Every November and December, the phone calls and e-mails pour into my office: “Where can I order tamales to be shipped to friends?” Here are the best of the companies I’ve ordered from. Each one prices its shipping differently, but overnight delivery runs at least $20 whether you order one dozen or several dozen tamales, so why not order plenty? One caveat: Don’t send tamales to folks who live more than a day’s delivery away; artificial ice doesn’t stay frozen forever, even in the winter.
Delicious Tamale Factory, San Antonio. At $5 or less a dozen, Delicious tamales are the best bargain around, but the quality is pretty average. Of the ones I tried, I liked the pork (even though it was a bit greasy); most other people who tasted them preferred the chicken. The packaging is not quite as professional as some, but the tamales still arrived cold. 800-826-2531; delicioustamales.com. Pork, jalapeño, pinto bean, chicken; $4-$5 a dozen plus shipping charge of $35 and up. No minimum order.
Hot Damn, Tamales!, Fort Worth. Hot Damn’s tamales were my all-around favorites, especially the whole-kernel-corn filling and the “spring” filling (carrot, red bell pepper, serrano chile). The mushroom was good too, the black bean a tad bland. They did tend to dry out in a hurry, perhaps because the masa was light on oil. Heating instructions are included. Very professional packaging. 888-385-0125; hotdamntamales.com. Black bean and Oaxaca cheese; corn and poblano chile; smoked chicken and poblano chile; beef tenderloin, beer, and jalapeño; wild mushroom and goat cheese; plain corn; spring; $8-$12 a dozen plus shipping charge of $35 and up. No minimum order.
Pedro’s Tamales, Lubbock. Although a touch greasy, both of the two flavors I tried, pork and beef, were well seasoned, with a nice little bite. A minor problem is overly puréed meat, but that seems to be common in most mass-produced brands. The packaging is professional, and heating instructions are included. 800-522-9531; pedrostamales.com. Mild beef, spicy beef, pork, chicken; $9.99 a dozen plus shipping charge of $20 and up. Minimum order 4 dozen.
Texas Tamale Company, Houston. The spinach tamale (which also contains cheese) was terrific, but I found the filling in the beef tamale exceedingly overprocessed. The black bean was pleasant but bland. Of all the brands I tried, this one has the best packaging for gifts, with each dozen plastic-wrapped tamales packed in its own little drawstring cotton bag, all inside a cardboard box labeled “Survival Kit.” Heating instructions are included. 800-882-6253; texastamale.com. Beef, spinach, chicken, black bean; $8.95 a dozen plus shipping charge of $21 and up. Minimum order 4 dozen.