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A steel bowl filled to the brim with corn husk tamales.
The best tamales are plucked from steaming, stainless steel vats.
Carla Vianna/Eater NY

11 Mexican Tamales Good Enough for Christmas but Perfect Year-Round

Where to find stuffed, steaming tamales in New York City

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The best tamales are plucked from steaming, stainless steel vats.
| Carla Vianna/Eater NY

Here in New York, tamales have never been as popular as their flattened, masa-made cousin the tortilla, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t standout versions of the dish to be found. A growing number of chefs are now making Mexican tamales by importing heirloom corn from Mexico or engaging in the painstaking process of nixtamalization. The tamales those efforts produce come steamed in corn husks, wrapped in banana leaves, stuffed between slices of bread, and filled with a dizzying array of meats, cheeses, and moles. Plus, they keep in the freezer for months. It’s your move, tortilla.

It’s well understood that the best tamales come from the steaming, stainless steel pots of food vendors across the city, sometimes as early as 6 a.m., often only on weekends. Their hours, locations, and availability can be difficult to pin down, which is part of why this guide also includes a handful of Eater’s favorite brick-and-mortar restaurants. Some of the businesses listed here only serve tamales as weekend specials, while others sell out early, so set an alarm or call ahead before making the trek.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Yolanda’s Tamales

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W 145th St & Broadway
New York, NY 10031
(347) 499-3757
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The owner of this longtime West Harlem street cart paused her business last year after coming down with coronavirus, but she’s back on the streets following a safe recovery. Her cart, stationed near the entrance to the 145th Street subway station, sells tamales filled with pork in red mole, black beans, and chicken verde. Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

2. City Tamale

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1316 Oak Point Ave
The Bronx, NY 10474
(718) 991-1606
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A short distance from the Bronx’s Hunts Point market, owner Israel Veliz makes savory and sweet tamales with a variety of toppings. His recipe, which comes from his mother, who moved to the Bronx from the Mexican state of Puebla, incorporates a little bit of baking soda for a hefty but delicate tamale (around $3 each). Try the simple rajas version, stuffed with roasted jalapeno, tomato, and onion.

Inside of City Tamale, a tamale shop in the Bronx neighborhood of Hunts Point.
Inside of City Tamale in Hunts Point.
Carla Vianna/Eater NY

3. Tamales Lupita

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154 E 112th St
New York, NY 10029
(917) 261-5058

This bright orange restaurant in East Harlem makes flautas and picaditas, but those aren’t the dishes that gave Tamales Lupita its name. Served with a side of chipotle dipping sauce, its tamales (around $2 each) combine two regional recipes, according to co-owner Catalina Jacinto, whose mother and father come from the Mexican states of Guerrero and Puebla, respectively.

Seven types of tamales are offered.
Tamales with a side of chipotle dipping sauce at Tamales Lupita.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

4. Tia Maria

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30-90 14th St
Queens, NY 11102
(347) 848-0159

Astoria’s Tia Maria opened around two years ago, and has found a fast following for its birria de res, weekend barbacoa, and other comforting Mexican fare. The part-restaurant, part-deli also sells tamales — chicken, both red and green — throughout the week, priced a $1.50 each. Call the restaurant at 347-848-0159 for availability and delivery.

5. Evelia's Tamales

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9607 Roosevelt Ave
Corona, NY 11368
(718) 986-2574
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Evelia Coyotzi has been running her popular tamales cart underneath the Junction Boulevard subway station since 2002. Here, tamales are available in a variety of sweet and savory flavors, including mole, pork, pineapple, raisin, and more ($1.50 each). Order your tamales stuffed into a crusty hunk of bread — either two of the same, or mix-and-matched — for a filling carb-on-carb sandwich known as a torta de tamal (50 cents extra).

6. Zaragoza Mexican Deli

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215 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009
(212) 780-9204

The tamales here — square, squat, and sometimes in need of some salsa — are good, and served in a styrofoam takeout container next to a stewy chicharron or a saucy enchilada, they might even be great. Chicken and pork tamales come loaded with lettuce and crema by default, priced at around $3 each. Pull up a chair in the narrow back room of this Mexican deli, where an extroverted orange-and-black cat holds court, or haul them to nearby Tompkins Square Park.

Chicken and pork tamales, topped with lettuce, tomato, and crema, and served in a takeout container with chicharron.
Chicken and pork tamales, served in a takeout container with chicharron.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

7. Factory Tamal

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34 Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002
(917) 691-5524
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From this small storefront on the Lower East Side, owner Fernando Lopez churns out tamales in a half-dozen fashions, priced at $5 each. Lopez is one of a handful tamale makers in the city to nixtamalize his corn, whereby kernels are soaked in food-grade calcium hydroxide — essentially a lime bath — for four to five hours. That painstaking process is to credit for the fluffy, flavorful tamales served here, filled with chipotle chicken and 20-ingredient mole poblano.

A chipotle with chicken tamale unwrapped from its corn husk.
A chipotle with chicken tamale unwrapped from its corn husk.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

8. La Mesita

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1513 Myrtle Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11237
(718) 366-8700
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In a corner of Bushwick better known for its Dominican restaurants, La Mesita sells corn husk tamales — and Oaxaqueños, steamed in plantain leaves — with red, green, and mole fillings (around $3 each). Tamales with pork aren’t as common in New York City, but here they’re the reason for coming, filled throughout with a deep meaty flavor.

Two Oaxaqueño tamales, unsheathed and perched on their banana paper wrapper.
Pork Oaxaqueños from La Mesita.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

9. Cholula Deli

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1481 Myrtle Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11237
(718) 497-4982

A few doors down from La Mesita is Cholula Deli, a restaurant whose name somewhat sells itself short, given there’s a full menu of Mexican classics and a dining room in back. Important to know up front: Diners don’t come to Cholula Deli for life-changing masa; they’re here for the generous chicken, pork, and cheese fillings found within it, and some of the more well-distributed tamales found in Brooklyn.

Outside of Cholula Deli, a compact Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood.
Cholula Deli sells tamales on weekends.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

10. Tamale Cart at Grand Army Plaza

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Flatbush Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238
(718) 965-8999
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Everything at this Prospect Heights food cart — tamales, empanadas, flan — sells out within a few hours, and a few forkfuls of masa is enough to understand why. The tamales are well-distributed with pulled chicken and pork, kept moist with those meats’ red and green sauces (around $3.50). The unnamed cart appears in front of Central Library, or thereabouts, around 1 p.m. on Sundays, and earlier on Saturdays, though it’s not clear if these hours will keep up through winter.

A neon green sign announces the sale of “tamales” at a small mobile food cart.
Tamales are sold from Grand Army Plaza on weekends.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

11. Reyes Deli & Grocery

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532 4th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(718) 369-3211
Visit Website

Some of the city’s best Mexican food is only available on weekends, as the tamales at Reyes Deli & Grocery go to show. This bodega in southern Gowanus sells red, green, and mole tamales ($2.50 each) along with barbacoa and goat belly tacos ($4 each) beginning at 7 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, until they sell out.

An exterior shot of a deli and grocery store with American and Mexican flags hanging on a front gate.
Outside of Reyes Deli & Grocery.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

1. Yolanda’s Tamales

W 145th St & Broadway, New York, NY 10031

The owner of this longtime West Harlem street cart paused her business last year after coming down with coronavirus, but she’s back on the streets following a safe recovery. Her cart, stationed near the entrance to the 145th Street subway station, sells tamales filled with pork in red mole, black beans, and chicken verde. Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

W 145th St & Broadway
New York, NY 10031

2. City Tamale

1316 Oak Point Ave, The Bronx, NY 10474
Inside of City Tamale, a tamale shop in the Bronx neighborhood of Hunts Point.
Inside of City Tamale in Hunts Point.
Carla Vianna/Eater NY

A short distance from the Bronx’s Hunts Point market, owner Israel Veliz makes savory and sweet tamales with a variety of toppings. His recipe, which comes from his mother, who moved to the Bronx from the Mexican state of Puebla, incorporates a little bit of baking soda for a hefty but delicate tamale (around $3 each). Try the simple rajas version, stuffed with roasted jalapeno, tomato, and onion.

1316 Oak Point Ave
The Bronx, NY 10474

3. Tamales Lupita

154 E 112th St, New York, NY 10029
Seven types of tamales are offered.
Tamales with a side of chipotle dipping sauce at Tamales Lupita.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

This bright orange restaurant in East Harlem makes flautas and picaditas, but those aren’t the dishes that gave Tamales Lupita its name. Served with a side of chipotle dipping sauce, its tamales (around $2 each) combine two regional recipes, according to co-owner Catalina Jacinto, whose mother and father come from the Mexican states of Guerrero and Puebla, respectively.

154 E 112th St
New York, NY 10029

4. Tia Maria

30-90 14th St, Queens, NY 11102

Astoria’s Tia Maria opened around two years ago, and has found a fast following for its birria de res, weekend barbacoa, and other comforting Mexican fare. The part-restaurant, part-deli also sells tamales — chicken, both red and green — throughout the week, priced a $1.50 each. Call the restaurant at 347-848-0159 for availability and delivery.

30-90 14th St
Queens, NY 11102

5. Evelia's Tamales

9607 Roosevelt Ave, Corona, NY 11368

Evelia Coyotzi has been running her popular tamales cart underneath the Junction Boulevard subway station since 2002. Here, tamales are available in a variety of sweet and savory flavors, including mole, pork, pineapple, raisin, and more ($1.50 each). Order your tamales stuffed into a crusty hunk of bread — either two of the same, or mix-and-matched — for a filling carb-on-carb sandwich known as a torta de tamal (50 cents extra).

9607 Roosevelt Ave
Corona, NY 11368

6. Zaragoza Mexican Deli

215 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009
Chicken and pork tamales, topped with lettuce, tomato, and crema, and served in a takeout container with chicharron.
Chicken and pork tamales, served in a takeout container with chicharron.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

The tamales here — square, squat, and sometimes in need of some salsa — are good, and served in a styrofoam takeout container next to a stewy chicharron or a saucy enchilada, they might even be great. Chicken and pork tamales come loaded with lettuce and crema by default, priced at around $3 each. Pull up a chair in the narrow back room of this Mexican deli, where an extroverted orange-and-black cat holds court, or haul them to nearby Tompkins Square Park.

215 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009

7. Factory Tamal

34 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002
A chipotle with chicken tamale unwrapped from its corn husk.
A chipotle with chicken tamale unwrapped from its corn husk.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

From this small storefront on the Lower East Side, owner Fernando Lopez churns out tamales in a half-dozen fashions, priced at $5 each. Lopez is one of a handful tamale makers in the city to nixtamalize his corn, whereby kernels are soaked in food-grade calcium hydroxide — essentially a lime bath — for four to five hours. That painstaking process is to credit for the fluffy, flavorful tamales served here, filled with chipotle chicken and 20-ingredient mole poblano.

34 Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002

8. La Mesita

1513 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237
Two Oaxaqueño tamales, unsheathed and perched on their banana paper wrapper.
Pork Oaxaqueños from La Mesita.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

In a corner of Bushwick better known for its Dominican restaurants, La Mesita sells corn husk tamales — and Oaxaqueños, steamed in plantain leaves — with red, green, and mole fillings (around $3 each). Tamales with pork aren’t as common in New York City, but here they’re the reason for coming, filled throughout with a deep meaty flavor.

1513 Myrtle Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11237

9. Cholula Deli

1481 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237
Outside of Cholula Deli, a compact Mexican restaurant in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood.
Cholula Deli sells tamales on weekends.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

A few doors down from La Mesita is Cholula Deli, a restaurant whose name somewhat sells itself short, given there’s a full menu of Mexican classics and a dining room in back. Important to know up front: Diners don’t come to Cholula Deli for life-changing masa; they’re here for the generous chicken, pork, and cheese fillings found within it, and some of the more well-distributed tamales found in Brooklyn.

1481 Myrtle Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11237

10. Tamale Cart at Grand Army Plaza

Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
A neon green sign announces the sale of “tamales” at a small mobile food cart.
Tamales are sold from Grand Army Plaza on weekends.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Everything at this Prospect Heights food cart — tamales, empanadas, flan — sells out within a few hours, and a few forkfuls of masa is enough to understand why. The tamales are well-distributed with pulled chicken and pork, kept moist with those meats’ red and green sauces (around $3.50). The unnamed cart appears in front of Central Library, or thereabouts, around 1 p.m. on Sundays, and earlier on Saturdays, though it’s not clear if these hours will keep up through winter.

Flatbush Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238

11. Reyes Deli & Grocery

532 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215
An exterior shot of a deli and grocery store with American and Mexican flags hanging on a front gate.
Outside of Reyes Deli & Grocery.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Some of the city’s best Mexican food is only available on weekends, as the tamales at Reyes Deli & Grocery go to show. This bodega in southern Gowanus sells red, green, and mole tamales ($2.50 each) along with barbacoa and goat belly tacos ($4 each) beginning at 7 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, until they sell out.

532 4th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215

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