Where To Find The Best Tamales In Austin
In my family, the holidays mean it’s time for tamales. If you’re Latino, like my husband, then tamales need no introduction. However, being an East Indian gal myself, I didn’t grow up eating them, though now I can’t imagine celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas without them.
Tamales is a traditional Mesoamerican dish made of masa or dough, which is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. Typically, you peel off the husk before eating, and you can eat it plain or with salsa. Their origins can be traced as far back as the indigenous Indians of the Americas, and it holds a special place in the Latin community today.
To be honest, a traditional Latin family would be making their own tamales from scratch right now. Nevertheless, there are still some favorite restaurants around town that make a mean equivalent. Everyone has a different opinion on the best tamale places in Austin, but these are my favorites:
1. Tamale Addiction
Farmers market stalwart Tamale Addiction offers meat, sweet, vegetarian, vegan tamales, which are frozen for pick-up orders. I’ve bought these tamales at the Mueller Farmer’s Market as well as at their store front in Manor. By far, these are my favorite tamales in town! They are fresh, delicious and packed full (alternatively, you can buy a frozen 12-pack to store for later). You really only need one, maybe two, for a full meal. Granted, at $3.50 per tamales, one would hope you don’t have to buy too many.
2. Tamale House East
The tamale tradition lives on with Tamale House East on East 6th where tamale plates are plentiful. The restaurant is also making preorder tamales right now. Flavors include pork and bean, cheese and jalapeno, and chicken tomatillo.
3. Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew
This recommendation ventures off the traditional path when it comes to tamales and is only available during the holidays… Here you can find smoked brisket tamale plates, served with Spanish rice, brisket pinto beans and chile con queso. If you’re looking for something with a Tex-Mex flare, this is the tamale for you. This year, Stiles Switch is also changing up its tamale offering by offering a 12 Days of Smoked Meats special for the holidays. The restaurant is up in North Austin at 6610 North Lamar Blvd.
4. Fresa’s Chicken Al Carbon
Tamales are back at both locations of Fresa’s (the other on South First). I like this place because it offers chicken tinga tamales. Not many people have heard of chicken tinga – a Mexican dish made with shredded chicken in a sauce made from tomatoes, chipotle chilis in adobo, and sliced onions. Delicious. Black bean and cheese tamales are also available. The orders come with crema and salsas, with optional meals additions with rice, beans, and queso or guacamole.
5. Curra’s Grill
If I’m being completely honest, this one is way off the beaten path and, if you’re a traditional-tamales-gal, you may not like this place. Located on South Congress, this Tex-Mex restaurant’s tamales range from pork to bean to mole to crab, and go well with an order of the avocado margarita (or, so I’m told).
When all else fails, go to Costco. I know, I know. I thought that was a weird idea at first too. But then I tried their chicken tamales and kind of fell in love. They are delicious and cost-effective (a win-win for this momma). You can buy a 12 pack for $12.99. My Latino husband and all his friends love them, so I feel like that’s saying something.