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Best Phoenix tamale?

Any recommendations on where to get an awesome tamale in in the valley? I'm not familiar with many authentic Mexican restaurants, but in the chains I've tried they're usually dry and cakey for my taste. I'm willing to drive for something good, so any place in the valley would be of interest. Thanks!

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  1. For Green Corn Tamales, El Bravo on North 7th Street in Phoenix is outstanding.

    El Bravo
    8338 N 7th St, Phoenix, AZ 85020

    1. I agree with Seth (what's new?), regarding El Bravo.

      One thing to consider is the broad range of what constitutes a tamal. We had a wonderful Guatamalan restaurant in New Orleans, that specialized in the food of the Caribbean - Cuban, Guatamalan, Mexican, Santo Domingo, etc., etc.. One could get a dozen totally different tamales, each done to the best of the kitchen's capability (and that was awsome), to keep it as authentic, as was possible. Tamales wrapped in parchment, banana leaves, corn husks, and on, and on. I'd often do one each and just savor the differences. While tamales are not quite as geocentric in Mexico, as, say the mole, there are also differences. I do enjoy El Bravo's. El Conquistador (32nd St, above Thunderbird Rd (before Cactus becomes Thunderbird Rd) has a good one too, with the influences of the state of Jalisco. For me, El Bravo's are closer to what I know as Tex-Mex, and very good. One note (and there have been a dozen threads on what is "authentic Mexican") is that in real Tex-Mex, we never encountered green-corn, but their regular beef and pork are a bit closer - could be the beef-based sauce, that they use.

      I have yet to make it to Tradiciones at the Phoenix Ranch Market, but I hear that they do some good tamales.


      5 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        One way to sample the tamales at Tradiciones is to enjoy the Sunday brunch buffet in the Fiesta Room (distinct from the main dining room). Tamales of all sorts are part of the buffet, so it's possible to sample and decide which types you like best.

        1. re: silverbear

          What a useful rec. We have yet to get down there, and it looks like December, before we'll be back in PHX. I promise (to myself, at least), that we'll do it. I'll go with your advice and go for the brunch. I love sampling and wife and I often go "family-style," even when the table clothes are fine linen and we have a dozen servers at our disposal. I can imagine that we'll probably spend the entire Sunday there.

          Like your idea - thanks,

        2. re: Bill Hunt

          That is an excellent primer, Hunt. I think people lump tamales into near monolithic status and it is as diverse as the states in Mexico. Unfortunately, there are way too many bad tamales in Phoenix which makes the finds at El Bravo and Tradiciones that much more precious.

          1. re: Seth Chadwick

            Are the tamales at Tradiciones the same ones they sell in the Phoenix Ranch Market next door? If so, I feel a swoon coming on.

            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

              Well, I haven't had them in some time, but I believe they are. No promises, though.

        3. I third El Bravo.

          Their Green Corn Tamale is as good as tamales get plus it is hard to spend $20 there --- for two!

          1. Mi Cocina Mi Pais. The tamale sampler is a must. Also, plantains five different ways, including as a dessert.

            Mi Comida Restaurante Latino
            4221 W Bell Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85053

            1. Thanks, everyone. Planning a tamale expedition soon.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Hombre

                Another great place for a tamale is Los Sombreros....
                @ Christmas they sell a gift box of 12 different tamales for the 12 days of christmas.....place you order early!


                I especially like their mexican chocolate desert tamale.....which they serve year round!

                Los Sombreros (Duplicate-Incorrect address
                )1849 North Scottsdale Road, Phoenix, AZ

                1. re: ciaogal

                  Dang, you guys are making me wish that I had not planned Kobe burgers this evening! Lots of good advice here. Maybe we should rent a large van, or small bus, and do a tamal tour Phoenix. We'll need a designated driver though, as it sounds like no one could fit behind the wheel, after a few stops.


              2. For a variation of the typical tamal, you might try Eliana's (Salvadorian). Their tamales are wrapped in a banana leaf, and the filling is much more moist and has a different texture than most you'll find in town. I believe they may offer only a chicken and vegetable filled version, but I could be wrong; they are very similar to the tamales that I had in the Dominican Republic last month.

                Eliana's Restaurant
                1627 N 24th St, Phoenix, AZ 85008

                1 Reply
                1. re: azhotdish

                  Oh-h, sounds good. Thanks for the link and the rec. I sure miss Chaupenlandia from NOLA, but it's long gone. Like a trip around the Caribbean with just a few dozen plates.


                2. hello i would has two say ranch market, and tradiciones use the sane masa made from stracth everyday,they boil the corn and then grinded,tamale are made at the store and at the restaurants. everyday depending on the day special

                  1. La Perla's in Glendale has really good chicken and green corn tamales... *yum* as well as the red beef tamales at Carolina's in PHX, crossroads at 1202 E Mohave St.

                    Carolina's Mexican Food Restaurant
                    1202 E Mohave St, Phoenix, AZ 85034

                    1. The green pork tamales at La Purisima are excellent and you can pick up some great baked goods while you're at it.

                      La Purisima Bakery
                      4533 W Glendale Ave, Glendale, AZ 85301-2808

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: IamJacksBrain

                        I've stopped in for tamales a couple times in the last few weeks at La Purisima and really like their green pork tamale (the red needs to be spicier); they have fresh tortillas everyday and menudo on the weekends. This place is impeccably clean.

                        La Purisima Bakery
                        2318 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ

                      2. not saying they're authentic or anything but had a yummy duck tamale at vincent's farmers market last saturday.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: ccl1111

                          I had not considered these, when the thread started, but I agree with your description. Every time we dine there, Chef Vincent always asks why I never order anything from the first-course menu, but the duck tamale. My answer is always the same, "if I die tomorrow, I want to go, knowing that I had my duck tamale!" We usually have a half-dozen in the freezer (no where near as good as the "fresh" ones at the market, or the restaurant, but they'll do in a pinch), just in case. Every time that Vincent's has catered any of our events, these are ALWAYS on the list - Jodie Bordeaux knows that part of the first-course will be the duck tamale and then something else.

                          Just thinking about them is making me hungry. Maybe I can convince my wife to stick the Kobe burgers back in the 'fridge, and we'll head over to Vincent's.


                          PS, I really love a good N. Rhône Syrah, either a Côte-Rôtie, or Hermitage with these.

                          1. re: Bill Hunt

                            Bill, I know you're a big fan and we are now too. The weekend prior was our first time to the market and we loved it so we went back. We had the duck tamales the first trip so I had to get some more this week. So good.

                            This weekend we met Vincent. I don't know how he normally is but he was ridiculously nice. We didn't know it was him until afterwards either. We were walking by the chicken/pork station & he held out some chips & fries to our little 3 year old daughter. Then gave us a bunch to try. Then when we asked her & she went for the chicken, he asked if we were eating there & then gave us a whole carton of fries/chips and vegetables. He gave us a second carton with a whole chicken in it! Then when I asked if a certain pan was the pork chop, he mentioned it was the pork with pineapple & the other was the pork with cabbage & proceeded to give me another plate with a huge scoop of each. Couldn't get over how nice he was. He came up later on and asked us how everything was.

                            We've been there once before a number of years ago and I remember it being good but now we cannot wait to go back. Is he normally so great?

                            1. re: ccl1111

                              Here's something fun to try: In December, watch for notices about the (Food City) Tamale Festival. It's held in downtown Phoenix, covers about 4 blocks - and features neighborhood and church groups selling tamales. They have ready-to-eat and frozen to take home, and nearly all of the groups will allow you to purchase tamales in 3/6/12 packs so you can put together an array. It's an amazing kind of event.

                              1. re: ccl1111

                                Over the years, that has how he's always been. We seldom get to the market, as often as we'd like, but do dine there about 12x/year, often 3-4 nights in a row, when my wife has candidates in town. Though Seth Chadwick had a horrendous experience (and I trust his reviews 100%), we'd never had less than good (all the way round), and it's usually great, even when we call at the last minute, because we were not fed, or similar, and they have always rolled out the "red carpet." It's our "go-to" spot for fine-dining. Last month, we were there 3 times, and wife did lunch also, on 2 of those occasions. Chef Vincent is probably the main reason that we do not get to try all of the great spots in the Valley, but I wouldn't miss it for the world.


                          2. After my introduction to the duck tamales of Vincent's this weekend, I had to know if they were in his cookbook (Vincent's Cookbook, 1994, Ten Speed Press) I've had on my shelf for years. How stupid of me, of course they are.

                            Duck Tamales w/Cilantro Beurre Blanc

                            -1 recipe masa dough
                            -2 c duck confit
                            -1 tbsp chopped cilantro
                            -1 tbsp seedless raisins
                            -1 tbsp roasted/peeled/chopped New Mexico (Anaheim) chile
                            -8 sheets parchment paper (3 x 4 in)

                            Mix duck w/cilantro, raisins, chili and season. Cover paper with 1/8 inch thick layer of masa and 1/4 inch thick layer of filling and roll (twist end to secure). Steam 15 mins and serve w/sauce (recipe below).

                            Cilantro Beurre Blanc

                            -1 c white wine
                            -1 c white wine vinegar
                            -1 tbsp chopped shallots
                            -1 tbsp heavy cream
                            -1 lb unsalted butter, cut into cubes
                            -1/4 c chopped cilantro

                            Cook first three ingredients in skillet over med until liquid is gone, add cream/softened butter slowly over low heat and add cilantro at the end. Serve hot.