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Wrapped tamales from Tamale Boy.
Tamales from Tamale Boy.
Tamale Boy

Where to Find Tasty Tamales in Portland and Beyond

Where to find corn-husk and banana-leaf-wrapped masa in Portland

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Tamales from Tamale Boy.
| Tamale Boy

When trying to track down top-notch tamales, there are more places to look than your local Mexican restaurant. Tamale vendors outside grocery stores and gas stations have sold corn-husk-wrapped gold for decades, filling moist, pillowy masa with everything from chicken mole to Oaxacan cheese. In Portland, you’ll find tamales across the city and in its surrounding suburbs — on restaurant menus, at food carts, in the deli cases of Mexican markets, and out of coolers. Some of these tamale vendors even use masa nixtamalized in the city, whether it’s done in-house or at the lauded Three Sisters masa factory.

Below, find our guide to tracking down tamales in Portland and beyond. Note that some of these tamales are served chilled, to be reheated at home. Also, many restaurants offer holiday-specific tamales; it’s worth reaching out to your favorite Mexican restaurant in town to see if they’ll offer holiday tamales. For more Mexican food, check out this map.

Note: Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

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Chalita's Tamales

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This sweet little hut in Vancouver serves stellar tamales out of a walk-up window, absolutely smothering them in either tomato or tomatillo salsa, avocado salsa, and sour cream. The tamales themselves are both soft and tender but also light, sopping up the flavor of their various sauces with aplomb. They’re available with fillings like pork, chicken, and rajas.

Tamale Boy Dekum

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Likely the most famous spot in Portland for tamales, Tamale Boy’s wide range of both Oaxacan and Northern Mexican variations make it a local favorite. In the former, custardy, banana-leaf-steamed masa arrives filled with mole negro or citrusy cochinita pibil, while the fluffy, plump, corn-husk-steamed cousin comes with options like chile verde or chicken tinga. Another fun route at Tamale Boy: Ordering a tamale frito, a fried Northern Mexican tamale with avocado salsa and two fried eggs. You can pre-order Christmas tamales online.

This Alberta cart is making some of the most inventive tamales in the city right now, a culinary cross-section of Eastern Europe and Mexico. Tamales here have arrived stuffed with things like chile-bolstered lamb, drenched in mushroom stroganoff, or filled with beets and beef with a borscht-esque sauce. Right now, the cart is offering chicken and vegan mushroom stroganoff tamales: The former is stuffed with guajillo-braised chicken and smothered in a chipotle-mushroom cream sauce, while the latter is stuffed with guajillo-braised porcini, oyster, shiitake, and cremini mushrooms and blanketed in spicy cashew cream sauce. The cart uses Three Sisters Nixtamal for its masa.

La Bonita

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Going to La Bonita and not ordering a burrito may feel like sacrilege, but the tamales on this Alberta Street Mexican restaurant’s menu are a sleeper hit. Corn-husk-steamed tamales arrive plump with things like chicken in salsa roja or pork in chile verde, and La Bonita isn’t skimpy with the filling — these guys are stuffed. Vegans will find something here as well: a tamale teeming with fajita vegetables, namely peppers and onions.

La Oaxaqueña

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While many Mexican markets have large, devoted followings in Portland, La Oaxaqueña stays relatively under the radar. However, this market’s selection of banana leaf tamales is very strong, with a nice, luscious texture and plenty of filling. Expect a classic roundup: Pork in chile verde, chicken in salsa rojo, rajas, and sweet corn.

Taqueria La Mestiza

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This Yucatecan spot near Rocky Butte serves the region’s style of tamales, akin to Oaxacan with a banana-leaf wrap. Mestiza’s tamales do hew a little smaller, but the texture of the masa and generous portion of filling make them stand out. They come stuffed with a tender chicken; order them alongside some of Mestiza’s fantastic panuchos.

Ki’ikibáa

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Cooks at this Northeast 82nd Yucatecan restaurant mix pork and chicken in an achiote-laden sauce and pat the mixture into masa, wrapping the tamales in banana leaves for a rich, silky texture. Often, the restaurant also serves a specifically Yucatecan tamal variant, brazo de reina, as a special. stuffed with hard-boiled eggs.

Tamale Factory

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Tamale Factory is a Gresham institution, thanks to its parcels of masa-stuffed corn husks with fillings like pork in salsa verde or jalapeno-cheese. The sweet corn here is a particular standout; order them all for delivery.

Los Tamales Locos

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Parked within the Eastport Food Carts pod, Los Tamales Locos serves its namesake with fillings like mole-braised pork, chicken in chile verde, and rajas. Tamales here strike the right balance of moist and fluffy, though the mole with the pork may even outshine the masa. The cart’s take on a Oaxacan tamale comes with shredded chicken and tomatillo.

Canby Asparagus Farm Casa de Tamales

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When it comes to sheer variety of tamales, it is extremely difficult to beat this Milwaukie tamale shop. The frozen selection is staggering, with options like chorizo-potato, pork and asparagus in red chile, chicken-pesto with cheese, and even tiger prawn with tomato-jalapeno sauce. Canby Asparagus also offers tamales from other parts of Latin America, including Nicaraguan nacatamales. Be prepared to steam them at home.

Chalita's Tamales

This sweet little hut in Vancouver serves stellar tamales out of a walk-up window, absolutely smothering them in either tomato or tomatillo salsa, avocado salsa, and sour cream. The tamales themselves are both soft and tender but also light, sopping up the flavor of their various sauces with aplomb. They’re available with fillings like pork, chicken, and rajas.

Tamale Boy Dekum

Likely the most famous spot in Portland for tamales, Tamale Boy’s wide range of both Oaxacan and Northern Mexican variations make it a local favorite. In the former, custardy, banana-leaf-steamed masa arrives filled with mole negro or citrusy cochinita pibil, while the fluffy, plump, corn-husk-steamed cousin comes with options like chile verde or chicken tinga. Another fun route at Tamale Boy: Ordering a tamale frito, a fried Northern Mexican tamale with avocado salsa and two fried eggs. You can pre-order Christmas tamales online.

Rusa

This Alberta cart is making some of the most inventive tamales in the city right now, a culinary cross-section of Eastern Europe and Mexico. Tamales here have arrived stuffed with things like chile-bolstered lamb, drenched in mushroom stroganoff, or filled with beets and beef with a borscht-esque sauce. Right now, the cart is offering chicken and vegan mushroom stroganoff tamales: The former is stuffed with guajillo-braised chicken and smothered in a chipotle-mushroom cream sauce, while the latter is stuffed with guajillo-braised porcini, oyster, shiitake, and cremini mushrooms and blanketed in spicy cashew cream sauce. The cart uses Three Sisters Nixtamal for its masa.

La Bonita

Going to La Bonita and not ordering a burrito may feel like sacrilege, but the tamales on this Alberta Street Mexican restaurant’s menu are a sleeper hit. Corn-husk-steamed tamales arrive plump with things like chicken in salsa roja or pork in chile verde, and La Bonita isn’t skimpy with the filling — these guys are stuffed. Vegans will find something here as well: a tamale teeming with fajita vegetables, namely peppers and onions.

La Oaxaqueña

While many Mexican markets have large, devoted followings in Portland, La Oaxaqueña stays relatively under the radar. However, this market’s selection of banana leaf tamales is very strong, with a nice, luscious texture and plenty of filling. Expect a classic roundup: Pork in chile verde, chicken in salsa rojo, rajas, and sweet corn.

Taqueria La Mestiza

This Yucatecan spot near Rocky Butte serves the region’s style of tamales, akin to Oaxacan with a banana-leaf wrap. Mestiza’s tamales do hew a little smaller, but the texture of the masa and generous portion of filling make them stand out. They come stuffed with a tender chicken; order them alongside some of Mestiza’s fantastic panuchos.

Ki’ikibáa

Cooks at this Northeast 82nd Yucatecan restaurant mix pork and chicken in an achiote-laden sauce and pat the mixture into masa, wrapping the tamales in banana leaves for a rich, silky texture. Often, the restaurant also serves a specifically Yucatecan tamal variant, brazo de reina, as a special. stuffed with hard-boiled eggs.

Tamale Factory

Tamale Factory is a Gresham institution, thanks to its parcels of masa-stuffed corn husks with fillings like pork in salsa verde or jalapeno-cheese. The sweet corn here is a particular standout; order them all for delivery.

Los Tamales Locos

Parked within the Eastport Food Carts pod, Los Tamales Locos serves its namesake with fillings like mole-braised pork, chicken in chile verde, and rajas. Tamales here strike the right balance of moist and fluffy, though the mole with the pork may even outshine the masa. The cart’s take on a Oaxacan tamale comes with shredded chicken and tomatillo.

Canby Asparagus Farm Casa de Tamales

When it comes to sheer variety of tamales, it is extremely difficult to beat this Milwaukie tamale shop. The frozen selection is staggering, with options like chorizo-potato, pork and asparagus in red chile, chicken-pesto with cheese, and even tiger prawn with tomato-jalapeno sauce. Canby Asparagus also offers tamales from other parts of Latin America, including Nicaraguan nacatamales. Be prepared to steam them at home.

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