Tamales are widely eaten in Latin America. Each country has its own version or versions of tamales. This tamale pie recipe is an easy version of that. In Latin America, corn masa (dough) is used to make tamales. Fresh corn is ground in a special mill to make “masa” or “dough.”
This dough is mixed with spices, meats, and sauces, wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves, and steamed.
What Is Tamale Pie?
It is called a pie because it is baked in a casserole dish with layers, but it is not truly a pie.
Tamales are usually made with corn “masa” wrapped in corn husks or banana leaves and steamed until the masa becomes solid.
They can be stuffed with different kinds of prepared meats. This recipe is the closest thing to a tamale without making masa or using leaves to wrap it.
Corn muffin mix is used for convenience, and ground beef with enchilada sauce is the “stuffing” layer. So you could say this is a “layered tamale pie.”
- Onion and garlic are always the base for many savory dishes. Without them, the dish would not have any flavor.
- Olive oil: please do not use extra virgin olive oil for cooking or sauteing a food. Use light olive oil, which is better suited to withstand high temperatures.
- Ground beef: I try to use 90% lean, grass-fed ground beef.
- Cumin and chili powder. Cumin is the most widely used spice in Mexican cooking. It makes this dish taste a bit more authentic. Chili powder gives the meat heat and smokiness, just as the original tamales would taste.
- Enchilada sauce is the binding agent for the meat. It not only flavors the meat but also gives it a great moist texture.
- Monterey Jack cheese: great flavor addition as well, but you can use your favorite cheese.
- Sharp Cheddar cheese: I love the strong flavor of sharp Cheddar. I recommend shredding these cheeses yourself.
- Corn muffin mix: I used a Jiffy corn muffin mix. It comes in a small box. I personally like this one the best.
- Egg: egg makes the batter soft and fluffy. One whole egg is enough.
- Greek yogurt: I want to make a healthier version of tamale pie, so I choose to use yogurt instead of sour cream, but if you don’t like yogurt, you can definitely use sour cream.
- Whole kernel corn: I like my upper corn layer to be soft and fluffy, but if you like more texture, you can use creamed corn and only mix it with the yogurt and egg instead of blending it.
How To Make Tamale Pie
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Using a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic with the ground cumin and chili powder.
- Add the ground beef and cook until brown.
- Pour the enchilada sauce over the meat and cook for two more minutes. Set aside.
- In the jar of the blender, pour the Greek yogurt, egg, and corn kernels. Give it a few pulses just until the kernels break apart and everything is mixed together.
- In a medium-sized bowl using a spatula, combine the corn muffin mix and the yogurt/corn mixture just until everything is incorporated and there are no dry bits of muffin mix left.
- Place the prepared ground beef into the bottom of a baking dish.
- Sprinkle half of the Monterey Jack and half of the Cheddar cheeses on top of the meat, and then pour the batter on top of the meat/cheese layer.
- Add the other half of the cheeses on top of the corn muffin batter and bake for 35 minutes or golden brown.
What To Serve With Tamale Pie?
This dish has almost everything a complete meal is supposed to have. It has meat, it has dairy, it has corn, but it lacks fresh veggies.
So I would definitely serve this tamale pie with a side salad such as The perfect tossed salad, or maybe something a little less complicated but full of flavor like our Cucumber and Tomato Salad, which goes so great with the Mexican vibe of this amazing pie.
So while your pie is baking, all you need to do is make one of these quick and easy salads, and you have yourself a killer meal.
Storing and Freezing:
Store any leftovers in an airtight container and put them in the fridge for up to 4 days and in the freezer for three months.
Remember to write the date before freezing the leftovers so you don’t overextend on the allowed freezing time.
- After you brown the beef, if you feel it has too much grease, drain it. You don’t want that extra amount of fat.
- Before assembling the tamale pie, try the meat to test for salt and pepper.
- You can use green enchilada sauce for a variation to this dish.
- Shred your own cheeses. Pre-shredded cheese doesn’t melt as well as freshly grated cheese.
Tamale Pie Recipe
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ½ white onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb ground beef
- ½ cup red enchilada sauce
- ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
- ½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 box corn muffin mix
- 1 egg
- ½ cup whole kernel corn
- ¾ cup low-fat Greek yogurt
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Using a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the onion, garlic, cumin, and chili powder. Saute them until the onion is transparent and the spices start to give off their aroma
- Add the ground beef and cook it trying to break it all up, until it is browned and no pink is showing.
- At this point, add the red enchilada sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. Let it simmer for about two minutes and set aside.
- Grab the egg, yogurt, and whole kernel corn, and put them inside the jar of the blender. Give it a few pulses until everything is well mixed and the kernels are no longer whole. If you want a silky smooth top layer, mix it until very smooth. If you want a bit of texture, just pulse a couple of times.
- Using a medium-sized bowl, fold the wet ingredients into the corn muffin mix until everything is well combined and there are no dry bits left. You don’t need to overmix, just make sure it is well blended.
- In a baking dish, add the meat on the bottom, followed by half the Monterey Jack and half the Cheddar cheese.
- The batter is poured next, on top of the meat and cheese. To top it all off, add the remaining half of the Cheddar and Monterey Jack evenly on top of the batter.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the corn muffin batter is brown and the cheeses melted.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Could I make this recipe with chicken or turkey?
Definitely, any of these two ground types of meat would cut the calorie amount, so if you’re watching calories, this is the way to go.
- How can I make vegan and vegetarian tamale pie?
You can substitute the meat with lentils and black beans. Instead of Greek yogurt, try using coconut yogurt or coconut cream, and do not use the egg. You will have to avoid the cheese as well if you are vegan.