Tamale Pie

Tamale Pie

This is one of those straightforward, inexpensive, one-pan meals that everybody loves and anybody can throw together. Use what you have in your fridge: ground turkey, if that's what you like, canned beans you have in the pantry, and feel free to skip the corn if you haven't got any. It makes a mildly spicy meal that is pleasantly smoky and tangy but not overly complicated.

Hands-On Time: 30 minutes
Ready In: 50 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 smallish onion, chopped
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground beef (or turkey)
½ teaspoon chipotle puree or smoked paprika (or more to taste)
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided (or half as much table salt)
1 tablespoon plus1 teaspoon sugar, divided
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 8-ounce can Hunts tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can beans (I used pinto here, but black or kidney are good too)
2 cups frozen corn, thawed in a sieve under a hot tap
1/3 cup flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 cup grated cheddar cheese


  1. Heat the oven to 400ºF. In a 10- or 12-inch heavy oven-proof pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-low heat and sauté the onions until they are translucent and browning around the edges -- maybe 7 or 8 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, then crumble in the ground meat, raising the heat to medium, and cook, stirring and breaking it up until it's nice and browned and crumbly and does not look all raw-meaty.
  3. Stir in the chipotle puree, ¾ teaspoon of the salt, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, the vinegar, the tomato sauce, the beans, and the corn, and simmer all of it together for a few minutes until everybody in the pan gets well acquainted. Taste it for seasoning--it should be tangy and savory and delicious.
  4. Now whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and remaining tablespoon of sugar in one bowl, and whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in another (I actually do this latter whisking right in the cup where I measured the buttermilk).
  5. Pour the liquids into the dries and combine with a few decisive strokes of a rubber spatula before stirring in half the cheese and pouring the mixture over the filling in the pan.
  6. Top with the remaining cheese and bake 20 minutes--though you might want to check it at 15. When the cornbread is nicely browned and cooked-looking, it's done.

Read more about Catherine making Tamale Pie with her family.

See all recipes from Catherine Newman's "Dalai Mama Dishes" blog.

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