Easy Texas Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal and Cheese Topping

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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.

individual serving of tamale pie on a platePin

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Do you love Tex-Mex food? If so, you’re going to 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 a lot easier if you use canned beans.

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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.

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How to make an easy tamale pie recipe with a cornmeal and cheese crust:

 raw ground beef and onions in a skilletPin

Fry onions and ground beef together over medium-high heat until the meat is browned and the onions are softened. Drain any excess grease from the ground beef.

adding all remaining ingredients for the meat layerPin

Add all remaining ingredients for the meat layer to the skillet and gently heat.

Combining all ingredients for the meat layer.Pin

Stir the mixture together.

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Pour ingredients into a 2-qt casserole dish, baking dish, or a large skillet (oven-proof). Cover with an oven-safe lid or aluminum foil. Bake in a 325˚F (170˚C) oven for 1 to 1¼ hour or until bubbly.

How to assemble the cornmeal layer:

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Stir together the dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Stir together the liquids: milk, sour cream or buttermilk, egg and oilPin

Stir together the liquids: milk, sour cream or buttermilk, egg, and oil

Cornmeal mixturePin

Combine the wet and dry ingredients until mixed. There will still be small lumps.

Spreading the cornmeal mixture over the top of the Tamale PiePin

Arrange spoonfuls of cornmeal batter over the top of the bubbly meat mixture.

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Sprinkle the cornmeal batter with shredded cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack cheese.

Baked Tamale Pie right out of the oven. Ready to serve.Pin

Put the casserole back into the oven heated to 425˚F (220˚C) for 15-20 minutes.

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Serve with avocado, chopped tomatoes, and cilantro or parsley, if desired.

FAQ for Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal Crust

What can I serve with tamale pie?

Chips, salsa, guacamole or avocados, and sour cream are all good.  A green salad on the side completes the meal.

Can I make Tamale Pie ahead of time and freeze it? How do I reheat it?

You can freeze the prepared meat layer for 1-3 months. Be sure to wrap with plastic wrap or use an airtight container. When you are 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 begins to simmer. Bake according to the directions.

Is this a spicy recipe?

It can be. If you don’t like spicy foods, cut back on the chili powder and red pepper.

There’s something about Tamale Pie that seems to hook people into Tex-Mex food. If you are one of those people, have a look at my Memorable Green Chile Enchiladas or this Baked Chile Relleno Casserole with Ground Beef. If you want party fare, try these Texas Fiesta Bowls or White Queso and Corn Dip.

If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately for a quick answer: Paula at saladinajar.com. Hope to see you again soon! 

a serving of tamale pie with a cornmeal toppingPin

Texas Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal and Cheese Topping

Paula Rhodes
This spicy mixture of ground beef, tomato sauce, corn, and beans is the layer beneath a delicious cornmeal topping sprinkled liberally with cheese before baking.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Course Beef
Cuisine Tex-Mex
Servings 10 servings
Calories 423 kcal



Meat Layer

  • 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
  • teaspoon cumin (powdered)
  • ½ cup ripe olives - sliced
  • 1 ½ cup canned or frozen corn
  • 2 cans ranch style or pinto beans - undrained

Cornmeal Topping

  • 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
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2-4 ounces of shredded Colby - Jack, or Cheddar cheese


Meat Layer:

  • 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.

Cornbread Topping:

  • 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.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 423kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 93mg | Sodium: 637mg | Potassium: 433mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 998IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 125mg | Iron: 3mg
Keyword beans, corn, cornbread, meat pie, tamale pie, Tex-Mex
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Yummmm! I printed this one to make when it’s cold this winter. Sounds delicious!

  2. What a wonderful dish! I am going to have to try it out!

    Great photography!

  3. Wow…that looks SO great!

  4. Had something similar to this at work this past week although I am sure yours is better. Will have to try it now that I have a recipe. Looks great!

  5. One question-how do you thin the yogurt?

    1. Good question. With milk to the consistency of buttermilk.



    I love how straightforward this recipe is and all of the spices you added to the chili! I’m looking forward to making this in the future. This is a wonderfully hearty Tex-Mex dish!


  7. Paula–this looks *wonderful*. I am sure your guests appreciated it much! What a terrific dish to make for them. The cornbread layer looks really good. I *love* cornbread that is made with buttermilk…its the southern in me! 😉

  8. Ann Hastings says:

    I’ll have to make this recipe when it actaully gets cold here! Looks fantastic.

  9. Stephanie says:

    5 stars
    As soon as I saw this picture on the ‘Texas Fiesta Bowls’ (Which I made, & really loved, served with yellow rice and really kept me full) I had to click the link! I will be making this soon, I love any cornbread and any kind of bean. I’ve only click a few recipes of yours but I love how they are so simple and never really ask for anything extravagant that I don’t already have. Your site is awesome! Take care!

    1. Thanks Stephanie, so glad you found some recipes you like. Great to hear from you.

  10. Stephanie says:

    5 stars
    As soon as I saw this picture on the ‘Texas Fiesta Bowls’ (Which I made, & really loved, served with yellow rice and really kept me full) I had to click the link! I will be making this soon, I love any cornbread and any kind of bean. I’ve only click a few recipes of yours but I love how they are so simple and never really ask for anything extravagant that I don’t already have. Your site is awesome! Take care!

  11. 5 stars
    This recipe was great! I used one can Ranch beans and one can pinto. I used a little less chili powder and no cayenne or pepper since my young kids dislike spicy things. The amount of cornbread was just right! A zesty recipe that I plan to make again.

  12. 5 stars
    I made a smaller version of this last night and it passed scrutiny with flying colours. Tasty and filling and not that difficult to make. I am adding this one to a my menu. Thanks Paula.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Stephen. Sounds like you may be a Tex-Mex fan.