Tamale Pie

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



  • 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 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 Mix in fire-roasted tomatoes, Anaheim chiles, corn, olives, raisins, cheese, and water. Adjust seasoning. Add more chile powder and cumin if desired. 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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4 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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5 Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is browned.

Serves 6-8.

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Just Chili Pie from Lyndy's Toast

Showing 4 of 37 Comments

  • Jerry

    The first time I had tamale pie was in a navy mess hall. I was hooked. Unfortunately for me, so was the cook, and we ended up eating so much of it that I’ve never made it myself.

    The cornbread over the top is wonderful. It’s also a great way to dress up some inexpensive canned chili if you’re in a pinch for a “different” side dish.

  • Kyleen

    Growing up my mom made Tamale Casserole with canned (yes, I know, the horrors!) tamales. She’d layer the tamales in a casserole dish, pour Wolf Brand chili across the top (NO BEANS, thank you!), sprinkle on a layer of slightly crushed Fritos and then cover that with shredded cheddar. Heated through in the oven, it was really easy and actually quite tasty. Nothing like a REAL tamale dinner, but as you said, more for budget-friendly, quick and filling dinners.

  • Elise

    Hi Jerry – Hey, that would be easy and good too, chili with cornbread baked right over it.

    Hi Jean – This tamale pie recipe is quite flexible. Just include the ingredients you like and keep out the ones you don’t. You absolutely don’t need raisins; we like them so they are in for our version.

    Hi Kyleen – I have seen recipes for tamale pie calling for fritos. I guess it isn’t much of a stretch. The classic tuna casserole has a bunch of potato chips in it. I’ll have my tamale pie without the corn chips myself, but to each her own.

  • Danny DeCiryan

    Thanks Elise for continuing to provide lots of easy, taste tempting ideas; for those of us that love down home cooking – but don’t have lots of time to cook. Keep up the excellent work. I will make the Tamale Pie tonight!

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