Tamale Casserole features all the flavors of tamales minus the work! Made with a seasoned beef mixture and topped with homemade cornbread, this Tamale Pie delivers on flavor with ease.
I adore authentic tamales.
But I do NOT have the patience or time to make tamales on a busy weeknight.
But what I DO have time for is a casserole that tastes like tamales.
This recipe for Tamale Casserole, AKA Tamale Pie, features all the flavors you love about tamales--creamy cornbread and rich, seasoned meat. But instead the of hours of work needed to make tamales, this recipe comes together with less than 20 minutes of hands-on work, to create a quick and family-friendly recipe.
And let me tell you, it is a favorite!
Notes on Ingredients
- Ground Beef: While I love the flavor of lean ground beef in the tamale pie, you can opt to use ground turkey or chicken if that is what you have on hand or prefer.
- Onions, Peppers, and Garlic: The combintation of diced onions, bell pepper, and garlic is the building block to developing incredible flavor to the base of this casserole.
- Jalapeno: If you want to add a bit of heat to the meat mixture, a bit of finely minced jalapeno goes a long way to really waking up your palate. For those sensitive to heat, I recommed omitting the jalapeno completely.
- Diced Green Chiles: A small can of diced green chiles adds the perfect subtle kick of heat and a lot of flavor to the tamale casserole base.
- Corn: I love adding frozen corn the beef mixture as it pairs beautifully with the cornbread topping and adds a nice bit of natural sweetness to contrast to the heat of the chiles and jalapeno. However, the corn is completely optional.
- Tomato Sauce: Canned tomato sauce gives the tamale pie base moisture and a rich flavor, often traditional in tamale filling.
- Seasonings: I use my blend of homemade taco seasoning which is a combination of cumin, paprika, and chili powder.
- Lime Juice: If you have a fresh lime on hand, add the juice of the lime to the tamale pie base, as it will wake up all the flavors! It really takes this dish over the top!
- Cheese: If you love cheese in your tamales, don't forget to add a layer of shredded cheddar or montery jack cheese to this casserole.
- Cornbread: Use your favorite boxed cornbread or easily prepare homemade cornbread with flour, cornmeal, baking powder, milk, honey, egg, and oil.
How to Make Tamale Pie
- In a large nonstick skillet, heat a bit of oil over medium-high heat.
- Add in the ground beef, minced onion, diced bell pepper, and minced jalapeno if suing. Saute the mixture, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until the beef is no longer pink and the onion and peppers have begun to soften.
- If needed, drain off any excess grease and return the skillet to the heat.
- Add in the seasonings, green chiles, tomato sauce, and corn if using and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until the tomato sauce has thickened and everything is warmed through.
- While the beef mixture is simmering, prepare the cornbread topping by whisking together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, oil, and honey and then combine the wet and dry ingredients together unil the mixture is fully moistened.
- At this point, turn off the heat on the meat mixture and stir in the juice of a fresh lime.
- Pour the beef mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish, generously sprinkle with cheese, dollop the cornbread mixture over the meat mixture, and then gently spread out the batter using a spatula if needed.
- Bake until the cornbread is set.
Store leftover, cooled Tamale Pie in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Alternatively, freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating and enjoying.
op with cornbread mixture and bake as directed.
More Family-Friendly Casserole Recipes
- Buffalo Chicken Casserole
- Creamy Parmesan Chicken Casserole
- Creamy and Cheesy Chicken and Rice
- The Best Chicken Pot Pie
- Easy Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Need more inspiration for planning meals that your family will love? Sign up for my FREE Meal Plans and each week you will get a meal plan with a shopping list.
For the Tamale Casserole Base
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 small onion finely minced
- 1 small red or yellow bell pepper seeded and minced
- 1 jalapeno seeded, and finely minced
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon Taco Seasoning see note
- 4 ounces diced green chiles
- 16 oz tomato sauce
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 small lime juiced
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
For the Cornbread Topping
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup honey
- ¾ cup milk or buttermilk
- 4 tablespoons canola oil or melted, cooled butter
- 2 eggs
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Over medium-high heat, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add in ground beef, onion, pepper, and jalapeno and saute, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until the meat is fully browned and the onions and peppers are softeend.
- If needed, drain off any excess grease and return the skillet to the heat. Add in the taco seasoning, tomato sauce, green chiles, and corn. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened and warmed through, about 5-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice.
- Spread out the meat mixture in a 9x13 pan and top with shredded cheese if using.
- Prepare the cornbread topping by whisking together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together. Add the milk, honey, whisked eggs, and oil/butter, and mix until the flour is fully moistened and everything is nice and combined.
- Dollop the cornbread batter over the top of the casserole and spread to cover.
- Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, or until the cornbread topping is golden and set.
This recipe was originally published in 2018 but has been updated in 2022 with new photos and tips.