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Every time I make this dish I wonder why I don’t make it more often!  It is easy to make, satisfying to eat, and can be customized by adding each person’s desired toppings (kinda like tacos.)  I also love that I can make it hours (or a few days) in advance and then bake it when the time is right.

The filling for this dish is similar to my taco salad recipe, but instead of eating it on a bed of lettuce it is baked under a layer of cooked cornmeal, also known as polenta.  The tamale pie recipes I have made in the past (before I discovered and adapted this recipe) were topped with a sweet cornbread dough, and I just didn’t like it!  I was hesitant when I first came across the base of this recipe because I feared the same thing, but upon closer inspection I realized there is no sugar or creamed corn!  The first time I made it I knew, this is what I had always wanted in a tamale pie (I know you day dream about tamale pie too…!)

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green or red pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced or 2-3 Tbs. jarred jalapeño minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 can, or about 2 cups, black, white or pinto beans
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1-2 cups grated cheese (Monterey Jack or cheddar)
  • 2 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup coarse cornmeal
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil (garlic infused olive oil is good here, but not necessary!)
  • Toppings

  • Sour Cream
  • Salsa
  • Cilantro
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Diced Tomato
  • Fresh Lime Juice
  • Jalapeños

The key to this recipe is to use course ground cornmeal.  This is not the same as the fine cornmeal typically used in cornbread.  This course version is found either in a health food store or in your regular store’s baking aisle with the “natural” products.

The “frosting” on this pie is the toppings you provide for each person to put on their serving.  Think taco ingredients, this is what is good on top of this dish.  My favorite combination of toppings is sour cream, cilantro, avocado, lime juice and diced tomatoes.

Have a fiesta and give this a try!

Tamale Pie

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Preheat the oven to 375.  Heat a large fry pan over medium high.  Add the ground beef and break it up using a wooden spoon.  Once the beef is mostly browned add in the onion, pepper, and jalapeño.  Cook until softened, 3-5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt.  Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute.  Add in the beans, tomatoes, and corn.  Cook until heated through and combined.  Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.  Pour the meat mixture into a 9×13 inch pan and top with grated cheese.  Set aside.

In a medium sauce pan bring the water to a boil.  Add in the salt.  Slowly whisk in the corn meal, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and stir until the mixture has thickened, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the oil.

Pour the cornmeal over the top of the cheese, spreading all the way to the edge of the pan.

Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, or until bubbling.  Remove from heat and let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.  Top with desired condiments.