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Tamale Pie Casserole with a Cornbread Crust

This Tamale Pie Casserole is a spicy Tex-Mex recipe with a mixture of ground beef, corn, and beans topped with a thin cornbread crust. Serve with chips and guacamole. If cooking for a crowd, double the recipe and get ready for lots of compliments.

Updated March 2020.

A slice of tamale pie on a plate

Recipe Inpiration

This recipe 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 but it’s a wonderful leftover, too.

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.

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 Tamale Pie?

Serve this with chips, salsa, and guacamole.  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

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Tamale Pie - 1 serving on a plate

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    p.s. Questions? Email me: paula at

    Yield: 10 servings

    A Tamale Pie with Cornbread Topping

    A Tamale Pie 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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    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.