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This simple Tamale Pie is a delicious and easy dinner recipe that comes together in about 15 minutes. The zesty ground beef filling is topped with a cheesy cornbread crust for a hearty casserole that’s classic, old-school American comfort food!

Close overhead shot of tamale pie in a cast iron skillet

If you’re a child of the 70’s or 80’s, then you likely grew up feasting on Tamale Pie. It’s one of those great meals that appeals to just about everyone at the table, so it has stood the test of time. My mom baked her version of the ground beef casserole with a from-scratch cornmeal crust, but today we’re making it even easier by cooking everything in a cast iron skillet and finishing it off with Jiffy cornbread!

What is Tamale Pie?

This recipe is an American twist on the traditional Mesoamerican and South American dish, tamales, which are made with masa or dough, and then steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf. A Tamale Pie recipe combines some of the same ingredients used in tamales (namely, the ground beef, cheese and chilies) in a casserole, and then finishes the dish with a cornmeal or cornbread crust as a substitute for the masa.

Tamale Pie was first invented in the United States (likely originating in Texas) sometime in the early 1900s. By the mid-1910s, the dish was included in the curriculums of many high school home economics classes across the country.

Old school Tamale Pie was actually prepared with a masa crust; however, I find that those versions just don’t taste as good as a pie that’s topped with a sweet, cheesy and buttery cornbread topping. Whether you call it “Texas Tamale Pie” or “California Tamale Pie,” one thing is clear: this Americanized version of the traditional dish is a great way to enjoy the taste and texture of classic tamales, without the time and hassle.

Old school tamale pie on a blue and white plate with lime garnish

How to make Tamale Pie:

You will prepare the filling and bake the Tamale Pie in one dish, keeping the process as smooth as possible!

Ingredients:

Step 1: Prepare the Ground Beef Filling

Cook the beef and the onion in a cast iron skillet until the meat is no longer pink. Drain off the fat.

Ground beef and onion in a cast iron skillet

Stir in the enchilada sauce, diced tomatoes and green chilies, chili powder and salt. Then sprinkle half of the cheese over top.

Process shot of making tamale pie in a cast iron skillet

Step 2: Make the Jiffy Cornbread Topping

Stir together a small box of Jiffy corn muffin mix, milk, egg and the remaining cheese. Pour the batter over the beef filling in the skillet.

Cornbread topping batter for a tamale pie

Step 3: Bake the Tamale Pie

Bake the pie in a 400 degree F oven for about 20 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and cooked through.

Front shot of a sliced old school tamale pie in a cast iron skillet with a spatula for serving

What to serve with Tamale Pie:

Here are a few Mexican-inspired sides that go well with the Tamale Pie:

Preparation and Storage Tips:

  • Store leftover Tamale Pie in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • How to reheat Tamale Pie: To reheat previously-baked tamale pie, warm the dish in a 325 degree F oven for about 20 minutes. Individual portions of the pie can be microwaved just until heated through (about 1-2 minutes).
  • How to freeze Tamale Pie: You can freeze Tamale Pie, but it’s best when frozen before baking. To do so, add the cornbread batter on top and place in the freezer (uncovered) for one hour to allow the topping to harden. Then, wrap well with plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil, and place back in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • How to bake the pie from frozen: When ready to enjoy, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and bake the pie straight from the freezer for 60 minutes. If the top starts to darken, lay a piece of foil loosely over the top.
Long overhead shot of a piece of tamale pie on a plate on a blue surface

Cook’s Tips and Recipe Variations:

  • If you don’t have a cast iron (or other oven-proof skillet), or if you plan to prepare the pie in advance for freezing, you can assemble the pie in an 8-inch or 9-inch square casserole dish, or in a deep-dish pie plate.
  • Use ground chicken, ground pork or ground turkey in lieu of the beef.
  • If you want a more mild dish, swap out the diced tomatoes with green chilies and replace them with a 14.5-ounce can of regular petite diced tomatoes.
  • Jazz up the filling with even more additions, such as sliced black olives, chopped bell pepper (add it to the skillet with the onion and meat), or canned, drained pinto beans or black beans.
  • I use cheddar cheese, but you can use just about any cheese that you prefer, including Pepper Jack or a Mexican blend.
  • This recipe is not gluten-free, since the cornbread mix is not gluten-free. If you can find a gluten-free mix and a gluten-free enchilada sauce, the rest of the ingredients are naturally gluten-free.
Front shot of a fork taking out a bite of tamale pie

More easy Mexican-inspired ground beef casserole recipes that you might enjoy:

Close overhead shot of tamale pie in a cast iron skillet

Tamale Pie

5 from 3 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
0 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 516.5 kcal
Classic comfort food! This ground beef casserole is topped with a cheesy cornbread crust for an easy dinner with about 15 minutes of prep.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • ½ cup enchilada sauce
  • 1 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained (such as Rotel or Red Gold brands)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 (8.5 oz) box corn muffin mix (I use Jiffy brand)
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a 10-inch oven-proof skillet, cook beef and onion over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until no longer pink; drain. Stir in enchilada sauce, diced tomatoes and green chilies, chili powder and salt. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with half of the cheese.
  • In a separate bowl, stir together corn muffin mix, milk, egg and remaining cheese. Pour over the beef filling in the skillet.
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until cornbread is golden brown.

Notes

  • If you don’t have a cast iron (or other oven-proof skillet), or if you plan to prepare the pie in advance for freezing, you can make the recipe in an 8-inch square casserole dish.
  • You can use ground chicken, ground pork or ground turkey in lieu of the beef.
  • If you want a more mild dish, swap out the diced tomatoes with green chilies and replace them with a 14.5-ounce can of regular petite diced tomatoes.
  • Jazz up the filling with even more additions, such as sliced black olives, chopped bell pepper (add it to the skillet with the onion and meat), or canned, drained pinto beans or black beans.
  • I use cheddar cheese, but you can use just about any cheese that you prefer, including Pepper Jack or a Mexican blend.
  • Store leftover Tamale Pie in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • How to reheat Tamale Pie: To reheat previously-baked tamale pie, warm the dish in a 325 degree F oven for about 20 minutes. Individual portions of the pie can be microwaved just until heated through (about 1-2 minutes).
  • How to freeze Tamale Pie: You can freeze Tamale Pie, but it’s best when frozen before baking. To do so, add the cornbread batter on top and place in the freezer (uncovered) for one hour to allow the topping to harden. Then, wrap well with plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil, and place back in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • How to bake the pie from frozen: When ready to enjoy, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and bake the pie straight from the freezer for 60 minutes. If the top starts to darken, lay a piece of foil loosely over the top.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of the pieCalories: 516.5kcalCarbohydrates: 33.6gProtein: 23.6gFat: 30.1gSaturated Fat: 14.4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 9.7gCholesterol: 91.6mgSodium: 914.9mgPotassium: 422.6mgFiber: 2.8gSugar: 9.3g
Keyword: tamale pie, tamale pie with cornbread topping
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I like this simple recipe but it did not specify between dry enchilada sauce packet or the liquid in a can, can you kindly reply to me so I know for the future…

    1. Hi, Daryn! You need the can of liquid enchilada sauce, not a packet of enchilada seasoning mix. Hope that helps!