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An overhead photograph of a mole tamal unwrapped from a banana leaf Luke Fortney/Eater

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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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-style tamales by importing heirloom corn varieties from Mexico or engaging in the painstaking process of nixtamalization. The tamales those efforts produce come steamed in corn husks, drenched in salsa verde, stuffed between slices of bread, wrapped in banana leaves, and filled with a dizzying array of meats, cheeses, and moles. Plus, they keep in the freezer for months. Look out tortilla.

In an informal survey of New York tamales, one thing is clear: The best tamales come from the steaming, stainless steel pots of food vendors across the city. Their hours, locations, and availability can be difficult to pin down during the pandemic, which is part of why this guide also includes a handful of Eater’s favorite brick-and-mortar restaurants. Some of the businesses listed below only serve tamales as a weekend special, while others sell out early, so call ahead before making the trek. If there’s a tamal in your neighborhood that we missed, let us know at tips@eater.com.

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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 in March after contracting coronavirus but has since reopened following a safe recovery. Her cart, which is 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 Wednesdays. 

2. City Tamale

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1316 Oak Point Ave
The Bronx, NY 10474
(718) 991-1606
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Five blocks from the Hunts Point market, Israel Veliz makes savory and sweet tamales with a handful of toppings. His version — based on a recipe from his mother, who moved to the Bronx from the Mexican state of Puebla — are hefty but delicate, with help from a little baking soda ($3.25 each). Try the simple rajas tamal stuffed with roasted jalapeno, tomato, and onion.

Two tamales are covered in crema and pico de gallo and accompanied by two fried eggs, a side of guacamole, and a side of salsa Carla Vianna/Eater

3. Tamales Lupita

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

This orange-painted 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 ($1.50 each) are made using a combination of two regional Mexican recipes, according to Catalina Jacinto, whose mother comes from Guerrero and whose father comes from Puebla.

Seven types of tamales are offered. Robert Sietsema/Eater

4. 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 this popular tamales cart underneath the Junction Boulevard subway station since 2002. Her tamales are made with a variety of fillings, including mole, rajas con queso, pineapple, and raisin ($1 each). Oaxacan-style tamales that have been steamed in banana leaves are available for an additional $1. Open 4:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.

A gloved hand reaches into a steaming stainless steel pot of tamales, which are still wrapped in their husks Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images

5. Sabor A Mexico Taqueria

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160 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10009
(212) 533-4002
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Nestled between lunch specials and more than a dozen tacos, two tamales hide on the menu of East Village taqueria Sabor a Mexico: one made with chicken and another filled with a mixture carrot, peas, corn, onion, pepper, and mushroom ($4.50 each). The taqueria is owned by Roberto Escamilla, who also owns a restaurant of the same name on the Upper East Side.

A small taqueria with a yellow banner that reads “Sabor A Mexico” in red lettering Robert Sietsema/Eater

6. 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 varieties ($3 each). Lopez is one of few restaurant owners in the city to put his corn through the painstaking process of nixtamalization, whereby kernels are soaked in food-grade calcium hydroxide — essentially a lime bath — for four to five hours. It sounds complicated, but this process is the reason for his flavorful, fluffy tamales. Try the restaurant’s unadvertised torta de tamal, a crusty ciabatta sandwich that can be stuffed with one or two tamales on request.

A steel bowl filled to the brim with corn husk tamales Carla Vianna/Eater

7. Sobre Masa

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53 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11249
(929) 486-0198
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Zack Wangeman, a former pastry chef at acclaimed restaurants Per Se and the Grill, is churning out top-notch tortillas made from heirloom corn at this dimly lit storefront in Williamsburg. Eventually, Sobre Masa will reopen as a full-service restaurant, but in the meantime, Wangeman is selling tortillas and Oaxacan-style tamales stuffed with braised pork ribs and rajas con queso for takeout ($5 each). Open Wednesday to Sunday.

8. Taqueria Sofia

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187 Suydam St
Brooklyn, NY 11221
(347) 318-8208
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Dense masa and generous fillings are on the menu at Taqueria Sofia, a small Bushwick storefront that starts slinging tamales at 11 a.m. each morning. The restaurant produces three different kinds of tamales — rojo, verde, and rajas con queso — available at $3 each. While you’re there, try one of the restaurant’s standout picaditas, hand-patted rounds of masa dough, that can be topped with barbacoa and slow-cooked lengua.

9. 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 is making moist and tender tamales filled with mole, rajas, and chicken verde ($3 each). Tamales filled with pork are lesser seen, but here they are the reason for coming.

10. Ojalá

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852 Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY 11238
(718) 500-3010
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Street vendors with steaming, stainless steel carts of tamales are commonplace in neighborhoods like Bushwick and Sunset Park, but virtually nonexistent in Clinton Hill. Ojalá, which opened its doors on Fulton Street last September, is the best the neighborhood has for now. In addition to tacos and tortas, the restaurant sells banana leaf-wrapped Oaxaqueños in three varieties: chicken mole poblano, salsa verde, and beef enchilada ($4 each).

11. Reyes Deli & Grocery

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532 4th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(718) 369-3211
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It’s well-known that some of Brooklyn’s best tamales are only available on weekends. One such example is Reyes Deli and Grocery, a convenience store and grill that sells barbacoa tacos and tamales beginning at 7 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Priced at $2.50 each, its tamales come filled with salsa roja, salsa verde, or mole.

1. Yolanda’s Tamales

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

The owner of this longtime West Harlem street cart paused her business in March after contracting coronavirus but has since reopened following a safe recovery. Her cart, which is 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 Wednesdays. 

W 145th St & Broadway
New York, NY 10031

2. City Tamale

1316 Oak Point Ave, The Bronx, NY 10474
Two tamales are covered in crema and pico de gallo and accompanied by two fried eggs, a side of guacamole, and a side of salsa Carla Vianna/Eater

Five blocks from the Hunts Point market, Israel Veliz makes savory and sweet tamales with a handful of toppings. His version — based on a recipe from his mother, who moved to the Bronx from the Mexican state of Puebla — are hefty but delicate, with help from a little baking soda ($3.25 each). Try the simple rajas tamal 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. Robert Sietsema/Eater

This orange-painted 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 ($1.50 each) are made using a combination of two regional Mexican recipes, according to Catalina Jacinto, whose mother comes from Guerrero and whose father comes from Puebla.

154 E 112th St
New York, NY 10029

4. Evelia's Tamales

9607 Roosevelt Ave, Corona, NY 11368
A gloved hand reaches into a steaming stainless steel pot of tamales, which are still wrapped in their husks Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images

Evelia Coyotzi has been running this popular tamales cart underneath the Junction Boulevard subway station since 2002. Her tamales are made with a variety of fillings, including mole, rajas con queso, pineapple, and raisin ($1 each). Oaxacan-style tamales that have been steamed in banana leaves are available for an additional $1. Open 4:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.

9607 Roosevelt Ave
Corona, NY 11368

5. Sabor A Mexico Taqueria

160 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10009
A small taqueria with a yellow banner that reads “Sabor A Mexico” in red lettering Robert Sietsema/Eater

Nestled between lunch specials and more than a dozen tacos, two tamales hide on the menu of East Village taqueria Sabor a Mexico: one made with chicken and another filled with a mixture carrot, peas, corn, onion, pepper, and mushroom ($4.50 each). The taqueria is owned by Roberto Escamilla, who also owns a restaurant of the same name on the Upper East Side.

160 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10009

6. Factory Tamal

34 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002
A steel bowl filled to the brim with corn husk tamales Carla Vianna/Eater

From this small storefront on the Lower East Side, owner Fernando Lopez churns out tamales in a half-dozen varieties ($3 each). Lopez is one of few restaurant owners in the city to put his corn through the painstaking process of nixtamalization, whereby kernels are soaked in food-grade calcium hydroxide — essentially a lime bath — for four to five hours. It sounds complicated, but this process is the reason for his flavorful, fluffy tamales. Try the restaurant’s unadvertised torta de tamal, a crusty ciabatta sandwich that can be stuffed with one or two tamales on request.

34 Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002

7. Sobre Masa

53 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11249

Zack Wangeman, a former pastry chef at acclaimed restaurants Per Se and the Grill, is churning out top-notch tortillas made from heirloom corn at this dimly lit storefront in Williamsburg. Eventually, Sobre Masa will reopen as a full-service restaurant, but in the meantime, Wangeman is selling tortillas and Oaxacan-style tamales stuffed with braised pork ribs and rajas con queso for takeout ($5 each). Open Wednesday to Sunday.

53 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11249

8. Taqueria Sofia

187 Suydam St, Brooklyn, NY 11221

Dense masa and generous fillings are on the menu at Taqueria Sofia, a small Bushwick storefront that starts slinging tamales at 11 a.m. each morning. The restaurant produces three different kinds of tamales — rojo, verde, and rajas con queso — available at $3 each. While you’re there, try one of the restaurant’s standout picaditas, hand-patted rounds of masa dough, that can be topped with barbacoa and slow-cooked lengua.

187 Suydam St
Brooklyn, NY 11221

9. La Mesita

1513 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237

In a corner of Bushwick better known for its Dominican restaurants, La Mesita is making moist and tender tamales filled with mole, rajas, and chicken verde ($3 each). Tamales filled with pork are lesser seen, but here they are the reason for coming.

1513 Myrtle Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11237

10. Ojalá

852 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11238

Street vendors with steaming, stainless steel carts of tamales are commonplace in neighborhoods like Bushwick and Sunset Park, but virtually nonexistent in Clinton Hill. Ojalá, which opened its doors on Fulton Street last September, is the best the neighborhood has for now. In addition to tacos and tortas, the restaurant sells banana leaf-wrapped Oaxaqueños in three varieties: chicken mole poblano, salsa verde, and beef enchilada ($4 each).

852 Fulton St
Brooklyn, NY 11238

11. Reyes Deli & Grocery

532 4th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215

It’s well-known that some of Brooklyn’s best tamales are only available on weekends. One such example is Reyes Deli and Grocery, a convenience store and grill that sells barbacoa tacos and tamales beginning at 7 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Priced at $2.50 each, its tamales come filled with salsa roja, salsa verde, or mole.

532 4th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215

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