Tamale Pie

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Yield: 8 servings, 12 ounces each

Recipe photo

Since this recipe was posted last week, it's come to our attention that there was a serious typo when the ingredients were entered into the nutritional analysis: as originally published, the nutritionals recorded 2 CUPS of butter instead of 2 OUNCES. Corrected nutritionals are now posted, including saturated fat (3/27/09).
This recipe made its debut in The Baking Sheet, our subscription baking newsletter. Susan Reid, the editor, described it this way: "Greg, my other half, is always happy when the answer to 'what's for dinner?' is 'a casserole'. Being a true child of the Donna Reed era, the idea of a warm covered dish with meat and cheese and starch all together makes him feel right at home. The tamale topping for this dish is moist and tender, studded with flecks of corn. You can add herbs or cheese if you like. Partly because of my restaurant training, I tend to make the filling for this dish in double batches, one for now and one for the freezer. That way I'm halfway there later on when I come home late and want to get dinner on the table without starting from scratch. If you want to make the filling ahead, you can do so and tuck it in its casserole dish in the refrigerator. When you get home, turn the oven on, plunk the casserole in the microwave for 10 minutes to heat through while you put together the topping, scoop it out, put it in the oven. Your total time from start to dinner? 35 minutes."

Tamale Pie

star rating (44) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 8 servings, 12 ounces each
Published: 01/01/2010


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken, turkey, or beef
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper or cayenne to taste
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) black or dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Tamale Topping

Tips from our bakers

  • The amount of sodium in this recipe as given is equivalent to about 3/4 teaspoon of salt. If you'd like to lower this amount, switch from canned ingredients to fresh; cook the black beans from soaked, dried beans, or use low sodium canned corn and tomatoes.
  • You can use pepperjack, Monterey jack, or cheddar cheese in this recipe, depending on your taste.
  • You can also spice up the recipe with a diced fresh jalapeno and a splash of tabasco sauce, if you like your food on the hotter end of the flavor spectrum.
  • Too hot to fire up the oven? If you have a deep 12-inch skillet with a lid, you can cook the tamale pie on the stove (or even outdoors, on your grill). After the batter is scooped on top, put on the lid and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes over medium-low heat.
  • If you're looking for a timesaver, you could substitute a packet of taco seasoning for the spices in the filling; just be aware that prepackaged spice mixes often contain msg.


1. To make the filling: Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the meat.

2. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned. Add the onions, garlic, and spices, and cook for 3 minutes more, until the onions soften.

3. Add the tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and diced tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the kidney beans, stir to combine, and transfer the mixture to a covered 2 1/2 to 3-quart casserole dish.

4. For the topping: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

5. Work in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.

6. Beat together the egg, creamed corn, and buttermilk, and stir into the dry ingredients until evenly moistened.

7. If you're adding cheese, stir it in now.

8. Scoop the batter on top of the hot filling, leaving plenty of space around each one: the tamale dumplings will double in size as they cook. Cover the dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Nutrition information

Serving Size: 332g; 12 ounces Servings Per Batch: 8 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 362 Calories from Fat: 140 Total Fat: 16g Saturated Fat: 6g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 182mg Sodium: 1018 mg Total Carbohydrate: 39 Dietary Fiber: 7g Sugars: 9g Protein: 21g

* The nutrition information provided for this recipe is determined by the ESHA Genesis R&D software program. Substituting any ingredients may change the posted nutrition information.


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  • star rating 10/15/2013
  • Laura from Michigan
  • This is a great recipe. My family loved it and asked that I make it again. I did find the instructions a little confusing; the whole "to drain or not to drain" thing. This goes for the tomatoes, as well as the ground beef. In the end, I didn't drain anything (I used ground sirloin). I have to admit, I was a little worried that it would be too soupy, but it came out just fine. I baked the casserole for 25 minutes covered and 10 more minutes uncovered. I also let it cool for a few minutes before serving. The result was a soft, moist topping that wasn't what I'd call crunchy, but it wasn't doughy either. The recipe was easy to prepare, looked lovely, and was delicious.
  • star rating 03/01/2013
  • Karen in Cambridge from Cambridge MA
  • Liked it very much. Worried about excess liquid, I followed the advice of another reviewer and drained the diced tomatoes (and used more sauce). I also added a small can of green chiles. Wonderful comfort food -- reminds me of the tamale pie my mother used to make. I'm giving it 4 stars instead of 5 because I think the balance between flavor/quality and calories/fat/healthiness isn't quite great enough for me to make this more often than every year or so. (We don't eat much meat or cheese any more.) But I certainly would use this as my go-to recipe for something like this, and I might try to play with it and make it a bit healthier so I can have it a bit more often.
  • star rating 12/01/2012
  • Claudygirl1 from KAF Community
  • I'm giving this recipe 3 stars as written, but I am giving it 5 stars based on my changes thanks to the reviews. I was on a mission to make this without having to run out for ingredients. I used one 14.5 oz. can of tomato sauce (instead of 8 oz) and two 10.5 oz cans of Rotel mexican-style stewed tomatoes, drained,. (instead of 14.5 oz cans each diced. I used light red kidney beans, added a small can of sliced black olives, and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Also, I used 1 pound of cooked turkey breast meat from my freezer which shredded nicely. I followed the topping recipe exactly, but only used a half cup of parmesan. Served with steamed green beans and sour cream. This meal was a big hit and perfect for a snowy day, but the key is using twice the tomato saice and stewed tomatoes, drained. Thanks.
  • star rating 03/04/2012
  • jeanio from KAF Community
  • This was a great, very easy dinner to make. My family loved it, especially my teenage son who went back for thirds. After reading the reviews I was a little concerned about too much liquid so I reduced the filling slightly while I made the topping. Because we love a little heat in our Mexican food I added in some chipotle peppers I had in the fridge. I also used cheese in the filling. I didn't bother with a casserole dish (just another dish to take care of!) and simply put a lid on the preparation skillet and put it in the oven. Perfect! I will definitely be making this again soon.
  • star rating 05/12/2011
  • Goat Girl from KAF Community
  • I used baked skinless chicken, which I shredded and 1 tablespoon of canola oil for the onion, and added a half cup of chopped black pitted olives. I only had one 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes in juice and it was fine. Without a proper cover for the casserole, I used foil for 30 minutes as a cover and the topping was raw when I took it out so I uncovered it and baked an additional 15 minutes. We weren't in a hurry. It's a wonderful topping with crunch! I have to go easy on oil and hot spices, but my husband was liberal with his tabasco sauce at the table. He had two servings. A big hit. Thank you!!
  • star rating 12/18/2010
  • Claudygirl1 from KAF Community
  • We had this for a late lunch today. I made the "pie" portion last night and refrigerated it overnight to meld the flavors and save time this morning. This morning, I let it simmer, stirring occasionally as I had added all the liquids, (but drained the meat onto paper towels) and read the complaints about it being too "juicy". I followed the recipe with the following modifications: I used Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, no oil (Teflon), 4 cloves of garlic, a half cup of cheddar in the topping, low-sodium diced tomatoes and sauce, and didn't add the half teaspoon of salt in the recipe. This was a fun, satisfying meal and we enjoyed it a lot. A few tips: be sure your diced tomates are packed in sauce as the recipe states, not water. Also, I used a 12 by 9 by 4 inch deep covered casserole dish. It was perfect. My casserole looked just like the photo in the recipe. I left it in the oven for 50 minutes, covered thanks to posters comments. I served it with steamed green beens and sour cream on the side. Excellent with these easy changes. Oh, and for those of you who like heat, I added about a half teaspoon of crushed red pepper and could barely detect it. Enjoy!
  • star rating 02/19/2010
  • Ellen from Houston
  • This recipe was so easy to make and warmly received. We served it for Valentine's Day to our family, using all no salt added canned products (to meet son's needs). It was delicious and will be made again!
  • star rating 11/07/2009
  • Barb d from Indiana
  • this is a hit every where we go church, neighborhood events, I make 2 and freeze one for later adding the cornbread mix after thawing
  • star rating 07/11/2009
  • Jennifer from Cary, NC
  • This is first class family comfort food that is easy to prepare and easy to double up. My kids and husband loved it and it's now in my regular "casserole rotation" list of recipes, and I've passed it on to like-minded friends who are always on the look-out for recipes like this. I didn't have any trouble with the liquid from the tomatoes (I did thoroughly drain my beef after browning) altho I did tack on another 10 minutes or so to better set the topping. It'd also be great as a potluck dish.
  • star rating 05/27/2009
  • Clarissa from Virginia
  • With the cheese in the topping and all the liquid from the tomatoes, this was never going to cook down. The center of the topping never finished baking - even after 30 minutes baking and then another 20 minutes uncovered. We finally gave up and ate around the edges. I'm sure this recipe has potential - but I think it needs some work.
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