Made with a seasoned beef mixture and topped with homemade cornbread, this super easy recipe for Tamale Casserole delivers all the flavors of tamales minus the work!
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 an easy casserole that tastes like tamales.
This recipe for Tamale Casserole, AKA Tamale Pie, features all the flavors you love about tamales, from the richly seasoned meat to the creamy cornbread, with less than 20 minutes of hands-on work.
Why You'll Love Tamale Casserole
- Easy. This recipe comes together with minimal effort to create a quick and easy family dinner.
- Affordable. The most expensive ingredient in this recipe is ground beef. The rest of the ingredients are likely things you already have on hand. Purchase ground beef (or ground turkey) when on sale and you can enjoy a hearty, filling family meal for less than the cost of one large pizza.
- Filling. This Tamale Pie is an all-in-one meal that is filled with protein and carbs to fill your family up.
- Family-Favorite. Tamale Pie is a flavorful, kid-friendly dinner that will have your family licking their plates clean!
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 combination 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 recommend 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 flavors to the tamale casserole base.
- Corn: I love adding frozen corn to the beef mixture as it pairs beautifully with the cornbread topping and adds a nice bit of natural sweetness to contrast with the heat of the chiles and jalapeno. However, this addition 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: Fresh lime juice will really wake up the flavors in the filling. It is a simple chef's tip that 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 Monterey jack cheese to this casserole.
- Cornbread: Use your favorite boxed cornbread or easily prepare homemade cornbread using my recipe that combines, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, milk, honey, egg, and oil.
∗Speed It Up Using Leftovers ∗
While this Tamale Pie is already a quick and easy casserole recipe, you can make it EVEN faster by swapping out the Tex-Mex beef mixture with 3-4 cups of your favorite leftover chili, like Instant Pot Beef Chili or Chicken Chili, and then top with the cornbread mixture and bake as directed. It is a great way to transform leftover chili into something new and delicious.
You can assemble the entire tamale casserole up to 24 hours prior to baking. Once assembled, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. When ready to bake, let the casserole sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, remove the plastic wrap, and bake for 40-45 minutes.
Storage & Reheating Instructions
- Refrigerate: Store the cooled casserole in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Freeze: Transfer the cooled tamale casserole to a freezer-safe container and freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
- Reheat: Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until warmed through. Alternatively, reheat individual servings in the microwave on a microwave-safe plate and microwave in 30-second intervals until warmed through.
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
- Tater Tot 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.
Easy Tamale Casserole with Ground Beef
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 ℉.
- 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 softened.
- 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 over medium-high heat 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.
- 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.
- Spread out the meat mixture in a 9x13 pan and top with shredded cheese if using. 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.