Tamale Pie

Recipe by Susan Reid

With its chili-like bean and meat filling and soft, cheesy cornbread topping, this casserole is quintessential comfort food — and a long-time American favorite. As with so many recipes brought to the U.S. by immigrants, this dish has changed significantly from its original incarnation: the traditional tamal of Mexico and Guatemala's indigenous cultures. We're happy to salute both that first tamal, and what it's evolved to over time in millions of American kitchens.


35 mins
25 to 35 mins
40 mins
8 servings, 12 ounces each
Tamale Pie - select to zoom
Tamale Pie - select to zoom
Tamale Pie - select to zoom


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  1. To make the filling: Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the meat.

  2. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned. Add the onions, garlic, and spices, and cook for 3 minutes more, until the onions soften.

  3. Add the tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and diced tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the kidney beans, stir to combine, and transfer the mixture to a covered 2 1/2 to 3-quart casserole dish.

  4. For the topping: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

  5. Work in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.

  6. Beat together the egg, creamed corn, and buttermilk, and stir into the dry ingredients until evenly moistened.

  7. If you're adding cheese, stir it in now.

  8. Scoop the batter on top of the hot filling, leaving plenty of space around each one: the tamale dumplings will double in size as they cook. Cover the dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Tips from our Bakers

  • You can also spice up the recipe with a diced fresh jalapeno and a splash of tabasco sauce, if you like your food on the hotter end of the flavor spectrum.
  • Too hot to fire up the oven? If you have a deep 12-inch skillet with a lid, you can cook the tamale pie on the stove (or even outdoors, on your grill). After the batter is scooped on top, put on the lid and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes over medium-low heat.
  • If you're looking for a timesaver, you could substitute a packet of taco seasoning for the spices in the filling.

  • The amount of sodium in this recipe as given is equivalent to about 3/4 teaspoon of salt. If you'd like to lower this amount, switch from canned ingredients to fresh; cook the black beans from soaked, dried beans, or use low sodium canned corn and tomatoes.