Chicken Tamale Pie

June  6, 2021
8 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

A chunky chicken chili topped with a cornbread-y/polenta-y batter situation baked up to a crisp in your oven, also known as everything you want in one pot. If you're craving even more layers, top it with a scoop of salsa. —Kendra Vaculin

What You'll Need
  • For the chili
  • 1 pound skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cans beans, drained and rinsed (I used one black, one Great Northern)
  • 1 can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (4-ounce) can hot green chilies
  • 1 (12-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock (optional)
  • For the topping
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. In a large pot or deep saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add cubed chicken, garlic, coriander, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Cook until chicken is browned on all sides, then remove and set aside.
  3. Add chopped onion to the pot and cook down until soft and fragrant. Add beans, corn, chilies, and tomatoes, including the liquid. If there is not very much juice with the tomatoes, add up to 1/4 cup chicken stock. You don’t want a soupy chili at all, but enough liquid to cook everything together.
  4. Bring mix to a boil and allow to cook and thicken. When nearly done, add chicken and mix in, heating through to finish. Remove chili from heat.
  5. In a small pot, heat water and salt over medium high heat; it doesn’t need to be boiling. Stir in cornmeal and continue whisking while it incorporates the water and thickens, which should take about 5 minutes. When thick, add butter and mix in to melt. Remove from heat.
  6. In a deep round glass dish, pour all of the chili. Oh man. You just want to eat it now, don't you? Oh man. Now scoop the (essentially polenta) cornmeal mixture over the top of the chili, and spread into a single layer. Top with a sprinkling of black pepper.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until polenta has firmed up. Allow to cool briefly, and then scoop into bowls to serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • KarenSiena
  • Greg Crawford
    Greg Crawford
  • JanieMac
  • Arika Herron
    Arika Herron
  • Lee Lackey
    Lee Lackey
A fan of female driven comedies, a good beat, your hair today, and making foods for friends.

52 Reviews

KarenSiena December 27, 2020
Needs a lot more spice. Needs salt. Served with fresh chopped cilantro (addicted), I didn’t like corn in it (omit next time) and will use pintos next time. A delicious update on a basic chili.
KarenSiena December 27, 2020
Needs a lot more sp
KarenCatherine December 27, 2020
Made as directed. Upped the spices a lot due to bland taste. Needs added salt. Used black beans bc that’s what I had. I’ll omit corn next time (texture issues). Grated cheese on top of polenta. A good, hearty recipe. I’ll use BS thighs next time too. Thanks Food52 for an easy nourishing spin on a basic chili!!,
KarenCatherine December 27, 2020
Made as directed. Upped the spices a lot due to bland taste. Needs added salt. Used black beans bc that’s what I had. I’ll omit corn next time (texture issues). Grated cheese on top of polenta. A good, hearty recipe. I’ll use BS thighs next time too. Thanks Food52 for an easy nourishing spin on a basic chili!
Ronnieroo777 November 13, 2020
So my daughter is a vegetarian and I am not. I cooked without the chicken(with chickpeas in lieu of chicken)in my INSTAPOT/AIR FRYER COMBO. I cooked chicken separately in pan with seasoning. So i used the bake setting at 375 for 30 minutes and it was amazing. I put chicken in the bottom of my bowl and the beans and polenta on top, with a little cheese. Most excellent.
Sharon October 29, 2020
I made this using three fat boneless, skinless chicken thighs. It's basically a stew, so thighs make more sense to me here. I spread it in an antique enameled cast iron gratin, so I increased the polenta to 1 cup cornmeal:2 2/3 cups water to cover the greater surface area. It was a really lovely, cozy fall dish. Big return on small investment.
ps. throw a handful of grated cheese over the top of the polenta, gilding the lily.
Greg C. March 2, 2020
Made this dish last night to rave reviews. Mixed up the cooking a bit - browned the chicken first, then did the onions and garlic. I felt the garlic could get burned doing it earlier. Considering some of the other comments, I was generous with the spices and added some pickled jalapenos, which definitely kicked it up a notch. I also dumped in some queso fresco into the polenta, which added a nice piquant creaminess. The recipe just says to put it together in "deep round glass dish" and I think a little more guidance could be helpful. I used a 3-quart casserole and the chili alone filled it to the brim. That was OK but I didn't put the dish on a baking sheet so as it cooked, it spilled over onto the bottom of my oven. Well it needed a cleaning anyway. Minor issues since the dish was flavorful and savory. Other than the added cheese, I don't think it was terribly unhealthy either!
The I. December 19, 2017
I found the recipe to be on the bland side, and knowing I and my family prefer a good measure of flavor, I added extra of all the seasonings plus added in some Cholula hot sauce and other salsa to the base mixture. I also added 3 oz of white goat cheddar to the polenta. Delicious with the adjustments!
hillbillyGirl June 15, 2017
Call me crazy! I started with a corn and black bean salad- added the chicky, doubled the spices and added chipotle cheddar cheese on top of the polenta. All in my lodge black iron skillet. Awesomeness for a weeknight meal!
JanieMac January 27, 2017
btglenn I can imagine that thigh meat would be better, the flavour is always more 'chickeny' anyway. Pinto beans sound good too.
btglenn January 27, 2017
I use chicken thighs which take longer cooking without toughening up the way breasts do when cooked to long. Also,use frozen corn preferably not sweet, and pinto beans. I sauté the onion first along with a chopped pasilla chile, then add the chicken and the spices for browning. It is not necessary to remove the chicken at this time. I drain the tomatoes before adding it along with the other ingredients to the pot and let it cook for a few minutes -- then add the tomato juice and broth as needed for a good consistency. I make more polenta than the recipe calls for because my preference is for a bottom polenta layer along with the topping. I sometimes add thawed frozen corn to the hot polenta for additional texture , mixing it in along with salt and pepper to taste.
Mike I. December 21, 2020
So, you didn’t make the recipe? Got it
JanePrez January 24, 2017
I've made this and love it. Cheese instead of polenta sounds like a great idea. I've subbed mash potatoes for the polenta.
Arika H. October 10, 2016
Love this idea and after some tweaks, loved the finished recipe. I made A LOT of adjustments, based on previous comments and a chicken chili recipe I already like. Cooked chicken first - cubed it and set it aside. Cooked onions in butter until soft. Upped the spices and salt, added to onions and let cook for 5 minutes or so. Added a little flour, like a roux to help thicken. Then added chicken and everything else (including cannellini beans, cuban-style black beans, salsa-style tomatoes and fire-roasted corn). Added 1/2 4-ounce of diced jalapenos, too. Other half went into the grits. Cooked grits as package directed (Trader Joe's white grits FTW) and then a little longer uncovered, to help thicken. Topped as directed and baked 30 minutes. SO GOOD. A bit of work, but worth it. Will definitely be making again!
Lee L. April 16, 2016
I hate to break it to pjcamps, but contrary to what Bob's Red Mill claims polenta is not grits.
Take it from an expert. South Carolina born and bred.
pjcamp April 16, 2016
I take it from me, an expert Georgia born and bred, as well as Alton Brown. The only difference is in how they are prepared. The actual item is coarse ground corn meal for both. You use fine ground corn meal and what you have is mush. I hate mush. If you want to get picky, polenta is a dish, not a food, and has historically been prepared with things like ground chickpeas, buckwheat and farro. These days polenta pretty much always means corn polenta, and should not be prepared with fine ground cornmeal since what you get is library paste. So you use coarse ground and it is indistinguishable from grits.
Mark April 11, 2016
Pretty good recipe. I opted to not add the cornmeal mixture since beach season is coming up. The chicken chili is delicious, though. I went with a bit more spice, as well.
JanieMac January 13, 2016
Ruth, that sounds really good - great idea for a vegetarian version!
Ruth I. January 12, 2016
I loved this recipe...with a few additions! I ended up having to triple the amount of coriander, chili powder, cumin and added in some salt as I used 'no salt added' beans and tomatoes. I also used Bob's Red Mill Masa Harina since I already had that in my pantry. I think next time I'll double the amount of the 'polenta' mixture as I was left wanting so much more! I'm also vegetarian and instead of chicken, I cooked 1 cup dried green lentils and then proceeded with the rest of the recipe.
Mark O. January 12, 2016
Made this last night and will make again. Add salt and pepper before you put a topping on. Used Rotel instead of straight tomato. Also added a heaping teaspoon of Ancho chile powder. Also used chicken thighs instead of breasts. Good basic recipe that you can play with.
Constant S. January 11, 2016
Get rid of that awful maizena 'topping'! Grate GENEROUSLY cheese [any!] over it as a topping; and YES Janie, out the chilli powder and IN the chipotle!
JanieMac January 10, 2016
Never mind the 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder, double it and add some smoke chipotle. It is a great basic recipe for a retro dish, love it, but snazz it up to make it worth the work.