This tamale pie is seasoned ground beef, corn and beans baked together with cheddar cornbread to make a hearty and comforting casserole. This Mexican style meal is perfect for feeding a crowd and can be easily customized to your tastes.
One of my favorite meals growing up was when my mom would make tamale pie. This classic beef and cornbread dish never goes out of style, and I love how easy it is to make.
How do you make tamale pie?
This dish starts with the beef layer, which is comprised of cooked ground beef, onions, corn and beans. All of the ingredients are simmered in enchilada sauce and seasonings to make a flavorful base for the casserole. For the top layer, prepare a box of cornbread mix according to package directions. Stir in shredded cheddar cheese, then spread the cornbread mixture over the beef. Bake the casserole until the topping is golden brown. Serve with an assortment of garnishes, then enjoy!
Tips for the perfect casserole
- I typically use 90% lean ground beef for this dish. It has plenty of flavor and is not overly greasy. If you use a beef with a higher fat content, you’ll want to drain off any excess grease after you cook it.
- You can use fresh, frozen or canned corn, whatever you have on hand!
- I typically make this dish with mild enchilada sauce, but you can use hot enchilada sauce if you prefer more of a kick.
- I find that cornbread mix is the easiest way to cut down on prep time for this tamale pie. If you’d rather make your own cornbread, try my honey cornbread recipe.
Can you freeze tamale pie?
This pie is a great candidate for the freezer. Bake the casserole as directed, then let it cool and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or foil. Freeze the casserole for up to two months. Bake from frozen by heating the oven to 350 degrees F. Cook for 45 minutes covered, then 15-20 minutes uncovered or until heated through. You can also freeze individual portions of tamale pie in resealable containers. I typically heat individual portions in the microwave for 2-3 minutes or until hot.
Tamale pie flavor variations
This is a traditional version of tamale pie, but you can absolutely use other ingredients to customize the dish to your tastes.
- Protein: Instead of ground beef, try ground turkey. Shredded chicken or beef are also great choices for the filling.
- Beans: While I typically use black beans, you can also use pinto beans or stir in a can of refried beans.
- Vegetables: Feel free to add some veggies to the mix such as roasted green chiles, diced zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers or spinach.
- Cheese: Instead of cheddar, try pepper jack for an added boost of flavor.
- Toppings: You can serve your pie as-is, or offer a variety of toppings such as sour cream, olives, avocado or pico de gallo.
This tamale pie is on my regular dinner rotation. My family always requests it and I’m happy to oblige!
More Mexican inspired meals
Tamale Pie Video
For the filling
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef I use 90% lean
- 1/2 cup onion finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
- 10 ounce can red enchilada sauce
- 15 ounce can black beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup corn kernels
- salt and pepper to taste
- cooking spray
For the topping
- 8.5 ounce box corn muffin mix such as Jiffy
- egg and milk as directed on the box
- 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
- Assorted toppings such as sour cream, avocado and pico de gallo
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.
For the filling
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook the ground beef for 4-5 minutes. Add the onion and cook for another 4 minutes or until the onion has softened and the meat is cooked through.
- Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- Stir in the taco seasoning, enchilada sauce, beans and corn. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
- Pour the beef mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer.
For the topping
- Place the corn muffin mix into a bowl. Add the eggs and milk according to package directions.
- Mix until a batter forms. Add the cheese and stir until just combined.
- Spread the batter over the layer of meat.
- Place the pan in the oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes until topping is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cornbread layer comes out with just a few crumbs attached. If your casserole is browning too quickly, you can cover it with foil for the duration of the bake time. Cut into slices and serve, topped with avocado, sour cream and pico de gallo if desired.