This easy Tamale Pie recipe makes a yummy one-pan Tex-Mex dinner that will have everyone going back for seconds! With a classic Mexican chili beef base and a cornbread crust topping that's packed with cheddar cheese, it's comforting, filling, and oh-so-delicious. This quick and easy dinner recipe is perfect for busy weeknights and feeds the entire family in just an hour!
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Tamale Pie, or Tamale Casserole, is a family favorite recipe that we love to have any time of year.
It's filling and comforting during cooler months, but it's an easy meal to prep and bake for a quick weeknight meal without much effort during the summer. If you love reader-favorite Easy Creamy Corn Casserole, then this recipe is perfect for you because it has a lot of the same textures and flavors with a meaty filling underneath.
Why is it called Tamale Pie?
If you've never had traditional tamales, this casserole version won't give you an accurate impression of them, but the name tamale pie probably comes from the combination of a cornbread topping and savory meat filling that is reminiscent of meat-filled tamales made with masa flour and cooked in corn husks.
The amount of time and effort to make tamale pie is way less than traditional tamales which are known for being fairly labor intensive. So it's perfect for everyday occasions when you are craving tamales and need an easy solution!
I have made this easy tamale pie recipe with shredded rotisserie chicken instead of ground beef and added diced jalapenos to the cornbread layer on top for more of a kick, but this ground beef version is my favorite classic approach to tamale pie casserole that is just homey and good. Your family is going to love it.
Why We Love This Recipe
- Made all in one dish, it's convenient and relatively mess-free with fewer dishes to clean up!
- Easily change up the meat, seasoning, or veggies in this dish to suit your personal preferences.
- Save time using a Jiffy Cornmeal Miffin Mix, or make your own homemade cornbread topping!
What You'll Need
Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Oil - You'll need some oil for sautéing the veggies. I've used vegetable oil, but canola oil or olive oil would work fine too.
- Onion & Garlic - Use freshly diced onion and freshly minced garlic for a great savory flavor.
- Beef - Use good-quality ground beef for the best results here. We tend to use 85/15, although ground bison is another really great option that is even leaner. So good! You really should try it!
- Seasoning - A simple combination of ground cumin, chili powder, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper will add classic Tex-Mex flavors to this dish.
- Chiles - You can choose mild or hot fire-roasted diced green chiles, depending on how spicy you want this dish to be.
- Enchilada Sauce - Use your favorite kind of enchilada sauce that you can get from the grocery store or make your own Red Enchilada Sauce.
- Cornmeal Muffin Mix - I've used Jiffy Cornmeal Muffin Mix or Bob's Red Mill corn muffin mix to save some time on making the cornbread mixture (and since I often have a random box floating around in my pantry that needs to be used up), but you can use your favorite brand, or make your own Corn Muffin mix, or see the ingredients needed in the substitutions below.
- Egg - To bind the cornmeal mixture and help the topping rise.
- Sour Cream - Gives the cornbread topping a moist richness, and balances the flavors well.
- Creamed Corn - I've used a can of creamed corn to save some time here again. Use your favorite brand, or make your own from scratch and freeze leftovers for using whenever a recipe calls for creamed corn.
- Honey - Adds a bit of sweetness and brings a honey flavor to the topping.
- Cheese - You can buy pre-shredded cheese, or shred it yourself. We use ½ sharp cheddar cheese and ½ Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack cheese.
- For Serving - You can use your favorite toppings here, but we love freshly chopped cilantro, sour cream, pico de gallo, and slices of avocado or some guacamole.
How to Make This Recipe
- Saute onion and garlic. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pan. Saute the onion until it starts to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another 30 seconds.
- Brown beef. Add the ground beef and cook it until browned, mixing it in with the onion and garlic and breaking up the ground beef into crumbles while it cooks. Drain the excess fat from the pan.
- Add seasoning. Next, add the cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper, and cook for 1 minute.
- Add tomato sauce and chiles. Mix in the enchilada sauce and diced green chiles. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Make cornbread mixture. Combine Jiffy Mix, egg, sour cream, creamed corn, the remaining ¼ cup vegetable oil, and honey.
- Add cheese. Stir in about ½ cup of the cheese.
- Assemble tamale pie. Sprinkle the cooked meat mixture with 1½ cups of shredded cheese over the hot tamale pie filling.
- Add cornbread topping. Spread the cornbread topping evenly on top of the meat mixture. Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown on top.
- Serve. Serve hot with sour cream, guacamole, pico de Gallo, and any of your other favorite Mexican sides!
Tamale Pie is a Mexican-inspired American dish that has a chili meat mixture base covered in a cheesy cornbread topping. It's basically a beef chili mix with cornbread on top, and it's a winning combination!
Store leftovers in an airtight container, or covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat portions in the microwave, or cover the dish in foil and reheat it in the oven until piping hot.
Yes! This makes a great freezer meal. Either make the recipe until the baking step (cornmeal topping and all), let it cool completely, and cover it twice with plastic wrap and freeze, or you can freeze the meat mixture and assemble the pie with a fresh cornmeal topping. You can also bake the casserole until done, then freeze the whole thing so it just needs to be warmed through.
When freezing tamale pie and most casserole dishes, I transfer the cooked filling to a disposable aluminum pan first so I can just pull it out and bake. Store your food in a freezer-safe container and it will last for up to 3 months. The meat mixture will keep for up to 6 months if you just want to make that and add the cornbread topping later. Defrost in the refrigerator before baking it or bake straight from frozen by adding an additional 20 minutes to the baking time.
Tips for Success
- I've used a large skillet (mine is a 12-inch skillet) for this one-dish recipe, but you can use a 9×9 inch (or similar) casserole dish, or keep it in one pot by using a Dutch oven if you prefer.
- Let the dish sit for about 10 minutes before serving, so the meat mixture can thicken slightly after cooking it.
What do I serve with Tamale Pie?
Serve your delicious Tamale Pie with some classic Mexican sides to make it go further.
Don't forget to serve it all with these Horchata Mexican Drinks!
Substitutions and Variations
- Change the meat. This recipe will work well with any kind of ground meat. Try ground pork, ground bison, or ground turkey, or even shredded chicken for a different texture.
- Add some beans. Stretch your meat even further by adding a can of inexpensive pinto, black, or kidney beans to the ground beef filling before topping the casserole with the cornbread layer.
- Vegetarian. You can easily make this meal vegetarian by using two cans of pinto or black beans, or my Instant Pot Refried Beans instead of meat. You may also want to add extra veggies to bulk it out a bit.
- Add veggies. Add more vegetables to this dish by chopping them fairly small and adding them once the beef is cooked. Try red bell pepper or green peppers if you prefer them. Sweetcorn works well too, as do carrots, zucchini, and black olives.
- Turn up the heat. Add diced jalapeños, some of your favorite hot sauce, or the hottest green chillies you can find.
More Delicious Mexican and Tex-Mex Recipes
- Ground Beef Enchiladas
- Pork Carnitas
- BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos
- Crock Pot Pork Green Chili
- Chicken Quesadillas
- Fresh Mango Salsa
- Mexican Restaurant-Style Salsa
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
- ¼ cup vegetable oil + 1 Tablespoon additional oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 to 1½ pounds ground beef (we use 85/15)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
- 1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce
- 1 (8.5-ounce) box Jiffy cornmeal muffin mix
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ (15-ounce) can creamed corn (about ¾ cup)
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 2 cups shredded cheese, divided (we use ½ sharp cheddar and ½ Monterey Jack)
- Fresh chopped cilantro, for serving
- Sour cream, for serving
- Sliced avocado, for serving
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large oven-safe skillet or pan (I used a 12-inch skillet). Saute the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add ground beef, breaking it up with a spatula while it browns. Brown the beef until crumbled and no longer pink. Drain off any excess fat.
- Add cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Cook for 1 minute while stirring to toast the spices and allow them to be absorbed by the meat mixture.
- Add enchilada sauce and diced green chiles. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle with 1½ cups of the shredded cheese. If you don't have an oven-safe skillet, you can transfer the filling mixture to a 9x9 baking pan instead.
- Combine Jiffy Mix, egg, sour cream, creamed corn, the remaining ¼ cup vegetable oil, and honey. Stir in about ½ cup of the cheese. Spread evenly on top of the meat mixture and cheese.
- Bake for 40 minutes in a 400°F oven until golden brown on top and heated through. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Serve with sour cream, sliced avocado or guacamole, chopped fresh cilantro, and pico de gallo.
- Jiffy Mix substitute: If you don't have a Jiffy or Bob's Red Mill corn muffin mix, you can just combine ⅔ cup all-purpose flour, ½ cup yellow cornmeal, 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 Tablespoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 2 Tablespoons of additional oil along with the rest of the ingredients for the cornbread topping.
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container, or covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat portions in the microwave, or cover the dish in foil and reheat it in the oven until piping hot.
- Freezing: Either make the recipe until the baking step, let it cool completely, and cover it twice with plastic wrap and freeze it, or bake it and then freeze it. You can also freeze the meat mixture and assemble the pie with a fresh cornmeal topping if you prefer. Store your food in a freezer-safe container and it will last for up to 3 months. The meat mixture will keep for up to 6 months. Defrost in the refrigerator before baking it.