Where to Find the Best Tamales in Boston

By Emily Millian
tamales from Chilacates one of the best catering in Boston
Credit: Chris McIntosh

Originated from Mexican and Guatemalan cultures, tamales are like beautifully wrapped gifts. Traditionally wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks and stuffed with masa, tamales can include meat, cheese, or chilies. While the essential ingredients stay the same, what makes tamales so special is that each recipe often has its own family story or twist. Here, we share the most perfect bundles of joy from restaurants in Boston.

one of the best Best Tamales in Boston from Taqueria Jalisco
Credit: Brian Samuels Photography

For many, a trip to East Boston means navigating a one-two punch of construction and traffic for a trip to Logan Airport. For us, we’re plotting a course to Taqueria Jalisco, a destination that’s always worth it. There is no wrong order to place at this colorful spot: Sometimes it’s a birria day, sometimes it’s to satisfy a craving for enchiladas or burritos. When it comes to the tamales, they’re always part of our order. Tamales Mexicanos contain either pork marinated in red sauce or chicken marinated in green sauce. Both are so simple yet full of flavor.

Tu y Yo

one of the best Best Tamales in Boston from Tu y Yo
Credit: Courtesy of Tu y Yo

A lot of traditional touches add to the experience at Tu y Yo, from the striking tilework and murals of the Somerville dining room to authentic specialties on the menu like Tacos de Chapulines (grasshopper tacos). You’ll find a range of time-honored Tamales among the appetizers: Five distinct bundles (plus a cup of smoky black beans) come per order, whether you choose the vegetarian or standard plate. We love how the subtly spicy Pork plays with the sweet masa dough; and we always save the top-knotted Coconut Tamale for last. 

one of the best Best Tamales in Boston from Chilacates
Credit: Chris McIntosh

What was once a small, quaint spot in Jamaica Plain has grown into a highly sought-after empire of 10 locations. The menu is extensive at Chilacates and we love it all—taco plates like smoky chicken tinga and birria, the best rolled burritos around—and of course, the unsung hero, tamales. Neatly wrapped in corn husks, Chilacates keeps it nice and simple with a side of pico de gallo and a choice of chicken, cheese, or pork. Regardless of which neighborhood you might be in, add on a side of tamales to round out your order.

one of the best Best Tamales in Boston from Villa Mexico Cafe
Credit: Brian Samuels Photography

Villa Mexico Cafe is a proudly immigrant-women-family run spot that’s been serving made-to-order Mexican favorites for 20 years. Today, the Downtown spot is best known for oversized grilled burritos, but the house-made tamales are not to be slept on. Two tamales come with each order—either pork, beef, chicken, or cheese with spicy pepper—along with rice, beans, and salsa that’s so good, it’s sold by the jar. You can also snag your tamales to go. Villa Mexico Cafe operates true Financial District hours, only open during weekdays, so plan your detour now.

people dining at Angela’s Cafe | Where to Find the Best Enchiladas in Boston
Credit: Brian Samuels Photography

With two East Boston locations, Angela’s Cafe brings authentic Mexican cuisine originating from the country’s Puebla region. The family-owned spot is best known for specialties like chicken Enchiladas de Mole, shredded beef Tinga Burritos, and all the tacos under the sun. But the Pueblan specialities do not stop there: enter Tamales Caseros de Puebla. The stuffed baked corn dough is here for you to choose your own adventure filling-wise. Try Pork with green sauce, Rajas con Queso (poblano peppers with cheese) with red sauce, or a Chicken Mole Tamale. 

Jacqueline Cain contributed reporting

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