Tamale Pie

Tamale pie, classic American comfort food, made with ground beef, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, Anaheim chiles, corn, olives, raisins, cheddar cheese, and cornbread.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Tamale Pie is one of those quintessential American pot-luck casserole dishes. It was probably invented by someone who had a taste of a real tamale and tried to recreate the flavor in a cornbread casserole.

I always loved tamale pie as a kid, fortunately it was often served in our school cafeteria. The tamale pie I remember was made with ground beef, with green chile, olives, whole corn, and topped with cornbread, though one could just as easily used pulled pork or a more traditional tamale stuffing for the casserole.

Tamale pie is not remotely Mexican and only somewhat resembles the flavor of real tamales. But it does taste great, is budget friendly, and easily feeds a lot of people.

Tamale Pie Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 6 to 8


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder (more or less to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin (more or less to taste)
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (4-ounce) can green Anaheim chiles, drained, chopped
  • 1 (16 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (4 ounce) can sliced ripe olives
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1-pound of prepared cornbread mix (such as Jiffy or Bob's Red Mill).
  • Whatever is needed according to cornbread mix instructions to make the cornbread batter (water, egg, oil, milk)


1 Preheat oven to 375°F.

2 Brown the beef, onions, bell pepper: Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add the ground beef, onion, and bell pepper. Add salt, chile powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring infrequently, until the ground beef has browned on all sides.

Remove from heat. Drain excess fat if necessary (if you are using lean beef, there shouldn't be excess).

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3 Stir in tomatoes, chiles, corn, olives, raisins, cheese, water: Mix in fire-roasted tomatoes, Anaheim chiles, corn, olives, raisins, cheese, and water. Adjust seasoning. Add more chile powder and cumin if desired.

4 Pour filling into casserole dish: Rub a little olive oil over the insides of a 9x12-inch casserole dish (or use a nonstick cooking spray). Spoon filling into the casserole dish.

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5 Make cornbread batter, pour over filling: In a large bowl, prepare the cornbread batter according to the directions on the package. Pour the cornbread batter over the top of the filling in the casserole.

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6 Bake: Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is browned.


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Showing 4 of 33 Comments

  • Lauren

    Delicious!! Feeds a lot too, perfect for a big family. Before serving added few fritos to the bottom of the bowl and hot sauce w/ sour cream on top.

    Loved the raisins, next time I’m adding more :)

  • Laurie

    Thank you, thank you for this terrific recipe. I have made it twice now, in as many weeks. The leftovers are great. I do leave out the raisins and bump up the spices just a bit.

  • Alana

    Mix the cheese with the meat? Did I read that correctly? I’ve never made it before and I’m thinking of trying it tonight. I just thought that its strange that the cheese would be mixed with the meat and not the cornbread. will put the cheese in both and see how it turns out.

  • Ann

    I actually doubled the recipe right off the bat – one to a potluck and one for home. It was a hit! I was a little skeptical about the raisins, but they add a nice sweet balance to the spicy (which I amped up slightly). Thanks again Elise – spot on!

  • HollyDolly

    My mom used to make tamale pie years ago.However it was from a packaged mix made by McCormick or lawry’s who don’t make it any more.
    This recipe isn’t that hard to make, and the cornbread makes an easy topping. The mix my mom used had a corn topping I think you mixed with water, and it resembled a corn meal mush.
    The mexicans have a dish called picadillo.It is ground meat,spices etc.and also has raisins and olives in it, so this is what the filling resembles, but you can leave the raisins out if you wish.
    You can adjust the seasonings in this recipe to your likeing.As a single person you can also do this, and mix it up, and place it in small disposable alumninum pans,and freeze it.I plan to add some Green Giant southwestern corn,which has the corn peppers and black beans with it.
    A good dish for a lot of guests, or for a potluck party at work.

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