Best Tamale Pie Recipe

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Recipes.net Team Modified: June 1, 2022

The tamale pie is a filling and cozy casserole that combines ground beef, cornbread, and flavorful sauce. Despite having hints of Mexican flavors, it actually originated in Texas around the early 1900s. Baked with shredded cheese on top, this dish has all the hallmarks of a great comfort food. Oh, and it’s a cinch to prepare, too! Trust us, it will taste even more fantastic when served with a side of pinto beans and rice or some mashed potatoes, ham, and gravy.

What’s in Our Tamale Pie?

There are many ways to make this quintessential comfort food. The traditional version consists of a saucy ground beef base with a cornbread topping. But in this rendition, spicy ground beef rests atop the enchilada sauce and the soft and moist cornbread. It also delivers delicious flavors that will definitely please everyone at the dinner table. It’s just a bonus that our tamale pie recipe is super easy to follow! 

Here are the ingredients you’ll need for the beef filling:

  • Ground beef It should be seasoned and browned.
  • Spices – We used cumin and chili powder to provide a nice kick to the filling.
  • Beer – You can use any beer of your choice.
  • Red onions + Garlic cloves – These add  deep flavors to the beef base.

Here’s what you need for the cornbread:

  • Cornbread mix – Jiffy cornbread mix is the best option, but feel free to use any brand you prefer.
  • Egg It binds the ingredients together and is the key to a fluffy cornbread.
  • Sour cream – It helps to make an extra-moist cornbread.
  • Creamed corn – It provides a distinct corn flavor and slight sweetness to the bread.

To make the enchilada sauce, you need:

  • Tomato sauce – It’s the base of the sauce. But you can also use tomato paste instead of tomato sauce for a thicker consistency. 
  • All-purpose flour – It thickens the sauce.
  • Spices – Use chili powder, ground cumin, and cayenne pepper.
  • Beer – It adds a rich, meaty flavor to the sauce.
  • Beef stock – Chicken stock will also work.
  • Beef bouillon cube – It delivers an umami flavor to the sauce.
  • Red bell peppers – Make sure to remove the seed.
  • Olive Oil It also helps improve the flavor and texture of the sauce.
  • Red onions + Garlic – They provide deep layers of flavor.
  • Salt + ground black pepper – Add to enhance the taste of your sauce.

Tips for Making Tamale Pie

This tamale casserole just fits the bill nicely if you’re looking for a winning dinner. Here are some tips and tricks on how to make tamale pie:

  • Use lean ground beef. Lean ground beef is ideal for casseroles. As it contains little amount of fat, draining the fat out won’t be a problem. Allow the meat to cook for about a few minutes before crumbling it finely with a spatula. Remember, the key to a perfectly browned beef is not to move the meat too much as it cooks.
  • Season the ground beef. To have a flavorful beef filling, cook the meat with various spices and seasonings. Onion, cumin, and chili powder will absolutely spice up the beef filling!
  • Do not overmix the cornbread batter. Overmixing might yield tough cornbread. Take your time when mixing the batter if it’s too lumpy. You’ll know that the cornbread batter is mixed enough when its consistency is already slightly thicker than the pancake batter.
  • Add oil and butter to your cornbread batter. Incorporating oil in the batter adds moisture, resulting in a moist and tender cornbread. Meanwhile, the butter enhances the flavor and adds color to the bread.
  • Thicken the enchilada sauce with a slurry.  If the sauce is not thick enough, you can rely on a cornstarch slurry. It will help thicken the sauce without affecting its taste. Combine one teaspoon of cold water and one teaspoon of cornstarch, and stir until smooth. Then, add the slurry to the saucepan.
  • Stir the enchilada sauce while it cooks. Using a whisk, stir the sauce occasionally while cooking to keep it from sticking to the pan. It will also help to balance out the flavor of the spices.
  • Customize the ingredients to your liking. We love how easily customizable this tamale pie recipe is. In fact, you can also add vegetables such as frozen corn, green chiles, and crushed tomatoes to the beef base. Feel free to toss in your preferred spices as well!
  • Go all-out with the toppings. Make your tamale pie extra hearty  with delicious toppings! You can top this casserole with sour cream, greek yogurt, or guacamole. Jalapeno slices are the way to go if you’re fond of a hot tamale pie. Avocados, tomatoes, and black olives are also fantastic toppers in our book!
  • Store your tamale pie in the fridge for up to 5 days if you’re not serving it immediately. Just make sure to transfer the dish to an airtight container beforehand. When ready to eat, just reheat it in a preheated oven or using your microwave. You can also freeze your unbaked tamale pie if you want. It will keep for about 2 to 3 months in the freezer.


Best Tamale Pie Recipe

How To Make The Best Tamale Pie

Treat your family to this cozy tamale pie casserole that delivers incredibly comforting flavors. It’s made with seasoned ground beef, soft and moist cornbread, and enchilada sauce. Finish it off with your go-to toppers for a more appetizing dinner!

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 50 mins
Serves:

Ingredients

For the red enchilada sauce:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup red bell peppers, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup red onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 beef bouillon cube, or chicken and tomato bouillon cube
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup beer, of your choice
  • 2 cups beef stock, or chicken stock
  • 15 oz tomato sauce, (1 can)
  • cup salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste

For the cornbread:

  • cooking spray
  • oz cornbread mix, (1 box)
  • 1 egg, large
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup creamed corn

For the beef filling:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • oz yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ cup beer, of your choice
  • salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded

Instructions

For the enchilada sauce:

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the peppers, onions, and garlic. Saute briefly.
  2. Add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and bouillon cube. Roast briefly.
  3. Add the flour, stir to combine, and cook it for another minute.
  4. Deglaze with beer and reduce briefly.
  5. Add the beef stock and tomato sauce. Stir, then bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Continue cooking for about 5 to 10 minutes until the sauce is nicely thick and reduced by about a third.
  6. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper, then allow the sauce to cool slightly.
  7. Transfer to a blender, then puree the sauce until smooth.

For the cornbread:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking casserole.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cornbread mix, egg, sour cream, and creamed corn. Whisk until a batter is formed.
  3. Transfer to the baking casserole and bake for roughly 20 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool briefly.

For the beef filling:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, cumin, and chili powder. Saute until vegetables turn translucent.
  2. Add ground beef and saute, breaking up meat while sauteing for about 6 minutes.
  3. Deglaze with beer and reduce briefly.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside. Drain any excess fat if necessary.
  5. Poke the entire surface of cornbread with a fork and pour the enchilada sauce over it. Layer with beef and top with the cheeses.
  6. Bake for about 5 minutes until cheese is melted, then broil for another 5 minutes until the cheese turns golden.
  7. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

  • Feel free to replace the red bell peppers with poblano peppers to make a spicier enchilada sauce.
  • You can prepare the enchilada sauce a day ahead. It can be stored in the refrigerator for a week, or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • To prepare this casserole in advance, place it in the freezer uncovered after assembling the pie. Once the cornbread topping is frozen, cover the dish with plastic wrap and store it in the freezer. Thaw before cooking.
  • Prior to baking, cover the edges of the tamale pie with foil to keep them from burning.

Nutrition

  • Sugar: 20g
  • :
  • Calcium: 221mg
  • Calories: 542kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 64g
  • Cholesterol: 65mg
  • Fat: 22g
  • Fiber: 13g
  • Iron: 6mg
  • Potassium: 590mg
  • Protein: 24g
  • Saturated Fat: 8g
  • Sodium: 1767mg
  • Vitamin A: 1210IU
  • Vitamin C: 17mg
Nutrition Disclaimer

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this tamale pie recipe with chicken or turkey?

Yes, absolutely! You can use chicken or lean ground turkey instead of beef. If you want to cook a chicken tamale pie, opt for a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken to shorten the cooking time. Cut-up bite-sized boneless and skinless chicken breasts or shredded chicken will work just as well. To make the tamale filling, just sauté the turkey or the chicken with chopped onions and a dash of spices.

How can I make a healthy or vegan tamale pot pie?

To make a healthy and vegetarian tamale pot pie, replace the ground beef with cooked lentils, black beans, or kidney beans. And instead of using beef or chicken broth, go for vegetable broth. You might also want to use vegan-friendly cheese for the topping.

How can I make tamale pie with masa topping?

Some tamale pie recipes make use of masa harina (or Mexican corn flour) for the topping. To prepare the masa topping, mix the masa harina, baking powder, and salt. Then, add the egg, butter, and shredded cheese. You can also add broth to the mixture if you want. Spread the masa mixture on the beef filling before popping the casserole in the oven. Bake until the top turns deliciously golden brown!

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Conclusion

This tamale pie is the epitome of a filling and cozy dinner. Bake this dish with lots of shredded cheese on top, and prepare to be amazed! This recipe is definitely worth adding to your dinner repertoire.
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