Tamale Pie is a family favorite made with seasoned ground beef and topped with homemade cornbread and cheese. It’s a simple to make casserole that’s family friendly and big on flavor.
I love making casserole dishes for dinner. My family gets something yummy for dinner that I can make in advance and just pop in the oven and they love it. Some of our favorites are true comfort food classics, like Tuna Casserole, Sloppy Joe Tater Tot Casserole and Hamburger Casserole.
My mom has been making this Tamale Pie recipe since I was a kid, so it’s something I grew up eating. Now I make it for my kids and they love it just as much as I do. The base is a simple, spicy ground beef chili with corn and olives mixed in and it’s topped with a homemade sweet cornbread and shredded cheese. Since it’s a complete meal made all in one pan, I don’t feel the need to make a bunch of sides and usually just serve with a simple Garden Salad.
Where did tamale pie originate?
Tamale Pie tasted 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!
How do you make a tamale pie from scratch?
- 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 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.
Top Tips and Recipe Notes
- Jiffy cornbread mix will work if you don’t want to make the tamale pie completely from scratch.
- 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.
Make Ahead Instructions
I love casserole dishes like this one because they are easy to prepare in advance and freeze for later.
For making ahead and freezing, prepare the pie as directed, then freeze the unbaked tamale pie 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.
How do you reheat a tamale pie?
If you have leftover Tamale Pie, it’s important to know how to store it. You have a few options, but always remember to use a container that’s made for the method you’re using (like plastic freezer bags for freezer storage).
In the fridge, leftovers will last several days. 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.
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.
More Casserole Recipes to love
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- ½ cup chopped onion about ½ of a small onion
- 15 ounce can chopped 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. 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.