Ground Beef

Best Tamale Pie

October 31, 2022
0 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

Don’t be fooled by the name— tamale pie isn’t actually Mexican, nor is it pie. It’s a Tex-Mex casserole with a layer of ground beef (although other proteins can easily be swapped in) and a topping of cornbread. Some food historians believe that tamale pie originated around the turn of the 20th-century somewhere in Texas, although the first-known recipe didn’t spring up until 1911. Since then it’s become a staple in the Southwest thanks to its ease, versatility, and the fact that it’s downright delicious.

My version of tamale pie gets heavily spiced with cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika. I use red kidney beans to buff out the base while adding extra protein, although you could swap in any canned beans you have on hand. That’s really the joy of this recipe—you can adapt it to use up what’s in your pantry. Sour cream is added to the cornbread mixture, which keeps it super moist; the cornbread is then spread over the ground beef mixture. As it bakes, it develops a perfect golden brown crust and tender crumb. While some serve tamale pie with even more sour cream and hot sauce, this recipe doesn’t need any extras to make it stand out.
Alexis deBoschnek

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 14.5-ounce can kidney beans, including juices
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles, including juices
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  1. Heat the oven to 450˚F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the ground beef and use a wooden spoon or spatula to break up. Cook, stirring occasionally until cooked through, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika, and cook, stirring, until well combined and aromatic, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the kidney beans and tomatoes with chiles and cook, stirring, until the beans are warmed through and the mixture is well combined, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and spread into an even layer.
  5. In a medium bowl, add the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and remaining salt, and whisk to combine. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Add the eggs, sour cream, heavy cream, and melted butter to a separate bowl and mix until the batter is just combined, with no streaks of cornmeal visible. Pour over the ground beef and smooth into an even layer.
  6. Transfer the skillet to the center rack in the oven and bake until the cornbread is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

Alexis deBoschnek is a freelance recipe developer, cook, and video host based in the Catskills.

0 Reviews