For many Texans, it’s not a celebration without tamales. Traditionally, every year in the weeks leading up to the holidays (the posada tradition starts in mid-December, when tamales are served with a piping hot cup of ponche and are eaten until mid-February), Latino families come together to make tamales from scratch. Made with a corn-based dough mixture called masa, they're filled with various meats, or beans and cheese, then wrapped and cooked in corn husks and served with a spoon full of salsa on top.
While it’s one of the season's most well-known traditions, tamales can be enjoyed all year-round. The process of making them is extremely tedious—but always worth the wait—and Mexican restaurants like Cochinita and Co. in the East End and Momma’s Tamales in Bellaire have come to our rescue. Below are our picks for the best places to order tamales in the Houston area.
The Balderas family, the multigenerational owners of Balderas Tamale Factory in Cypress, have been in the tamale business since 1967. Tamales at Balderas Tamale Factory, some of the best you can find in the Houston area, come $7 for a half dozen and $15 for a dozen. Fillings include pork, hot pork, beef, hot beef, chicken, and bean and cheese.
Hugo Ortega’s award-winning seafood restaurant Caracol, which presents a culinary tour along the coasts of Mexico, is home to a pretty stellar selection of tamales. Priced at $24 per dozen, fillings include either pork, chicken, mushroom, and, of course, fish.
Chef Victoria Elizondo’s East End staple, Cochinita and Co., housed inside Kickin’ Kombucha’s taproom and local market, offers up some of the best Mexican food you can find in the city. Elizondo (who recently released her first cookbook) and her mother also make some pretty phenomenal tamales, which are available by the half dozen for $15. Available for purchase at Cochinita and Co.’s outpost in the East End (5420 Lawndale), they come with fillings like chicken and green salsa, pork and red salsa, roasted poblanos and cheese, and calabacitas (Mexican squash).
James Beard Award–winning chef Hugo Ortega’s eponymous restaurant features an authentic Mexican menu that has won over legions of both regular Houston diners and food critics. You can take some of the restaurant’s magic homie with you by ordering some of its delicious tamales. Priced at $24 per dozen, choose from pork cochinita, chicken mole poblano, fish with salsa veracruzana, or mushroom with pipian.
This relative newcomer started as a stand at a farmer’s market before leveraging its success to open as a brick-and-mortar in Bellaire in December of 2020. The always busy tamale purveyor has tamales available year-round on its website, which can then be picked up at its Bellaire location. Tamales at Momma’s Tamales can be ordered by the dozen ($15) and half dozen ($8). Fillings include pork, chicken, spinach and cheese, jalapeño and cheese, black bean and cheese, black bean and spinach, and brisket and cheese.
Tamales Don Pepe, located in South Main, specializes in tamales that are authentic enough to receive approval from your abuelita. Priced at $2.50 each, these come stuffed with chicken and green sauce, pork with green sauce, jalapeño and cheese, black beans and cheese, or opt for the vegetarian with mushrooms.
Can’t survive the holidays without tamales? Fortunately, Texas Tamale Company offers tamale “survival packs” of various sizes for purchase online. Fillings at include pork, beef, bean, hatch, and spinach. Fresh tamales are also available by the dozen or half dozen at the company’s retail store in Uptown.
Since 1962, Alamo Tamales has been dishing out some of the best tamales to be found in Texas. The outpost has an endless variety of handmade tamales available from between $16 and $17 per dozen. Options include pork, beef, chicken, beam, cheese and jalapeño, and sweet corn.
Located in Shepherd Forest, tamales here are hand-wrapped and made with masa from stone-ground corn—and some of the best you can find in Houston. Ranging from $15 to $17 for a dozen and between $8 to $9 for a half dozen, fillings include pork, beans, chicken, sweet corn, beef, and jalapeño cheese.
Urbe, Hugo Ortega’s Mexican street food–inspired restaurant, has become a local favorite by way of highlighting street foods from across Mexico’s many regions. Equally varied are the restaurant’s tamales, which are available for $24 per dozen. Choose from brisket, chicken with salsa verde, pork with adobo, mushroom with pipian rojo, and strawberry with drunken raisins.