The Best Tamales in Phoenix

Who has the best tamales in Phoenix? Fear not, I’m on the trail! In the Southwest, much like my experiences in Hispanic-influenced California, tamales are an important part of holiday eating.  I’ve only just moved to Phoenix, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to dive right in.   I’m a sucker for food challenges. I spent a week in Hilo Hawaii researching and trying many, many loco moco dishes and I’m going to happily invest a lot of time figuring out who has the best tamales in Phoenix.

Best Tamales in Phoenix

First of all, some of you may not know what a tamale is.  Tamales are delicious packets of goodness, made with a corn-based masa flour that is stuffed with meat, seafood, cheese or beans and enfolded into a corn husk (or banana leaf depending on the region) and steamed.  Then either a red or green sauce is poured on top.

But why tamales at Christmas? Corn was a very important crop for the MesoAmerican farmers and food wrapped in corn and corn husks served as an offering. From there, tamales began to be an essential part of holidays or special occasions like weddings, baptisms, Christmas, and these days, Thanksgiving.

If you are lucky enough to have Hispanic friends and family then during the holidays you will likely partake in a tamale-making-and-eating feast known as a tamalada. Making tamales takes work and the tamale making process is a social event that allows friends and family to catch up and to make bunches and bunches of tamales to share and enjoy. Please, will someone invite me to one?

Personally, I want to make tamales with Ms. Lagunas who I was introduced to by this NY Times article where she explains the tradition of tamales.

Best Tamales in Phoenix

In the meantime, I’ve asked some local metro Phoenix area bloggers to help me out a bit and they’ve got some great recommendations. So whether you are visiting Phoenix for the holidays (lots of people do!) or any other time of the year, check these tamale spots out!

From Taryn Jeffries of Phoenix Bites:
In the Southwest, tamales are synonymous with the holidays, so it goes without saying that there are options galore in the Valley of the Sun. When I’m organizing a holiday event or want to treat out of towners to some of the finest tamales in town, I don’t head into the kitchen; I place my order with The Tamale Store. With options like chicken chipotle, pork green chile, Arizona cornbread with Colby jack along with their sweet corn tamale, The Tamale Store has something that will please the palate of everyone you know. I love that all the tamales sold here are made fresh daily in small batches and are great for those with gluten and soy sensitivities (mostly.) The tamales here are bursting at the seams with fresh, flavorful fillings and the masa they use is some of the best I’ve tasted. My personal favorite is the beef red chile due to the slow and steady heat of the red chile sauce and the superb fusion of Mexican spices. It’s the spirit and flavor of Arizona on a plate.

From Jessica Norah of Independent Travel Cats:
The family-run The Tamale Store has been on the lists of “best tamales in Phoenix” every year since it opened in 2008. A few years ago, I saw one of these lists which encouraged my partner and I to order a batch of their tamales (chicken and pork) which are handmade from scratch each day. The tamales did not disappoint, they were delicious and generously filled with high-quality ingredients. I’ve only tried a couple of their meat options, but they also have several vegetarian and vegan options that also sound really yummy. You can get their tamales by pre-ordering, going directly to their shop, or visiting their stand at one of the local farmer’s markets.

The Tamale Store in Phoenix, 13046 N Cave Creek Road, Phoenix, AZ 85022.

Since both Taryn and Jessica recommend The Tamale Store, I am heading over there first thing!

From Cacinda Maloney of Points and Travel:
My favorite place to buy them is El Bravo Mexican Food, I go to the one on 7th Street, but they now have a location at the Sky Harbor Airport too, El Bravo Sky Harbor! For 30 years, this restaurant has been making handmade tamales. What makes them so good? Well, for starters, they got the recipe from owner Lorraine Othon’s mother, who started the restaurant a long time ago. They use masa -a sweet, moist, and light dough. Then, there’s the meat – tender shredded beef or chicken. Finally, the sauces-red and green. But the green sauce is actually my favorite. They then cover the tamale with a gravy and melted cheese!

El Bravo Mexican Food, 8338 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85020.

Best Tamales in Phoenix

A few other top picks for best tamales in Phoenix:

  • Molly’s Tamales – Award-winning tamale crafter with the classic green or red, but they also have spicy salmon – yum! (8806 N 43rd Ave, Glendale)
  • Carolina’s Mexican Food – known for their homemade tortillas they also have phenomenal tamales, don’t miss the green chicken tamale. (2126 East Cactus Rd, Phoenix)
  • Los Dos Molinos – their tamales are spicy, just how I like them!(1044 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix)

Two exceptional bakeries to buy your holiday tamales:

  • La Purisima Bakery – Known for their fantastic pastries and sweet bread, they also make top-notch tamales on a daily basis. Usually a line. Cash only. (4533 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale)
  • Azteca Bakery & Mexican Fast Food – family owned bakery that doesn’t use any preservatives in their food. (416 N 7th Ave, Phoenix)

Of course, if you can’t get to Phoenix for tamales (are you sure?) you can make them at home. I love this post from Delicious Days sharing her grandmother’s story and tamale recipe.

If I was to try to make tamales at home, I think I would do what Phoenix food blogger, Emily Dixon of One Lovely Life did, slow cooker beef tamale bowls! They look so easy, all the reward, none of the hard work. (Or course, I do want Ms. Lagunas to know that if she did invite me over for a tamalada, I would definitely do the work!)

How about you? Have you eaten tamales in Phoenix and have a favorite? Do share!

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Best Tamales in Phoenix

22 Comments

  1. Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate
    December 21, 2017

    Hot tamale! That looks divine. Not sure what I like more: the food or the colorful tables! Can we go on a tamale tour together when I finally make it out there?

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      December 21, 2017

      @Kristin, it’s a date!

      Reply
  2. Christina | Christina's Cucina
    December 21, 2017

    I love tamales! Love the recommendations from local bloggers as I’ m sure they know their tamales! Haven’t been back in years, but this just makes me want to jump in my car!

    Reply
    1. Andi Fisher
      December 21, 2017

      @Christina, I agree, the locals know best! Thanks for introducing me to Phoenix Bites!

      Reply
  3. Calvin
    December 21, 2017

    Colorful serve ware I haven’t had tamales before! I guess i’m missing out.

    Reply
  4. Laura
    December 21, 2017

    I just realized I’ve never had a tamale! I need to get myself to Phoenix fast!

    Reply
  5. Anita Anderson
    December 22, 2017

    I have not had tamales, but would like to try making them myself. I love the plate settings and would love to purchase them. They are vibrant and colorful.

    Reply
  6. Neely Moldovan
    December 22, 2017

    We love tamales. Just ordered some from a sweet neighbor and can’t wait to dig in!

    Reply
  7. Jenna
    December 22, 2017

    Great roundup for the holiday season! I love getting tamales at this time of year.

    Reply
  8. Cynthia | What A Girl Eats
    December 22, 2017

    I love a good tamale! They might just be my favorite mexican food…My classroom aide just brought me some of her homemade tamales for christmas. I have relatives in Phoenix, I’ll have to check this out next time we’re there!

    Reply
  9. Heather Johnson
    December 22, 2017

    I do not think that I have ever eaten a tamale. I would love to try an authentic one if I am ever in the Phoenix area!

    Reply
  10. Liz Mays
    December 22, 2017

    I would actually love to try some really good authentic tamales. Great recommendations. It would be fun to try a few of these and compare.

    Reply
  11. Jessica
    December 22, 2017

    Yum! I love tamales. I just had some the other day. I’m bookmarking this for my next trip to Phoenix!

    Reply
  12. Nicole Anderson
    December 22, 2017

    Wow! Looks so delicious. I have never eaten a ‘Tomale’. When I am next in your part of the world, I will be sampling a few!

    Reply
  13. jENNY
    December 22, 2017

    Tamales are one of my favorites!! These look amazing, I bet the taste is amazing.

    Reply
  14. Brianna Simmons
    December 23, 2017

    You had me at tamales! We definitely need to do a tamales date when I come back to Phoenix.

    Reply
  15. Denise
    December 23, 2017

    Tamales are so delicious! You dont see them a lot where I live, but I sometimes order them online and keep them in the freezer.

    Reply
  16. Nadine
    December 23, 2017

    I have never heard of tamales before but it sounds super yummy. I love trying new stuff, especially food 🙂

    Reply
  17. Rebekah Mercier
    January 1, 2018

    I’ve never had these before. I will have to make a date with my best friend to go somewhere and try them.

    Reply
  18. […] like the Fresh Foodie Trail and partake in all its delicious offerings or eat every tamale on my best tamales in Phoenix list, you may thank may if you pack a bottle of probiotics in your […]

    Reply
  19. April Monty
    January 9, 2018

    My guys would love to have a go at these they love tamales

    Reply
  20. Rosie
    January 13, 2018

    I’ve never had real tamales like this. I would so love to try them, it would be worth a trip to go to the best places.

    Reply

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