It’s December, and for many families in Houston, that means that it’s also tamale time. Making and eating tamales is an indispensable part of the holiday season – and one that can be shared by everyone at Houston’s annual Tamale Festival.
The History of Tamales
The first records of tamales are from pre-Columbian times. Aztec and Mayan culture both had tamale-like foods, which were popular because of their portability. From their origins in indigenous Mexican and Guatemalan culture, tamales have spread throughout Central and South America.
The tradition of eating tamales at Christmas dates back for centuries. It’s part of the Mexican commemoration of las posadas, the time when Mary and Joseph sought shelter in Bethlehem.
Tamales are made of masa, a corn dough made of ground corn, lard, and spices, stuffed with a variety of seasoned fillings. The preparation of masa is time-consuming, but in today’s modern world, Houston’s tamaleras – tamale makers – can buy prepared masa to speed up the process.
It’s common for families to pass down their tamale recipes and traditions through the generations. Traditionally, women were in charge of making the Christmas tamales, but men get involved too.
Houston’s 8th Annual Tamale Festival
Houston’s 8th Annual Tamale Festival was held on Saturday, December 1st, at Guadalupe Plaza Park. Admission to the event started at $10 per person and more than 5,000 Houston residents attended.
The festival is the brain child of Daniel P. Hinojosa, who started the event in 2011 to celebrate one of his favorite foods. Hinojosa is the owner of Harris County General Store BBQ. He wanted to share the culture of eating tamales at the holidays with the entire city of Houston.
Festival attendees had the chance to sample tamales from some of Houston’s finest restaurants. If you missed it, there’s still a chance to join in the festivities and enjoy some holiday tamales this year.
Where to Find Tamales in Houston
If you don’t have the time or experience to make your own tamales this holiday season, here are some suggestions for where you can buy pre-made tamales in Houston.
Alicia’s Mexican Grille
Alicia’s sells tamales in three flavors: chicken with green salsa, pork with red salsa, and holiday turkey with mole sauce. They have multiple locations. To get your tamales in time for Christmas, place your order no later than December 22. The price is $7.95 for six tamales, and $14.95 for a dozen. You can find more information on their website, here.
Arnaldo Richards’ Pecos
Arnaldo Richards’ Pecos sells both tamales norteños, which represent northern regions of Mexico, and tamales oaxaqueños, which represent southern regions. The tamales norteños are wrapped in the traditional corn husks and come in eight flavors, including pork in red chile, chicken in green chile, black bean and cheese, and a sweet version with raisins, pineapples, and coconut. They also have a vegetarian option. Tamales oaxaqueños are wrapped in banana leaves and come in five varieties: chicken in green chile, pork in red chile, chicken in black mole, shrimp with spicy tomato salsa, and a vegetarian version with portobello mushrooms and cuitlacoche. They’ll need 24 hours’ notice for orders of 10 dozen or more and you can find more information on their website.
The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation
Traditional tamales are small, weighing in at three or four ounces each. Ninfa’s offers large, eight-ounce tamales in three flavors: chicken with tomatillo crema sauce, beef with beef gravy, and pork Oaxacan-style wrapped in a banana leaf with beef gravy.
You’ll need to give them 24 hours’ notice for Christmas orders and for any order of more than four dozen tamales. There’s a $300 minimum if you want them to deliver, and you can find more information here.
This is just a small sampling of the places where you can buy tamales in Houston. You can find additional suggestions here.
Holiday tamales are a tradition and you can be a part of it. Order now to ensure you have enough tamales to feed your family – and next year, be on the lookout for the Tamale Festival at the beginning of December! Learn more about Houston with our relocation guide. We have self storage available in East Houston. Check out our East Houston relocation guide.