When it comes to the holiday season, living in the Southwest means enjoying the bonus of fresh tamales in addition to the rest of the country's more traditional fare. Whether they are green, red, vegetarian, or sweet, several places throughout the Valley are happy to serve up your favorites. Here are 12 spots we like the best. (Note: For the best results, make sure to call ahead for orders and pickup times.)
The Tamale Store If you're a farmers market groupie, chances are you're well-acquainted with this little shop in North Phoenix serving about 20 kinds of tasty creations. There are even two special December-only tamales: one made with ground beef, dried nuts and fruits, and Monterrey jack cheese; and another, a dessert tamale, simply called Holiday Fruit Cake. Grab two for $5, six for $15, or a dozen for $27. Call, e-mail, or stop by to place an order. Or, purchase what the store may have in stock that day by simply dropping by.
Tamales from Norman Fierros
Any Mexican food-lovin' gourmand who's lived in Phoenix for the past 10 or so years has probably heard of Norman Fierros, chef and owner of the defunct Fina Cocina in downtown Phoenix. Well, Fierros is back in the Valley -- but just for a while -- and he happens to be making his signature tamales for the holidays. Score some of his green corn or red chile varieties by calling 602-330-3033 to place an order. The price is $30 per dozen.
Looking for tamales with a non-traditional edge? This little tamale shop in Glendale, courtesy of owners Estella (whose nickname is Molly) and Felipe Sedlmeier, offers the exotic as well as the classic. Choose from flavors such as wild sockeye salmon, cactus, and Roxy Road (made with chocolate and marshmallows). Plus, all of Molly's tamales are lard- and shortening-free. Call, e-mail, or stop by the store to place an order. For pricing, see Molly's website.
Serving authentic Mexican food in the Valley since 1947, this bakery, restaurant, and market in downtown Phoenix churns out tamales by the dozen -- hot and ready to go for $16.99 and frozen for $14.99. Choose from flavors like green chile cheese, chicken and beef, and dessert tamales like strawberry or pineapple. And if you're making your own this year, they've got all the ingredients you'll need.
At the Mesa location of this legendary family-owned Mexican restaurant, you can score five kinds of tamales -- carne adovada, red chile beef, blue corn, green chile (no meat), and green chile chicken -- for $25 per dozen. Plus, when you order two dozen of any kind, you'll get six pineapple tamales for free. Call 480-969-7475 or stop by the restaurant to place an order.
Along with some of the best homemade tortillas around, this Valley favorite with a cult following since 1968 serves tasty tamales, too. Snag red beef, green chicken, or green corn tamales for two bucks each, $11 for six, and $18 for a dozen. With three locations in the Valley, it shouldn't be tough finding a Carolina's tamale nearby.
If you've been to Los Sombreros in south Scottsdale, then you already know why its Twelve Tamales of Christmas is so popular. With a little something for everyone -- spicy, sweet, meat, and veggie -- gift givers can mix and match from a dozen delicious fillings like tomatillo chicken, green corn, and chocolate. The price is $29.95 per dozen -- all wrapped up in a pretty gift box. To order, call 480-994-1799 or stop in for eats and place your order at the restaurant
For 30 years, this family-owned Sunnyslope restaurant serving Arizona-style Mexican food has been a neighborhood favorite -- especially when it comes to the tamales. Choose from fillings like green corn chicken, green corn vegetarian, and shredded beef with potato. Try 'em in the restaurant for $4 to $4.75 a piece. Or, with just an hour's notice, snag a dozen of your favorite flavor or mix-and-match to your liking for $36.
This family-owned West Valley institution serves up Sonoran-style Mexican charm right along with their tasty tamales. Call 623-937-0807 or stop by the restaurant to place your order for a dozen at $34.95. Choose from flavors such as the stellar sweet green corn, beef, pork, and a unique veggie creation filled with broccoli and carrots.
La Purisima Pasteleria
Like a beacon of baked goodness, this giant blue building in Glendale is sure to catch your attention, if the aromas coming from its fragrant pastries and breads don't get to you first. Along with several varieties of pan dulce and cases packed with other Mexican sweet treats there's tamales. Pop by or call 623-842-1400 to order classic creations such as red and green chile pork, cheese, roasted red pepper, and corn for $17 a dozen. Want to throw in a molasses-flavored puerquito, the giant animal cookie shaped like a pig, with your order? No problemo.
When it comes to its tamales, this hidden gem in Mesa features several kinds to try in-store as well as take to go. Check out flavors like green chili chicken, corn, pork, and beef. Since walk-in availability could be sketchy on your favorite filling, best to call in your order ahead of time at 480-844-0477. Most varieties are $14.95 per dozen.
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For those looking for a unique take on their tamales this year, this stellar Ecuadorian and Peruvian restaurant tucked inside a strip mall in North Phoenix will whip up a dozen of them for you -- Ecuadorian style -- for $24. Nothing at all like the Mexican version, the dough of Ecuadorian tamales is smoother and a bit sweet. Filled with, in this case, pork, tomatoes, and chiles, these tamales come wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks. Stop by the restaurant to try one (and other tasty eats) or call 602-548-7900 to order.