Tamale Safari

Eating our way through every darn tamale in Southern California (and the world?)

California Dreamin’; California Tamales House

Let’s face it… I rarely go to the Valley or Valley adjacent. As far as I’m concerned those are the wilds of Los Angeles, but a good Tamale Safari is filled with adventure so off we went to The California Tamales House in North Hills. (And by hills they mean strip malls;)

Rants, Raves, and Reviews…

Rosemary Reviews

The tamales at California Tamales House are perfect. They are huge, moist, savory, & exploding with fresh ingredients. They are OMG good. They have an amazing selection -we tried the shredded chicken, the poblano & spinach, the cheese Jalapeño & the shredded beef. All steaming hot.

The biggest tamales we’ve ever seen.

The staff was particularly helpful, patiently answering our questions and happily adding in some just out of the fryer fresh chips. Did I mention the salsa bar? The usual red and green sauces were very good…just the right bite. But they have these fabulous whole pickled jalapeño – to die for -and they are almost hot enough to accommodate that request.

California Tamale House Jalapenos

They look like pickles, but they are actually big, hot, honkin’ Jalapeños.

And did I mention reasonable? -a dozen for $23.50. Location wise, it’s the not so great part of the valley. Easy access & easy parking certainly add to the appeal. Did I mention it’s fairly close to a Costco?

Rosemary Rates:



Presentation: -clean, A rated, with Tamales like this who needs Spago?

Location: -OK, maybe not your first choice for a dinner date. But this place is well worth an early run for tamales “to go” or a quick lunch.

Magda Reviews

As usual, some of the best tamales in this town are not necessarily in the best locations. Once again we arrived at a tiny stripmall with only a few parking spots shared by an off-brand oil change garage, doughnut shop, and a dingy liquor store. Street parking also looks dicey but it’s worth it to scrounge for parking someplace because California Tamale House is worth it.

Chile Cheese Tamale

Chile cheese tamales.

The selection includes the usual pork, beef, and chicken staples along with some killer chile cheese and 3 or 4 flavors of sweet tamales. Banana wrapped tamales and spinach cheese are also new items on the menu.

California Tamales House is the best tamale bargain in town. We’ve seen the 2 buck bargains before but never this large. One tamale equals about 2 normal sized ones so order accordingly.The tamales are made right before your eyes in huge pots. When we pulled out the first tamale I was skeptical because something that huge could only mean that there was more masa than filling. Boy, was I wrong. These monster tamales are generously filled with meat and chile sauces. The Chile Cheese Tamale looked like it had an entire mozzarella stick inside of it.

Green chile chicken tamale

Practically 2 tamales in one.

Condiments include some of the best homemade red sauce and whole grilled jalapeño peppers we’ve had so far. And by “best” I mean very hot without losing flavor. Admittedly the grilled jalapeños are only for the very brave. I could only eat half of one of these. They are great for clearing your sinuses though.

California Tamales House (odd but accurate name) is located off the 405 just west of Nordhoff. For you westsiders it isn’t as far as it seems and definitely worth the trip.

Magda Rates:

Masa: Very moist and fresh. Well balanced to the amount of filling. Flavor OK but not remarkable.

Filling: Surprised by the huge amounts of meat filling. The chicken tamales are filled white breast meat. Red sauce is very good. Generous slices of cheese.

Presentation: Paper plates and plastic utensils. Dig in.

Location: On the plus side it is right off the 405 freeway, but the stripmall is a bit run down and the parking is shared with 3 other places. I think we got lucky finding an open space. The place itself is very clean and well managed. Maybe the low rent district keeps the prices down.

California Tamale House
California Tamales House
15404 Nordhoff St
North Hills, CA 91343-3915

Most Tamales are $1.99 each
$23.50 per dozen

Editor’s Note: Debated about whether to spell it “California Tamale House” in this post, but the sign on the place says “Tamales”. What can you do…

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1 Comment

  1. Being a gringo, I thought I would ask some of my friends from south of the border where to get good tamales.

    Most that I have tried elsewhere where very dry and chewy. They took me to the California Tamales House.

    The tamales were delicious and inexpensive. The masa was moist and the meat was tender and delicious. I will drive out of my way for these tamales. the location is not the best and I have had to park on the street and walk 2 blocks on occasion.

    Still worth the trip. I would suggest bringing a friend to get the order while you circle the block.

    I have probably bought more than 100 tamales there over the past 4 years and my family loves it when I tell them where dinner will be from. I usually buy more than I need to have some leftovers for lunch and many times they never make it to work with me.


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