Tamale Pie

Serves 6
All the components of a good tamale are here, layered together in a large group-friendly casserole. Think of it like Mexican-style shepherd’s pie. If you’re game for full-scale tamale making, see the recipe for Chicken or Cheese Tamales (page 207 or 210).


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes
  • 1 cup fine cornmeal
  • 3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 ears yellow corn, kernels and milk stripped from cobs


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in middle position and preheat a 10-inch cast-iron pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Heat oil in pan. When oil shimmers, add onions, bell pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until vegetables are soft and golden in places, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add black pepper, oregano, cumin, and ground beef to pan and continue cooking just until beef is cooked through, 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 more minute. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with side of spoon, and simmer mixture until thickened slightly, 5 minutes.
  4. Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in cornmeal and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and cook until thick and creamy, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, jalapeno, and corn. Spread evenly over beef mixture.
  5. Transfer pan to oven and bake until top is golden and filling bubbles along the sides of pan, 40-45 minutes. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.
cook's note
For potlucks, anchoring a dinner party, or just feeding the family, one-dish meals like this—made in an oven-totable vessel—are a godsend. Tamale Pie, Spinach Zucchini Lasagna (page 192), and Ham and Cheese Strata (page 36) need only a green salad to complete them for a delicious meal.
Need help with the ingredients? Check our pantry list: