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.

individual serving of tamale pie on a platePin

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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.

Five Reasons To Share This Tex-Mex Treat

  1. This recipe is a chili-flavored meat mixture with corn, beans, and black olives added. (It doesn’t taste much like a tamale.)
  2. A thin cornbread crust and cheese top off the deliciousness in the bottom layer.
  3. Canned beans are good enough.
  4. The cornbread topping is made from scratch for the freshest taste.
  5. The cornbread layer is thinner than many tamale pie recipes to keep it from robbing moisture from the meat layer.

Happy Cooks Speak Up

“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.”STEPHEN

Ingredients and Substitutions

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  • 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.
    • To add more flavor, substitute hot ground breakfast sausage for the beef. If you prefer, use ground turkey or ground chicken instead of beef.
  • TOMATO SAUCE: I used to use tomato soup. However, I’ve found that using tomato sauce makes the whole casserole moister without changing its 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 this Easy Tamale Pie Recipe with a Cornmeal and Cheese Crust

cooked ground beef, beans, olives, corn and spices in a skillet.Pin
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.
meat layer in a casserole dish.Pin
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 hours or until bubbly.

How to Assemble the Cornmeal Layer

assembling the cornmeal layer and showing the dry ingredients in a bowl.Pin
Stir together the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
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Stir the liquids: milk, sour cream or buttermilk, egg, and oil.
Cornmeal mixture after stirring the ingredients together--slightly lumpy.Pin
Combine the wet and dry ingredients until mixed. There will still be small lumps.
Spreading spoonfuls of the cornmeal mixture over the top of the meat layer.Pin
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.
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Put the casserole back into the oven heated to 425˚F (220˚C) for 15-20 minutes.
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If desired, serve with avocado, chopped tomatoes, and cilantro or parsley.

FAQ for Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal Crust

What can I serve with tamale pie?

Chips, salsa, guacamole, 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 it 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.

Is this a spicy recipe?

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

Random 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.

Help at Your Fingertips: For questions or suggestions, email Paula at saladinajar.com. If you need help, I’m happy to troubleshoot via email (faster than leaving a comment). Attach pictures and as many details as possible for the best advice.

a serving of tamale pie with a cornmeal toppingPin
Yield: 10 servings

Texas Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal and Cheese Topping

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 8 votes


Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
Total time: 2 hours 15 minutes


Meat Layer

  • 1-2 (150 g) large onions, chopped
  • 2 pounds (907 g) ground beef
  • 4 8-ounce cans (907 g) tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder less if you don’t like spicy
  • ½ teaspoon cumin (powdered)
  • ½ cup (67 g) ripe sliced olives
  • cup (246 g) canned or frozen corn
  • 2 15-ounce cans (425 g) ranch style or pinto beans, undrained

Cornmeal Topping

  • ½ cup (60 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ cup (117 g) cornmeal yellow or white
  • ½ cup (114 g) milk
  • ½ cup (115 g) sour cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons (27 g) vegetable oil
  • 2-4 ounces (56 g) shredded Colby, Jack, or Cheddar cheese


Meat Layer:

  • Brown 1-2 (150 g) large onions, chopped and 2 pounds (907 g) ground beef. Drain off any fat.
  • Add 4 8-ounce cans (907 g) tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon black pepper1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 3 teaspoons garlic, minced, 3 tablespoons chili powder, ½ teaspoon cumin (powdered), ½ cup (67 g) ripe sliced olives, 1½ cup (246 g) canned or frozen corn, 2 15-ounce cans (425 g) ranch style or pinto beans, undrained and pour into two 2-quart greased casseroles or one 9 x 13-inch pan and cover.
  • Bake at 325˚F (165˚C) for 1 to 1¼ hours. Remove the hot casserole from the oven. Immediately spread the cornbread topping recipe (seen below) over the top of the meat and bean mixture, then sprinkle with 2-4 ounces (56 g) shredded Colby, Jack, or Cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered at 425˚F (220˚C) for 20 minutes. Serves 10 to 12.

Cornbread Topping:

  • Combine 1/2 cup (60 g) all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon (½ teaspoon) baking soda, 3/4 cup (117 g) cornmeal, in a small bowl.
  • Add 1/2 cup (114 g) milk, 1/2 cup (115 g) sour cream, 1 large egg, beaten, and 2 tablespoons (27 g) vegetable oil. Stir just until combined.


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

All images and text ©️ Paula Rhodes for Salad in a Jar.com

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4.88 from 8 votes (5 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

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

  5. Ann Hastings says:

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

  6. 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! 😉



    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!


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

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

  9. 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!

  10. Wow…that looks SO great!

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

    Great photography!

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