Tamales — Photo courtesy of International Tamale Festival, City of Indio
Winter is prime tamale-making season, and in the Coachella Valley, stores begin to stockpile staple ingredients like corn husks, masa and pork in the winter months. But if you aren't so great at preparing these delicious steamed treats, you can still enjoy warm, homemade tamales at the annual International Tamale Festival in downtown Indio.
Traditionally held on the first weekend in December, the festival draws dozens of tamale vendors nationwide and over 100,000 tamale lovers from around the globe. The festival began in 1992 with an idea by a local merchant. Over the years, the festival has evolved to include carnival rides, games and performances from mariachi bands and folklorico dancers.
Many vendors sell the standard chicken, beef and pork tamales. Local restaurants like Rincon Norteno and Jackalope Ranch prepare hundreds of tamales for the event, and popular vendors like Grandma Lupe's Authentic Tamales and Molly's Tamales are Tamale Fest regulars.
For those with an adventurous palate, you'll have your taste testing work cut out for you. Tamale vendors tend to get creative with these hearty treats, sometimes using creative substitutes like potato or avocado for the tamale filling. Others flavor their masa with fruits like pineapple or strawberry for a dessert tamale that satisfies any sweet tooth.
Lines for the most popular tamale stands can wind around the block, but after taking your first warm bite of a freshly steamed tamale, you'll understand why.
International Tamale Festival
December 1-2, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.