Tamales have long been a Christmastime staple in Mexican households. But if the folks behind Yolanda’s Tamales Factory had their way, everyone would be noshing on them during the holidays. Founder Yolanda Vega, working alongside her son and daughter-in-law, Andres and Sandra Yanez, has so impressed tamale fans that many of them drive up to 45 minutes to the family’s South Sacramento restaurant to experience what a tamale should taste like. (They also have a food truck that makes the rounds to farmers markets and the like, and a Carmichael restaurant is in the works.)
“We make our tamale sauce and masa from scratch,” explains Sandra. “The sauce alone takes a whole day—boiling the chilies, blending the spices. It’s very time consuming but it’s worth it.” Sandra says there are plenty of reasons why tamales deserve a spot on your holiday menu.
It will make your abuelita smile
The recipes for the tamales at Yolanda’s—pork or chicken in red sauce, chili with beans and cheese, veggie with vegan masa—originate from the matriarch herself. “She has been cooking since she was a little girl in Michoacan and has been selling her tamales since 1988,” says Sandra. And like many Mexican grannies, “she is an amazing cook. It makes her happy to see everyone eating her food.”
It’s the perfect winter meal
“Tamales are just such a good, warm comfort food,” says Sandra. “They’re like a present you can eat. You unwrap them and under the husk you’ve got this steamed masa with filling inside. Tamales are one of the best–known Mexican comfort foods, and everybody falls in love with them, whether they’re Mexican or not.”
It will bring your family closer
“Making tamales is a great tradition that families can do together,” says Sandra. “In Mexico, that’s the tradition in every home: hot, fresh tamales that you make as a family. It’s a wonderful gift to pass down to the kids.” Yolanda’s sells prepared masa to home cooks who don’t have the time or inclination to prepare the maize dough themselves. “Let us make it for you so you have more time to spend with each other during the holidays.”