Tamale Pie

Tamale pie is a classic American comfort food! Top seasoned ground beef with cheddar cheese and cornbread. It makes great leftovers!

A casserole dish with a tamale pie and a piece missing.
Annika Panikker

Have you ever had a tamale pie?

Tamale Pie is one of those quintessential American pot-luck casserole dishes.

I'm guessing it was invented by someone who had a taste of a real tamale and tried to recreate the flavor in a cornbread casserole.

Why Tamale Pie is a Family Favorite

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!

What Are the Ingredients in Tamale Pie?

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.

A casserole dish with a tamale pie and a piece missing.
Annika Panikker

Where Does Tamale Pie Come From?

Tamale pie is thought to have originated in Texas sometime in the 1900s and became popular in high school cafeterias to feed to students. Variations may include beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, beans, and cheese with vegetables, cornbread, and/or creamed corn. It became an especially popular dish during times when wheat was in shortage, such as the World War II era.

Some versions (like our Tamale Pie with Chicken, Green Chiles, and Cheese) have a masa topping like an actual tamale and some, like this one, have a cornbread topping.

Substitutions and Swaps

  • Eliminate the raisins if you're not a fan of them or don’t want the sweetness.
  • Use a different type of chile instead of Anaheim, such as roasted poblanos or even jalapenos if you like things spicy.
  • Make it vegetarian: swap the ground beef for beans and/or brown lentils.
  • Use a combination of cheeses, such as Mexican-style cheese blend, instead of all cheddar.
  • Use a different bell pepper (e.g., red, orange, or yellow) for the green if you prefer its flavor.

How to Store and Reheat this Dish

Refrigerate the tamale pie, covered in its baking dish, for several days. To reheat, cover the pie loosely with foil, and heat in a 350°F oven until it's warmed through — the exact timing will vary depending on how much pie you're reheating.

To freeze this dish, cool completely to room temperature, then freeze, covered, in its baking dish or in a smaller container, if necessary. Allow the frozen dish to thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight before reheating it.

More Delicious Tex-Mex Recipes to Make!

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Tamale Pie

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 60 mins
Total Time 70 mins
Servings 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin 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 chili powder (more or less to taste)

  • 2 teaspoons cumin (more or less to taste)

  • 1 (14.5-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 (16-ounce) package prepared cornbread mix, such as Jiffy or Bob's Red Mill

  • Water, egg, oil, or milk as needed for mixing the cornbread batter according to package directions

Method

  1. Preheat the oven:

    Preheat oven to 375°F

  2. Brown the beef, onions, and 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).

    A dutch oven with the filling tamale pie recipe.
    Annika Panikker
  3. Make the filling:

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

    Mixing up the filling for a tamale pie recipe.
    Annika Panikker
    Mixing up the filling for a tamale pie recipe.
    Annika Panikker
  4. Pour the filling into the casserole:

    Rub a little olive oil over the inside of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish (or use a nonstick cooking spray). Spoon filling into the casserole dish.

    Spooning the filling for a tamale pie recipe in a casserole dish.
    Annika Panikker
  5. Make the cornbread batter:

    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.

    A glass bowl with cornmeal topping for a tamale pie.
    Annika Panikker
    Spooning the cornmeal topping over the filling to make a tamale pie recipe.
    Annika Panikker
  6. Bake:

    Bake at 375°F for 40 minutes, until the top is browned.

    Overhead view of a baked tamale pie.
    Annika Panikker
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
556 Calories
24g Fat
52g Carbs
35g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 556
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 24g 31%
Saturated Fat 8g 42%
Cholesterol 116mg 39%
Sodium 967mg 42%
Total Carbohydrate 52g 19%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 35g
Vitamin C 26mg 131%
Calcium 328mg 25%
Iron 6mg 34%
Potassium 831mg 18%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.