It’s tamale time! Made from masa filled with a variety of shredded meats, cheeses, vegetables and chiles, tamales are wrapped in corn husks and then steamed. The savory packets originated in Mesoamerica (central Mexico through northern Costa Rica) and have been made and eaten for thousands of years. Tamales are more abundant around Christmas because they’re part of the celebration of Las Posadas, the commemoration of Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter.
You can make your own, but the Valley is home to many talented tamale artisans. Here are four places where you can pick up a dozen to go.
Mix and match six flavors for $35: green corn (corn, poblano, jack cheese); tomatillo chicken (smoked chicken, salsa verde, jack cheese); rajas (poblanos, onions, crema and jack cheese); carnitas (carnitas, chipotle tomatillo salsa, jack cheese); red chile beef (beef brisket strips and guajillo sauce); and pineapple (pineapple, brown sugar, raisins). Order at lossombreros.com/shop and pick up at one of the restaurant’s three locations: Scottsdale, Uptown Phoenix or Mesa. lossombreros.com
Mama Olga’s Tamales and Mexican Food
Mama Olga’s offers red pork, green chicken, red beef and jalapeño with cheese tamales ($25/dozen) made fresh daily. 905 S. Hatcher Rd., Phoenix, 602-997-1405, facebook.com/mamaolgastamales
Old El Paso Tamales
This Mesa mainstay offers sweet corn, green chili and cheese, shredded pork, shredded beef and green chili chicken tamales by the half dozen ($12) or a dozen ($23). Online ordering is currently disabled, so you must call to order. 730 E. Brown Rd., Mesa, 480-844-0477, oldelpasotamales.com
The Tamale Store
For a wide selection of tamales that includes vegetarian and vegan options, The Tamale Store has got you covered. The lineup includes 15 varieties: chicken green chili, chicken chipotle, chicken mole (not gluten-free), pork red and green chili, red beef chili and ground beef and jack cheese; Vegetarian: green corn and cream cheese, Arizona cornbread with Colby jack, Hatch green chili and jack cheese and beans and cheese. Vegan: cilantro black bean, Southwest veggie, chipotle corn and sweet corn. Tamales are lard and shortening free, gluten free and preservative free. Prices: 2 for $7; ½ dozen, $20; and a dozen, $35. 15842 N. Cave Creek Rd., Phoenix, 602-435-2604, thetamalestore.com