This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.
Our perfect Tamale Pie recipe is a family favorite made with seasoned ground beef and topped with homemade cornbread and cheese. This hearty tamale pie casserole is family friendly and big on flavor.
Table of Contents
The Best Tamale Pie Recipe
A tamale pie casserole is simple, delicious and fast. It has tex-mex flavors with a dense, cheesy cornbread-like topping. Be sure to try some of our other favorite casseroles, like Tuna Casserole, Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Casserole and Hamburger Casserole.
The base for this Tamale Pie recipe is a simple, spicy ground beef mixture, including onions, diced tomatoes, olives and corn. The topping is more dense than cornbread, and similar in texture to a tamale, and is topped with shredded cheddar cheese.
Since it’s a complete meal made all in one pan, there’s no need to serve a bunch of sides with your tamale pie, just a simple Garden Salad will do.
Ingredients for Tamale Pie
- Ground beef – The less greasy, the better. I usually go with a 85/15.
- Vegetables – Chopped onions, diced tomatoes, frozen corn, olives, green chiles.
- Seasonings – Chili powder, garlic powder and salt. Other optional seasonings include cumin, oregano and cayenne for heat.
- Cornmeal topping – Cornmeal, milk, sugar, eggs, shredded cheddar cheese.
How to Make Tamale Pie from Scratch
Get a detailed list of ingredients & instructions in the recipe card below.
- You’ll need a 9-inch round or square dish for this recipe. You can also use an oven proof skillet to cook the meat and then bake the casserole in the same pan. Lightly mist it with some cooking spray to avoid the food sticking to the sides.
- Cook ground beef and onions in a big skillet, then drain any grease from the pan. Stir in canned diced tomatoes, corn, olives and green chiles with some salt, chili powder and garlic powder for seasoning. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it cook for about 10 minutes. It’s ok if it looks a little thin, the sauce will thicken as the casserole bakes.
- While the meat is simmering, make the cornbread mixture by stirring together cornmeal, sugar, milk and eggs in a mixing bowl just until combined. Pour the meat into the baking dish or spread evenly in the skillet. Spread the cornbread mixture over the meat mixture in the baking dish or skillet and top with cheese.
- Bake uncovered for about 40-45 minutes. The top should be golden and the sauce bubbling up on the sides.
Tamale Pie tastes similar to a traditional beef tamale, without all the work. Despite tasting like it, Tamale Pie isn’t considered Mexican Food. The popularity of this great recipe has been credited to home economics classes as far back as the early 1910s and is said to have originated in the southwest. This isn’t the only comfort food to come from home ec classes – it’s where I learned how to make Million Dollar Spaghetti and Macaroni Salad, too!
To make ahead and freeze, prepare the pie as directed, then freeze unbaked and uncovered for an hour. Wrap tightly with a couple of layers of plastic wrap or foil and freeze up to 6 months. I recommend using a disposable foil pan since it’s going to be sitting in your freezer for a bit. Thaw overnight and bake as directed.
To reheat a whole casserole from frozen, thaw in the fridge overnight and warm in a 350 degree oven. I usually cover with foil to keep the top from getting too brown. Heat until warmed through; about 20-25 minutes.
Reheat individual (refrigerated) leftover portions in the microwave until warm.
Spicy – Add a pinch of cayenne pepper, or swap the green chiles for diced jalapenos.
Deluxe – Add more fresh veggies, like diced bell pepper, or fresh jalapeno. Add some pinto beans, black beans or kidney beans to bulk up the filling.
Shortcut – Use 2 boxes of jiffy cornbread mix instead of making the cornmeal topping.
Enchilada Tamale Pie – Instead of diced tomatoes, use a 10 ounce can of enchilada sauce.
Healthier – Use ground turkey or shredded chicken breasts in place of the ground beef. Add beans for more fiber.
- Jiffy cornbread mix will work if you don’t want to make the tamale pie topping completely from scratch.
- Keep in mind that the topping in the recipe is not cornbread – it’s similar in flavor to cornbread, but it’s more dense and has the texture of a tamale.
- We like cheese. Sometimes I’ll add at least a cup of cheese to the top of the pie or stir some into the ground beef. Usually I use cheddar but sometimes I’ll use Cheddar-Jack blend or even Pepper Jack.
- Top individual servings with sour cream and parsley or chives for garnish.
- Just like my ground beef tacos, I use 85% lean ground beef. This keeps the meat juicy without being too greasy. While any percentage will work, I tend to choose the leaner meat at 85% and above.
More Casserole Recipes to love
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- ½ cup chopped onion about ½ of a small onion
- 15 ounce can diced tomatoes drained (or 15 oz can tomato sauce)
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 4 ounce can chopped ripe olives drained
- 4 ounce can chopped green chilies drained
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
- fresh chopped chives or parsley for garnish if desired
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9”x9” baking dish or 10-inch oven safe skillet with nonstick cooking spray.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and onion and cook until beef is browned and no longer pink, stirring often. Drain any grease from the pan.
- To the beef, stir in tomatoes, corn, olives, chiles, chili powder, garlic powder and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened; about 10 minutes. Pour the beef mixture into the prepared baking dish.
- In a medium sized bowl, stir together the cornmeal, milk, sugar and eggs just until combined. Mixture will be thin. Spread evenly over the beef mixture in the pan, then top evenly with the cheese.
- Bake uncovered in the preheated 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes. Top should be golden brown and the sauce should be bubbling up on the sides.
- Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Top with sour cream and sliced green onions if desired.
- Top individual servings with sour cream and parsley or chives for garnish, if desired.
- Jiffy cornbread mix will work if you don’t want to make the tamale pie completely from scratch.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. You can reheat individual portions in the microwave or a large portion of the pie in the oven.
- Freeze leftovers in portions or all together for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight and microwave to reheat.
- For making ahead and freezing, prepare the pie as directed, then freeze, unbaked and uncovered, for an hour. Wrap tightly with a couple of layers of plastic wrap or foil and freeze up to 6 months. I recommend using a disposable foil pan since it’s going to be sitting in your freezer for a bit. Thaw overnight and bake as directed.