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Texas Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal and Cheese Topping

Preview: 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.

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!

individual serving of tamale pie on a plate

The recipe makes a lot (2 pounds of ground beef), but it’s easy to cut in half, which is how I usually make it.

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.

Even though cans of tomato sauce and canned beans are involved, the cornbread topping is 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.
  • 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 and is not recommended.
  • 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 cormeal 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.

ingredients needed for tamale pie

FAQ for Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal Crust

What can I serve with this recipe?

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?

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

Is this a spicy recipe?

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

How to make a Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal and Cheese Crust:

 raw ground beef and onions in a skillet
Fry onions and ground beef together until the meat is browned and the onions are softened. Drain any excess grease from the hamburger.
adding all remaining ingredients for the meat layer
Add all remaining ingredients for the meat layer to the skillet and gently heat.
Combining all ingredients for the meat layer.
Stir together.
meat layer in a casserole dish
Pour ingredients into a 2-qt casserole dish or oven-proof skillet. 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:

Stir together the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
Stir together the liquids: milk, sour cream or buttermilk, egg and oil
Stir together the liquids: milk, sour cream or buttermilk, egg, and oil
Cornmeal mixture
Combine the wet and dry ingredients until mixed. There will still be small lumps.
Spreading the cornmeal mixture over the top of the Tamale Pie
Arrange spoonfuls of cornmeal batter over the top of the hot meat mixture.
Cover the cornmeal batter with shredded cheese.
Baked Tamale Pie right out of the oven. Ready to serve.
Put the casserole back into the oven heated to 425˚F (220˚C) for 15-20 minutes.
Serve with avocado, chopped tomatoes, and cilantro or parsley, if desired.

If you enjoyed this recipe, it would help others and me if you gave it a five-star rating inside the recipe card below. 🤩 No comment required. Thank you.

Hope to see you again soon!

p.s. Questions or suggestions? Please email me: Paula at

Yield: 10 servings

Texas Tamale Pie with a Cornmeal and Cheese Topping

a serving of tamale pie with a cornmeal 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.

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


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)
  • 1/2 cup ripe olives, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cup canned or frozen corn
  • 2 cans ranch style or pinto beans (undrained)

Cornmeal Topping

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (60 gr)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal (yellow or white) (117 gr)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2-4 ounces of shredded Colby, Jack, or Cheddar cheese


Meat Layer:

  1. Brown onion and meat. Drain off any fat.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and pour into two 2-quart greased casseroles or one 9 x 13-inch pan and cover.
  3. Bake at 325˚F for 1 to 1¼ hours.

Cornbread Topping:

  1. Combine the first five ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. 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.


*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 the whole thing 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

Did you make this recipe?

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Thursday 26th of July 2012

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!


Saturday 28th of July 2012

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

Ann Hastings

Tuesday 27th of October 2009

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


Monday 26th of October 2009

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! ;)


Sunday 25th of October 2009


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!



Sunday 25th of October 2009

One question-how do you thin the yogurt?


Sunday 25th of October 2009

Good question. With milk to the consistency of buttermilk.

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