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Big-Batch Tamale Pie with a Cornbread Topping

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Preview: Dig into this spicy Tamale Pie with a Cornbread Topping over a layer of ground beef, corn, tomato soup, and beans. No special occasion required.

This recipe for a big batch Texas Tamale Pie is spicy Tex-Mex comfort food at its best. It’s easy to make ahead of time and holds for hours, if necessary. It makes a lot (2 pounds of beef) but it’s wonderful leftover.

I’m not much for processed foods, but there are exceptions.  Making Tamale pie is a lot easier if you use canned soup and canned beans.  No need to add extra salt. You’ll get plenty out of the cans.

A slice of tamale pie on a plate

More about this recipe

Even though there are cans of tomato soup and canned beans involved, the cornbread is from scratch. 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–keeps the whole creation from becoming too dry.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Adjust seasonings to your personal tastes, especially the chili powder.  I like to substitute smoky chipotle powder for some of the chili powder. 

  • GROUND BEEF: My beef of choice here is an 85/15 blend. This translates to only 15% fat so I rarely have to drain it after browning.

    Substitute hot sausage for the beef to add more flavor.
  • SEASONINGS: Adjust seasonings to your personal tastes, especially the chili powder.  I like to substitute smoky chipotle powder for some of the chili powder. 
  • OLIVES: The olives add lots of 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 and is not recommended.
  • CORN: Use fresh, frozen, or canned corn.
  • BEANS: My favorite beans for this recipe from first to last are Ranch-Style beans, pinto beans, black beans, and finally, kidney beans.

What can I serve with this recipe for Tamale Pie?

Because there is no cheese in the recipe, I like to serve Cheddar or Jack cheese on the side. Chips, salsa, guacamole or avocados, and sour green are also good.  A green salad on the side completes the meal.

Can I make it ahead and freeze it?

You can freeze the prepared meat layer from 1-3 months. When you want to serve, heat it until bubbly all over. Meanwhile, mix up the cornbread layer and pour it over the top layer when it comes to a simmer. Bake according to the directions.

tamale pie meat and veggie mixture in a skillet
Bottom layer
baked tamale pie with serving spoon
Cornbread layer

Pin the picture below to save for later.

Tamale Pie - 1 serving on a plate

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Hope to see you again soon!

p.s. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: paula at

Yield: 10 servings

A Texas Tamale Pie Recipe with Cornbread Topping

A Texas Tamale Pie Recipe with Cornbread Topping

Spicy Mexican vegetable and bean mixture topped with cornbread.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes


Bottom Layer

  • 1-2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 cans condensed tomato soup or 4 small cans tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (negotiable)
  • 1/2 cup ripe olives, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup canned or frozen corn
  • 2 cans ranch style or pinto beans

Cornbread Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal (yellow or white)
  • 1 cup buttermilk or thinned unflavored yogurt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Bottom Layer:

  1. Brown onion and meat. Drain off any fat. Add remaining ingredients and pour into two, 2-quart greased casseroles and cover.
  2. Bake at 325˚F for 1 1/4 hours.

Cornbread Topping:

  1. Combine the first five ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Add buttermilk or yogurt, egg, and vegetable oil and 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.


*May be doubled for a large crowd.

*Want to use a crock pot? Prepare the meat and vegetable mixture and place in crock pot on LOW anywhere from 3-8 hours. When you walk in the door, preheat the oven, mix up the cornbread mixture and pop into the oven to finish baking.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

1 serving

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 521Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 102mgSodium: 1137mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 6gSugar: 14gProtein: 33g

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