This southwest tamale pie is a comfort food casserole made with seasoned ground beef, black beans, corn, enchilada sauce and a cornbread topping. It’s an easy dinner the whole family will love!
Why you’ll love it
Comfort food – Casseroles are often thought of as comfort food and this tamale pie is no exception. It’s perfect for chilly nights or anytime you need a cozy meal.
Family friendly – This a meal the whole family will enjoy! It isn’t too spicy, unless you choose to make it that way and the cheesy cornbread topping will be a hit with kids.
Freezer friendly – This is a great meal to stick in the freezer for a day when you don’t have time to cook or if you’re making it for friend or neighbor.
What is tamale pie?
Tamale pie is a southwest flavored casserole dish that was may have originated in Texas in the early 1900’s. The filling is similar to that which you would find in tamales. Ground beef is most often used along with corn, beans, chile peppers, black olives, tomatoes, onion, cheese, and spices such as chili powder.
The topping is made of cornmeal or masa harina, which is a corn based tortilla flour. Cornbread mix can also be used as a shortcut. The casserole is baked in the oven and can be garnished with avocado, tomato, cheese, and cilantro.
- Onion – White or yellow onion can be used.
- Bell pepper – Any color bell pepper can be used. I like to use red, yellow, or orange because they generally taste a little sweeter.
- Ground beef – Use lean ground beef, preferably 90/10 so that the filling isn’t too greasy.
- Black beans – Could also substitute with pinto beans
- Corn – Fresh or frozen corn can be used.
- Chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika – The spice blend used to season the beef filling.
- Enchilada sauce – Use a good quality enchilada sauce such as Hatch or Frontera. Mild, medium, or hot can be used depending on how spicy you want it. I used mild.
- Cornbread mix – Use your favorite cornbread/corn muffin mix to save time. You can also make your own from scratch if you prefer.
- Green chiles – Mixing a can of green chiles into the cornbread mix adds great flavor!
- Greek yogurt – Keeps the cornbread moist and gives it a little tang.
- Milk – I used lowfat milk, whole milk would be great if you want a richer tasting cornbread.
- Egg – Binds the cornbread topping together.
- Cheese – Cheddar, Colby Jack, or Monterey Jack cheese are all great options.
How to make tamale pie
Sauté the onion and peppers in a 10 or 12 inch skillet until they’ve softened. Add in the ground beef and crumble it. Add in salt and pepper, and the dried spices. Cook for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through.
Add in the beans, corn, cheese, and enchilada sauce. Stir everything together and let it simmer for another 6-8 minutes.
While the filling is simmering, make the cornbread topping. Add the cornbread mix, milk, yogurt, egg, green chiles, and cheese to a mixing bowl. Whisk until combined.
Pour the cornbread mixture over the ground beef filling. If the skillet is really full, place a sheet pan under the skillet before putting it in the oven.
Bake the tamale pie in a 350° F. pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out with a few crumbs attached. Garnish with cilantro or any other toppings of your choice and serve.
Storage and freezing
The ground beef tamale pie leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Individual portions can be reheated in the microwave.
You can also freeze the tamale pie. Bake the pie and let it cool completely. If you aren’t using a freezer safe dish, transfer it to one keeping the cornbread on top as much as possible. Freeze for up to 3 months.
To reheat the frozen casserole, let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight. You can reheat it in a 350° F. oven covered with foil until it’s hot or microwave individual portions.
Can you make tamale pie with ground turkey?
Yes. Ground turkey or ground chicken can be used instead of ground beef.
How to make tamale pie vegetarian
To make this tamale pie recipe vegetarian, replace the ground beef with additional black beans. I recommend using 1-2 cans of black or pinto beans instead of the 1 cup that the recipe calls for.
You can also add additional vegetables such as zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes.
Just like tacos, this tamale pie is great with toppings added to it. Avocado slices, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, diced tomatoes, cilantro, and black olives are a few ideas you might like.
More casserole recipes
Did you make this tamale pie? I’d love if you’d leave a recipe rating and review below.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 of a white or yellow onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup frozen corn, defrosted
- 15 ounces can red enchilada sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, reserve 1/2 cup for the cornbread topping
- 8.5 ounces box cornbread mix
- 1/2 cup plain low fat Greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 4 ounce can diced green chiles
- Heat the olive oil in a 10-12” oven safe skillet over medium high heat. Add in the onion and pepper and sauté until they've softened, 3-4 minutes. Add in the ground beef and crumble it. Stir in salt, pepper, and the dried spices and cook for 6-8 minutes or until the beef is cooked through.
- Add in the black beans, corn, cheese, and enchilada sauce. Stir everything together and let it simmer for another 5-7 minutes.
- While the filling is simmering whisk together the ingredients for the cornbread topping and then pour it on top of the ground beef mixture. Place the skillet onto a sheet pan in case it bubbles over and then into a 350° F. Preheated oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out with a few crumbs attached. Garnish with cilantro or any other toppings of your choice.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 542Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 106mgSodium: 1407mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 9gSugar: 18gProtein: 44g
Nutritional information is an estimate. Please consult a registered dietician for the most accurate nutritional information.