream (which you can buy here), as well as pisques, which are refried bean tamales in banana leaves traditionally eaten with tomato sauce and curtido. The beef and pork also come in banana leaves, and if you’ve never had Salvadoran tamales, they are boiled instead of steamed and come out soft, and sooth on the surface.

4015 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004

5. Angry Egret Dinette

970 N Broadway Suite 114, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Chef Wes Ávila’s latest venture focuses on Mexican-American tortas packed with soft scrambles, and low and slow cooked meats, some burritos, and whatever he feels like adding to the menu. Right now he’s offering the Chicano-style tamales he’s become well known for on cooking shows, like beef with red chile, duck tamales, and a squash, cheese and rajas (chile stripes). While his pre-orders for Dececember 24 and 25th are closed, you can order tamales on the restaurant’s website for the rest of the season. And tamales with fried eggs on top is a regular menu item.

970 N Broadway Suite 114
Los Angeles, CA 90012

6. Vcho’s Truck

5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Vchos Truck in Mid-Wilshire in November 2018 Wonho Frank Lee

Chef Wendy Centeno of this popular Salvadoran food truck is making chicken tamales for the holidays, cooked in a tomato and sweet pepper sauce, sliced potatoes, carrots, in fresh masa wrapped in banana leaves. Centeno’s modern Salvadoran approach means vegan versions of her chicken tamales are on the menu. Call your order in to reserve a dozen and throw in some pupusas while you’re at it.

5905 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036

7. Guatemalan Night Market at 6th and Bonnie Brae St.

Los Angeles, CA 90057
Tamales on the street at Bonnie Brae & 6th Street in Los Angeles
Tamales on the street at Bonnie Brae & 6th Street in Los Angeles
Wonho Frank Lee

Pull up to Westlake’s “humo en tus ojos” (smoke in your eyes) churrasco stands for a vision of the lakeside town of Panajachel, next to MacArthur Park Lake. On the northeast corner of Bonnie Brae and 6th Street are chapines (Guatemalans) serving tamales de arroz (rice flour tamales), paches (mashed potato tamales), and pork and chicken tamales wrapped in banana leaves all flavored by tomato-based recados (stews) and sweetened by bell peppers and mild chiles guaques. There are chuchitos, too, wrapped in corn husks, for contrast in perhaps in one of the greatest tamal cultures in Latin America.

8. Sabor Colombiano

847 S Union Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90017

There are two kinds of Colombians: team tamales vallecaucanos (tamales vallunos) or team tamales tolimenses from the Tolima region. At the best Colombian restaurant, tamales tolimenses are made with seasoned corn flour mixed with cooked rice and filled with pork, chicken, hard-boiled eggs, carrots, and peas, served with hot chocolate and bread, or an arepa. Tamales vallunos are formed with ground corn, and filled with pork, chicken, tomatoes, and onions. Clear your schedule for these behemoths as they are meals unto themselves.   

847 S Union Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90017

9. La 27th Restaurante Nicaraguense

1830 W Pico Blvd # C, Los Angeles, CA 90006

When you feel like a hearty breakfast during this holiday season, grab a Nicaraguan nacatamal with a cup of coffee and a bread roll (or tortillas). The nacatamles are boiled for five hours in banana leaves, notable for its signature flavors of chile congo and spearmint added to the pork, tomato and potato slices pressed into the masa. Purchase a dozen to-go at this Byzantine-Latino Quarter conservatory of nicaragüense cuisine.

1830 W Pico Blvd # C
Los Angeles, CA 90006

10. La Flor De Yucatan Bakery

1800 Hoover St, Los Angeles, CA 90006

At one of LA’s oldest regional Mexican bakeries, vaporcitos (pork and chicken tamales), and colados (fine masa tamales) are available every day. But if you want to go deeper, the catering menu offers brazo de reina (spinach log roll tamal), dzotobichay (spinach and pumpkin seed tamal), and the “whole tamale,” mukbil-pollo, a baked tamal pie filled with chicken in a creamy sauce stained by achiote customarily served for dia de los muertos. Order a nine-pounder for your holiday table, and begin a new family tradition of the carving of the tamal. 

1800 Hoover St
Los Angeles, CA 90006

11. Tamales Lilianas

4619 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90022

During the holidays, a pre-dawn line of Eastsiders cue up for red and green pork tamales, three kinds of sweet tamales, and chicken with a vegetable medley in red sauce, while the team of veteran cooks spreads, fills, wraps, and steams nearly 18,000 tamales a day. All tamales are wrapped in corn husks, and are beloved for its flavor, moist texture, and consistency over decades.

4619 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90022

12. Gish Bac

4163 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90018
Maria and David Ramos of Gish Bac
Maria and David Ramos of Gish Bac
Matthew Kang

Oaxacalifornia’s best restaurant, famous for its Valles Centrales barbacoa, is also your destination for artisanal moles. Steamed in banana leaves for two hours, the tamales de mole negro (black mole) with shredded chicken yields moist bites of palate pleasing flavors: Mexican chocolate, dark and smoky notes of dried chiles, and a mélange of sweets, savories, and spices. 

4163 W Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90018

13. Los Cinco Puntos

3300 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90063

You’ll find everything to make your own tamales at one of the city’s most established “Mexicatessens,” but upon seeing the impressive large scale production amidst fragrant fumes of steaming masa, it’s better to leave it to the pros. Perfect for large orders, the beef in red sauce, and the chicken in green sauce, are perfect sides to Mexican-American holiday meals, where turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and tamales belong together.

3300 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90063

14. La Indiana Tamales

1142 S Indiana St, Los Angeles, CA 90023

The “best kept secret,” according to its website is no secret at all to Angelenos of all stripes when the holidays arrive. If you’re looking for large number of the standards: chicken, pork, beef, green chile and cheese, corn, and sweet, head to East LA where the tamalada (tamal making party) never stops. Durango-born Luar Salcedo Ramos took over the business in 1979, and has made its mark as a stalwart producer of Mexican-American tamales. 

1142 S Indiana St
Los Angeles, CA 90023

15. Chichen Itza

3655 S Grand Ave C6, Los Angeles, CA 90007
Google Maps

With a short provincial list of tamales from Mexico’s most diverse region of tamales, Mercado La Paloma’s Yucatecan institution serves tender tamales colados filled with chicken in a tomato salsa scented with epazote, and firmer tamales horneados colored by the ubiquitous condiment of the Yucatán: recaudo rojo, or achiote. Come here to stock up on vaporcitos for Dia de La Candelaria (February 2) to make good on your tamal debt if your slice of rosca de reyes happened to have the niño on Dia de Los Reyes (January 6).

3655 S Grand Ave C6
Los Angeles, CA 90007

Related Maps

16. Tamales Elena Y Antojitos

8101 Garfield Ave, Bell Gardens, CA 90201
Banana leaf tamales from Tamales Elena.
Banana leaf tamales from Tamales Elena
Wonho Frank Lee

Great news for tamales fans. Afro-Mexican traditional cook, Maria Lorenzo and her talented daughters opened a drive-thru location earlier this year that features a pozoleria, regional dishes from La Costa Chica like mole costeño, beef tongue with plantains in a rich sauce, and tamales in banana leaves. Whether pork in salsa roja, chicken in salsa verde, or cheese and spinach, the banana leaf tamales are the real tradition from Lorenzo’s region in the Mexican state of Guerrero, with a fatty masa that soaks up the spicy stews and delivers a lot of flavor. Corn husk tamales are available as well.

8101 Garfield Ave
Bell Gardens, CA 90201

17. Sinaloa Express

4174 Tweedy Blvd, South Gate, CA 90280

Head to South Gate, in one of LA’s local Sinaloan communities, for the simple pleasures of sweet buttery, fresh corn tamales, beloved by Sinaloans all over Los Angeles. Tamales are not its specialty, but the limited offerings are well made, including a pork tamal in red sauce with green olives and potatoes if you’re looking for tamales out of the ordinary. 

4174 Tweedy Blvd
South Gate, CA 90280

Related Maps