Easy Texas Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal and Cheese Topping
Sneak Peek: Dig into this Texas Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal and Cheese Topping. The pie includes a layer of ground beef, corn, tomato sauce, and beans with a layer of cornbread over the top. No special occasion is required.
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Do you love Tex-Mex food? If so, you’ll go crazy for this Texas Tamale Pie with a scratch cornmeal crust. Serve it with avocados or guacamole, chopped tomatoes, and chips if you want to go all out.
You might expect this casserole to taste like tamales judging by the name. However, it’s not exactly like that. It’s more of a chili-flavored meat mixture with corn, beans, and olives added. Top it with a cornmeal crust (like cornbread) and cheese, and you’ve got a treat!
I’m not much for processed foods, but there are exceptions. For example, making Tamale Pie is much easier using canned beans.
Even though this recipe involves cans of tomato sauce and canned beans, the cornbread topping is made from scratch. Compared to using a mix, this makes for a fresher taste in my book.
The cornbread layer is also not as thick as in many tamale pie recipes. I like it that way–it keeps the whole creation from becoming too dry.
I’m constantly tweaking my recipes because I frequently make what I publish on this website for my family. Over the years, I’ve added cheese on top and sour cream to the cornmeal topping. I also use tomato sauce instead of tomato soup. I hope you like it.
Ingredients and substitutions:
- GROUND BEEF: My ground beef of choice is an 85/15 blend. This ratio translates to only 15% fat, so I rarely have to drain it after browning.
Substitute hot ground breakfast sausage for the beef to add more flavor. Use ground turkey or ground chicken instead of beef if you prefer.
- TOMATO SAUCE: I used to use tomato soup. However, I’ve found that using tomato sauce makes the whole casserole moister with no change in flavor.
- SEASONINGS: Adjust the seasonings to your tastes, especially the chili powder. I like to substitute smoky chipotle powder for some of the chili powder.
- OLIVES: The olives add personality and salt to the party in this casserole. Olive haters can leave them out.
Substituting green olives for black olives will change the character of this recipe, so I don’t recommend it.
- CORN: Use fresh, frozen, or canned corn.
- BEANS: My favorite beans for this recipe are Ranch-Style beans, pinto beans, black beans, or kidney beans, in that order.
- CORNMEAL: Either yellow cornmeal or white cornmeal is fine.
- BUTTERMILK, SOUR CREAM, or MILK: You have choices. 100% buttermilk or yogurt, 50% sour cream and 50% milk, or 50 % buttermilk and 50% sour cream.
- CHEESE: The cheese is for sprinkling on top if you desire. A good melty cheese like Colby, Monterrey Jack, or sharp Cheddar would work. I use a combination of whatever I can find in the fridge. If you aren’t a cheese lover, leave the cheese off.
How to make an easy tamale pie recipe with a cornmeal and cheese crust:
How to assemble the cornmeal layer:
FAQ for Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal Crust
Chips, salsa, guacamole, avocados, and sour cream are all good. A green salad on the side completes the meal.
You can freeze the prepared meat layer for 1-3 months. Be sure to wrap with plastic wrap or use an airtight container. When ready to serve this casserole, remove the frozen meat layer from the freezer. Heat the meat mixture until bubbly. Meanwhile, mix up the cornmeal layer and pour it over the top layer after it simmers. Bake according to the directions.
It can be. If you don’t like spicy foods, cut back on the chili powder and red pepper.
Final Thoughts: Something about Tamale Pie hooks people into loving Tex-Mex food. If you are one of those people, look at my Memorable Green Chile Enchiladas or this Baked Chile Relleno Casserole with Ground Beef. Try these Texas Fiesta Bowls or White Queso and Corn Dip if you want party fare. One of my favorite comfort foods is this Thick Chicken Tortilla Soup.
If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately for a quick answer: Paula at saladinajar.com. Hope to see you again soon!
Texas Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal and Cheese Topping
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- 1-2 large onions - chopped
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 4 cans - 8 oz each tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 teaspoons garlic - minced
- 3 tablespoons chili powder - use less if you don’t like spicy
- ⅓ teaspoon cumin (powdered)
- ½ cup ripe olives - sliced
- 1 ½ cup canned or frozen corn
- 2 cans ranch style or pinto beans - undrained
- ½ cup all-purpose flour - (60 gr)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon soda
- ¾ cup cornmeal - yellow or white (117 gr)
- ½ cup milk - (114 gr)
- ½ cup sour cream - (114 gr)
- 1 beaten egg - (50 gr)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil - (25 gr)
- 2-4 ounces of shredded Colby - Jack, or Cheddar cheese
- Brown onion and meat. Drain off any fat.
- Add remaining ingredients and pour into two 2-quart greased casseroles or one 9 x 13-inch pan and cover.
- Bake at 325˚F for 1 to 1¼ hours.
- Combine the first five ingredients in a small bowl.
- Add the milk, sour cream, egg, and vegetable oil. Stir just until combined. Remove the hot casserole from the oven. Spread the cornbread batter evenly over the top. Bake uncovered at 425˚F for 20 minutes. Serves 10 to 12.
Paula Rhodes, author
I’m a retired home economist, wife, mother, grandmother, and creator of Saladinajar.com. I believe you don’t have to be a chef to find joy in creating homemade food worth sharing. Here you’ll find time-saving tips, troubleshooting advice, and confidence-inspiring recipes to make life in the kitchen more fun, appetizing, and satisfying.