Whether they’re served from a food truck, a hole in the wall taqueria or from the parking lot of a grocery store, there’s nothing like a truly good tamale. For those who only know them as that mysterious menu item wrapped in a corn husk, tamales are well worth unwrapping to reveal the flavor inside.
Instantly identified by the outer layer of corn husk or banana leaf, tamales are comprised of masa (corn-based dough) stuffed with meat, spices, vegetables, cheese or just about anything else. Like a burrito, the ingredients inside a tamale can be simple or they can be unique and unexpected. And during the Christmas season, they become a mainstay in many Latin American homes.
For the best tamales in Las Vegas, it’s necessary to venture away from the Strip and head to one of these 10 spots.
Leticia’s is practically synonymous with tamales. With its mi casa es tu casa ethos, executive chef Leticia Mitchell’s eponymous restaurant serves fresh tamales by the half dozen or dozen. Varieties include beef with red guajillo sauce, chipotle fajita, or chile strips with tomato ranchera sauce.
Leticia’s, 7585 Norman Rockwell Lane #1, 702-445-7722. Fiesta Henderson, 777 W. Lake Mead Pkwy., Henderson, 702-558-7000
Doña Maria’s Tamales Restaurant
This award-winning restaurant has been preparing tamales in the family tradition since 1980. Whether they’re ordered one at a time, six at a time or by the dozen, these tamales are the right blend of spice and flavor. Tamales come filled with a choice of pork, chicken, beef or cheese or with a special dessert blend of pineapple and raisins. With locations downtown and in the northwest, it’s easy to try Doña Maria’s famous tamales from just about anywhere in the valley.
Doña Maria’s, 910 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 702-382-6538; and 3205 N. Tenaya Way, 702-656-1600
As the name implies, Patty’s Tamales only serves tamales — and this singular focus has paid off. The menu features both savory and sweet tamales filled with slow-cooked chicken in spicy green sauce, shredded pork in mild red sauce and sweet corn with pineapple. Diners can order individual, a half dozen, a dozen or three dozen tamales.
Patty’s Tamales, 5061 E. Sahara Ave., Suite 1C, 702-521-9643
Casa Don Juan
The charming Arts District restaurant serves tamales four ways: with chicken and green sauce, pork with red sauce, cheese and jalapeños, or pineapple and raisins. For a little extra kick, diners can try them enchilada style.
Casa Don Juan, 1204 S. Main St., 702-384-8070
Salsa Loca Mexican Grill
Tucked into a shopping plaza just off of East Flamingo Road, this little Mexican restaurant is an Eastside gem. The extensive menu has many bright spots, but the savory tamales, filled with pork or chicken and served with rice and beans, are the real standout.
Salsa Loca Mexican Grill, 4130 S. Sandhill Road, Suite A3, 702-383-0563
Pancho’s Vegan Tacos
Herbivores rejoice! Diving into a plate of tamales doesn’t have to involve meat and cheese. With its Eastside location and roving food truck, Pancho’s Vegan Tacos offers plant-based tamales with a choice of red or green salsa and vegan meat or jalapeño and vegan cheese.
Pancho’s Vegan Tacos, 4865 S. Pecos Road #5, 702-898-9001
Another plant-based tamale option is Veggy Street’s Tamale di Polenta. Made with vegan protein, rosemary roasted garlic, vegan chili, and wrapped in collard green leaves, this holiday menu item is available in a variety of take-out portions that can feed anywhere from four to 12 people.
Veggy Street, 5135 S. Fort Apache Road, Suite 110, 702-798-0708
The Village Square Mexican mainstay is known for its happy hour and its extensive menu. Included in that massive list of Mexican favorites are chicken, beef, pork, and vegetarian tamales topped with rojo or verde sauce and served with a side of rice and refried beans.
Viva Mercado’s, Village Square, 9440 W. Sahara Ave., Suite 165; 702-454-8482
Opened in 2018 by chef Miguel Brito, this locally focused Mexican restaurant offers a refined atmosphere and a thoughtful menu that includes several tamale choices. Diners can order chicken or pork in tomatillo sauce, beef in red sauce, or chile strips with ranchera sauce. During the holiday season, Casa Robles accepts pre-orders for tamale platters.
Casa Robles, 5900 W. Flamingo Road, 702-912-0540
El Zarape Mexican Restaurant
Located just minutes from the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, this small restaurant offers counter service and a modest menu that includes pork and chicken tamales.
El Zarape Mexican Restaurant, 5333 Arville St.; 702-570-7766