• mama’s hot tamales: the best vegan mexican food yet, with daiya cheese!

    July 27th, 2009quarrygirlLA restaurants, mama's hot tamales, vegan cheese


    one of the things i miss most since becoming vegan is mexican food. even though it’s getting easier to find places that refrain from sneaking chicken stock and lard into just about everything, i’ve still been looking for somewhere to re-create that greasy, cheesy, mexican goodness that i miss from when i was a vegetarian. well guess, what….i found it! mama’s hot tamales cafe, located right at the southern border of macarthur park, is serving up the best vegan mexican food in los angeles, melty vegan cheese and all.

    for a while, vegans in the know have raved about mama’s hot tamales’ animal-free options. for ages, the restaurant has been serving up tofu alternatives to tortas and burritos, vegan tamales, tostadas, appetizers and salads. but recently, as i learned in the quarrygirl forums, mama’s started carrying daiya vegan cheese…so now practically any menu item containing dairy can be veganized. OH MY WURD, this is such a breakthrough. things like quesadillas and enchiladas, that have been off limits to vegans forever, are now available at mama’s. and really amazing versions of these foods as well. if you don’t already know how earth-shatteringly good daiya is, you should.

    mini vegan quesadilla with daiya cheese, spinach, mushroom and pico de gallo. $4

    mini vegan quesadilla with daiya cheese, spinach, mushroom and pico de gallo. $4

    we hit up mama’s hot tamales cafe over the weekend and went all out with our order. i wanted to try as much cheesy stuff as possible, plus get a tamale of course, because that’s mama’s most famous dish! we started with the mini quesadilla appetizer, and added mushrooms and spinach to it as well. the vegan version came with the choice of cheddar or white daiya cheese, and we went with cheddar.

    all i can say about this appetizer is, it’s one of the tastiest, most convincing cheese dishes i’ve had since becoming vegan. the daiya was gooey, melty, and perfectly oily with a real authentic cheddar flavor. it mixed up just great with the spinach leaves and tiny mushrooms, all pressed into a slightly crunchy cooked tortilla. mexican perfection, i’m telling you.


    for my main dish, i got something that haunts most vegans’ dreams: cheese enchiladas. i never thought i’d be able to eat a cheese enchilada again, that actually tasted decent, like it was filled with real cheese. well this did.

    vegan daiya cheese enchiladas. $7

    vegan daiya cheese enchiladas. $7

    three soft corn tortillas wrapped around huge clumps of daiya and topped off with even more melted cheese. again, i chose cheddar for this because it seemed more authentic, but if you like daiya white cheese you can get that in your enchiladas as well. these enchiladas were nothing short of wonderful. this may be the best use of daiya i’ve had yet, mama’s got it spot on, just melty enough with just the right amount of cheese. if you hit up mama’s hot tamales, be sure to order these enchiladas no matter what…words can’t describe how much they rocked my world.


    at a mere seven bucks, these enchiladas were a steal. not only was the portion size large, but they also came with a huge mound of rice and a spinach salad. not just a dinky side salad, but a full on plate of spinach leaves and vegetables with guacamole dressing. amazing.


    my husband ordered the vegan version of the tofu burrito, with a blend of cheddar and white melted daiya on top.

    vegan tofu burrito: a large flour  tortilla filled with pinto beans, mama’s rice, daiya cheese & tofu. covered in red or green sauce & melted daiya cheese. $8

    vegan tofu burrito: a large flour tortilla filled with pinto beans, mama’s rice, daiya cheese & tofu. covered in red or green sauce & melted daiya cheese. $8

    the thing was absolutely massive and stuffed with beans, rice, and huge chunks of tofu. unlike normal burritos with soft little squares of tofu, the tofu in this one was marinated nicely and cut into large strips. it had so much flavor and really worked as a filling. again, the daiya cheese in and on top of the burrito was absolutely incredible. no complaints about this dish at all.


    lastly we shared a black bean and herb tamale, which was a great deal at just $2.50.

    black bean and herb tamale, wrapped in a banana leaf. $2.50

    black bean and herb tamale, wrapped in a banana leaf. $2.50

    the fluffy corn mass came wrapped in a banana leaf and contained a thick mixture of black beans and leafy herbs. the masa dough was so insanely light and fluffy, if you like tamales, you will love the way mama makes them. there were plenty of other vegan options to choose from, and the menu rotates daily. i can’t wait to try some of her other flavors.


    in addition to having amazing vegan food and low prices, the staff at mama’s is extremely friendly as well. as we walked in, mama introduced herself and went over the menu with us in a way that showed she really cared. every server that brought something to our table was courteous and engaging. they all seemed like great, genuinely nice people.


    mama’s hot tamales cafe isn’t in a great part of town, but they are only open during the day and they have parking, so don’t let the shady factor stop you from going there. once you walk through mama’s doors, you are in a warm, clean, welcoming environment full of smiles and awesome vegan food.


    so make plans to go to mama’s hot tamales cafe ASAP. the fact that they have daiya isn’t printed yet on the physical menu, but be sure to ask for it and mama will take care of you. i can’t stress enough that this is the BEST MEXICAN FOOD i’ve had since becoming vegan. don’t miss out on it.


    and a special shout out to lucysnowe from the forums for reminding me to check this place out. 🙂

    mama’s hot tamales cafe
    2124 W 7th St
    Los Angeles, CA 90057-4001
    (213) 487-7474
    open 7 days 11:00am-3:30pm

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26 responses to “mama’s hot tamales: the best vegan mexican food yet, with daiya cheese!” RSS icon

  • O. M. G. Thanks for posting this! My Dad is coming to town this weekend. He is going to LOVE this spot!


  • “Mama”Ramirez is the nicest person you could ever meet. She’s serious about good food and caring for her employees – you can see her kindness and love shine through them all.

    Here’s a nice article about her, and there are more, online but in Spanish:


    Tell all your vegan friends about Mama’s! Once you go there you probably won’t want to eat at any other Mexican restaurant in LA again.

  • I’m glad that Daiya exists but concerned about the lack of information regarding the product itself and the company in general. Just to be clear Daiya is not healthy (high in oil, etc.). It would be nice for Quarry et. al. to OpPancake Daiya. The inner cynic in me would love to know what is in this stuff.

    Right now it gets lumped in with junk food and only eaten every once and a while.


  • i never thought this day would come. i cannot wait to go to mama’s!!!! thanks SO much for posting this!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • awesome find , ill have to check it out soon .. my lack of authentic mexican food in the past few years means i for sure have some room for some oily cheesey enchiladas and quesadillias .

  • Oh I’m so glad that Mama’s is now using daiya! When I hit them up for tamales about 5 months ago (http://wannabeavegan.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/mamas-hot-tamales-cafe/) their menu was already very vegan friendly. AND I totally agree with you that their food is some of the best mexican food in town! I can’t wait to go back now!

  • “but they are only open during the day and they have parking, so don’t let the shady factor stop you from going there. ”

    It’s also just half a block from a red line station. Why not mention this?

    It’s because our city is so awash in free parking that it kind of sucks a lot of the time…

  • miss anthrope

    b-man: good point, i didn’t even realize it was by a station. even more reason to visit!

  • oh good lord, yum. I want to eat all of that.

  • mama’s hot tamales is the shit. seriously, i can’t believe it’s been so long since i’ve been back there. even without the cheese the food is amazing, and now that they have daiya i MUST go ASAP.

  • Everything in this post looks delicious! I was sold on the cheese enchiladas, but that burrito is so seriously up my alley…I love salsa verde! Plus, I could take the metro. Ok, I’ll have to plan a visit soon. 🙂

  • Gosh, I wish I lived in California!

  • why don’t the have PUPUSAS at mama’s?

  • ElectricSunflower

    ooooh QuarryGirl – you’re photos are to die for! You have no idea how lucky you are to live in a place where decent Mexican food is available. Not to mention Mexican with Daiya!!! A divine pairing, if you ask me.

    JAMES (above): the ingredients are listed on the Daiya website. If you ask me, plant oil is a far cry better than animal fat and hormones, not to mention the cruelty and environmental problems that accompany animal farming. And according to Daiya’s nutritional breakdown, it’s not high in oil. “5 gm / 28gm serving” – that’s 17% which is unheard of for any decent tasting cheese. (and less than most “low-fat” cheeses – and that’s animal fat in those) It’s known that toxins bioaccumulate in the fat tissues of animals – not plants.

  • Oh My God – this all look amazing!!!! What’s the booze vibe there… can you BYOB?

  • miss anthrope

    deana – i don’t believe there is booze at this place, but it’s only open for lunch so i don’t really mind. 🙂

  • Ah… lunch only. Yes, I’m fine with no booze for mid day meals as well. I guess I was just fantasizing about a Mama’s dinner!

  • Oh man, I want those enchiladas, STAT!

  • oh this looks amazing. must go eat there. soon. the FYH cheese is only decent at best with Mexican food.

  • Those look amazing! When I lived near Los Angeles I was in a vegetarian, broke and living off of 99 cent bean and cheese burritos. Delicious vegan goodness was not on my mind, but now I totally wish it was! I need to get back to L.A. for a food tasting visit stat.

  • I’ve had a great experience here BUT a friend recently went there and was served meat and had soup that ended up having chicken broth! Be careful!!!

  • Went there today, really excited to try the cheddar Daiya cheese.

    Unfortunately, they were out of Daiya today. So I got the black bean and herb tamale with rice and beans.

    Decent, but nothing special, IMHO.

    Was still a bit hungry, so I ordered the quinoa salad. It looked amazing, but had no dressing. When I asked for some of the citrus vinagrette, they had a hard time understanding. Then they brought out a small dish full of white vinegar.


    When my waitress came back, I explained what happened and she had the kitchen make a new salad (Despite the fact I just asked for more dressing…I didn’t want to waste food…just wanted some flavor!!!).

    The new salad didn’t taste great, either. Dressing tasted like mustard and vinegar, not citrus.

    Mama did come by my table to say hi, to apologize for the lack of cheese and for the salad. She said the cook was on his first solo shift, so I will give them a break and will try it again when I have a free afternoon, because I want to believe my experience is not typical.

    Thanks for your review!

  • I would like to re-try this restaurant because I think they do great work, but I had an odd experience the first and only time I tried it.

    After being a vegetarian for over 12 years, I thought I would give Mama a try. Great food and service in the restaurant. I ordered a half dozen to supplement Thanksgiving dinner for me and my non-veg family. Steamed them up, they looked fabulous. Everyone took one and I was excited to have something substantial since the stuffing was not veg. I bit into something which resembled a chunk of pork and spit it out, horrified. I gave it to my brother to finish and he confirmed it was PORK. Of one of the six tamales, the ONLY VEG got the one that they obviously mistook for a vegetarian tamal. I hadn’t eaten pig since REAGAN was President.

    So, you may want to cut into your food or tamal before devouring it…

    BTW, they don’t have a tamal menu on their website. Does anyone have one?

  • I went today found this place to be rather “meh,” and kind of disappointing.

    Like the above poster, they had no daiya cheese. Mama apologized, but that was my primary reason for going… Plus this mix up add to a pretty long delay and confusion me-server-kitchen. All I had asked for was just “no cheese” in response.

    Ordered their burrito “grilled vegetables.” The burrito itself was OK, but nothing special. Way, way, WAY too much white rice–it could have been called a “white rice burrito.” The vegetables were some boring onions and peppers. The green sauce and pinto beans were good.

    I’ll go again, but will order something else.

    It’s nice inside and is right outside the Westlake subway station — just a 7 minute ride from Union Station.

  • Any info on whether or not the corn ingredients are genetically modified (GMO) or not?
    I’m of Mexican descent and love tortillas, tamales, etc. but avoid corn, soy and other potentially GM foods if I’m uncertain of their origin. It’s extremely difficult to find out from many restaurants when i e-mail them.
    Establishments may have vegan options, but that doesn’t mean they’re free of altered genes and pesticides.

  • The link to the website isn’t working for me. Anyone else have this issue?

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  • […] I spent the day with my dad and youngest brother B. Since my stepmother was out working (subbing for someone), my dad was free to grab some lunch. At first, I was going to take them to King Taco in East LA. I hadn’t been to that location but figured, TACOS!!! Then I had the ‘brilliant’ idea of taking him to the Westlake area to Mama’s Hot Tamales! […]

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