A Spicy Perspective

Perfect Tamale Pie Recipe

Perfect Tamale Pie Recipe –  Our spicy tamale pie feeds a crowd with big flavors, and is much easier to make than traditional tamales. Your family will love this gluten free tamale-inspired pot-pie!

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Our Perfect Tamale Pie Recipe

A friend of mine moved to the US from Mexico about 15 years ago. Every time I see her, she has just made some sort of amazing dish that reminds her of home, and she always brings me a taste.

When talking with her one day, she told me she loved tamales, but almost never got to eat them. This surprised me, with all the traditional Mexican cooking coming out of her kitchen.

Want to know why?

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Tamale making is a ridiculously daunting process. She explained no one (at least in Mexico) makes a few tamales. It’s just not worth the time and effort.

If you are going to make tamales, you get several family members together and make dozens, even hundreds, of tamales to be frozen and eaten throughout the coming months.

She said her mother sends her tamales in the mail whenever her extended family has made a large batch, but that is only once or twice a year.

Seriously?!

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Easy Tamales in a Pie

I’ve made tamales before, but thinking back, she’s right. It was such an ordeal, I haven’t made them in years.

But you know what I have made again and again? This Perfect Tamale Pie Recipe.

What I lovingly call my tamale pot pie recipe is not authentic in the least. However, it is:

  • Quick to prepare
  • Easy to assemble
  • Gluten-free
  • And offers the essence of good tamales.

You’ve got spiced meaty filling.

You’ve got a masa (corn flour) coating, that bakes into a pillowy tamale-like top.

You’ve got less supplies involved, less cleanup, and much less cook time.

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That means, you’ve got one heck of a family dinner without going to all the trouble of making real tamales.

To me, that is more than enough reason to skip the traditional method of tamale making, and make a tamale pie that mimics that flavor of tamales, in a pot-pie form.

Sneaky, right?

Plus, this Perfect Tamale Pie Recipe can make two pies, so you can enjoy one for dinner tonight and save one as a freezer meal, just like with real tamales. *wink*

My friend shook her head at me when I told her about my perfect tamale pie recipe. Yet once she tasted it, she changed her tune.

After all, time-consuming doesn’t always mean better.

Get the Full (Printable) Perfect Tamale Pie Recipe Below!

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What You Need to Make Gluten-Free Tamale Pie

This easy tamale recipe packs lots of flavor, but is wonderfully simple and quick to make with many ingredients you probably keep in your regular rotation.

Here’s what you need for the filling:

  • Ground beef
  • Sweet onion – peeled and chopped
  • Red bell pepper – seeded and chopped
  • Garlic cloves – minced
  • Frozen corn
  • Canned crushed tomatoes
  • Canned chopped green chiles
  • Cornstarch
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Ingredients for the tamale pot pie top:

  • Corn flour – masa
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Chicken broth
  • Melted butter
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

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How to Make Perfect Tamale Pie

This crowd-pleaser of a meal is ready in less than an hour, start to finish. You’ve probably made similar pot pie-like dinners such as this in one skillet, and you will certainly want to make easy tamale recipe as one of your go-to favorites!

1.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, and spray one large cast iron skillet, or two 9″ pie pans with non-stick spray.

2. Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. Push to the side once crumbled and cooked through, and add chopped onion, bell pepper, and minced garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the onion has softened.

3. Add frozen corn, crushed tomatoes, green chiles, cornstrach, seasonings, and shredded cheese. Stir well and turn off the heat.

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4. Next, make the gluten free tamale pie topping by mixing the corn flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add in the chicken broth and melted butter, and whisk until smooth. Finally, stir in the shredded cheese.

5. Spoon the meat filling evenly between the two prepared pie pans, or leave it in a cast iron skillet. Pour the corn topping batter over the pies, using a spatula to spread it to the edges of the pans.

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6. Bake for 30-45 minutes until slightly brown on the top and an inserted toothpick comes out of the tamale pie topping clean.

Serve hot with any of your favorite sides and toppings, like green onions and sour cream.

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Tamale Pie Q&A

Can Tamale Pies Be Frozen?

Yes, this recipe is excellent for meal prepping! But NOTE: If you are making these tamale pot pies in advance to freeze, DO NOT bake beforehand. Pour the corn batter on top of the pies and place in the freezer uncovered for one hour to allow the topping to harden. Then, wrap well with plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil, and place back in the freezer for up to 3 months.

See the complete recipe below for reheating tips!

Could I Make This Recipe With Chicken or Turkey?

Absolutely you can make the perfect tamale pies with ground turkey or chicken. Use precooked rotisserie chicken to cut back on cooking time for the first part of making your tamale filling

Or, thoroughly sauté cut up bite-sized boneless and skinless chicken breast pieces before adding the other ingredients.

How Can I Make Vegan / Vegetarian Tamale Pot Pies?

This tamale-inspired recipe can easily be made vegetarian-friendly by swapping out your favorite legumes, such as cooked lentils or canned garbanzo beans, in place of the ground beef, and subbing vegetable broth.

To make this recipe vegan as well, use your preferred shredded cheese substitute and swap cooking oil in place of the melted butter to make the gluten free tamale pie topping.

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4.96 from 24 votes
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Perfect Tamale Pie Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Perfect Tamale Pie:  Our tamale pie recipe feeds a crowd with big flavors, and is much easier to make than traditional tamales. Your family will love this gluten-free tamale-inspired pot-pie!
Servings: 12

Ingredients

For the Filling:

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 15 ounces crushed tomatoes (1 can)
  • 4 ounces chopped green chiles (1 can)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

For the Tamale Top:

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray two 9-inch pie pans, one 9 X 13 inch baking dish, or a 12-14 inch cast iron skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Place a large saute pan (or cast iron skillet) over medium heat. Add the ground beef and break into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Brown the meat, then push it to the sides of the pan and add the chopped onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook until the onions have softened. Then mix in the frozen corn, crushed tomatoes, green chiles, cornstarch, chile powder, cumin, salt and cheese. Stir well and turn off the heat.
  • Meanwhile, mix the corn flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add in the chicken broth and butter. Whisk until smooth. Then stir in the cheese.
  • Pour the meat filling into the prepared pans. (If you cooked the filling in a cast-iron skillet, you can leave it in the pan.) Pour (or scoop) the corn batter evenly over the top and spread to the edges of the pans. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the corn batter comes out clean. Serve warm!

Notes

Masa Corn Flour Notes: Masa mixtures have a way of seizing up, making them unspreadable, if they sit too long. If needed, add 1/4 - 1/2 cups additional chicken broth to loosen it before spreading over the top.
If making in one large cast iron skillet, the cooking time will be closer to 45 minutes.
If freezing for a later date, complete the recipe above as directed, but do not bake. Freeze uncovered for one hour to harden the top. Then wrap well and place back in the freezer.  When ready to enjoy, heat the oven to 400 degrees F. and bake for 60- 70 minutes. If the top starts to darken, lay a piece of foil loosely over the top.

Nutrition

Serving: 8ounces, Calories: 469kcal, Carbohydrates: 31g, Protein: 19g, Fat: 29g, Saturated Fat: 14g, Cholesterol: 93mg, Sodium: 824mg, Potassium: 531mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 910IU, Vitamin C: 21.2mg, Calcium: 204mg, Iron: 2.7mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Author: Sommer Collier

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40 comments on “Perfect Tamale Pie Recipe”

  1. It was awesome I add spinach, green bell pepper and black beans boy it was delicious

  2. This is such a great recipe! I’ve made it three times now and it’s so simple and tasty. My husband adores it. This time I did ground venison, a little homemade red Chile sauce, a can of tomatoes, and sliced up a bunch of mini peppers. Added spices to taste. Then for my masa topping I used olive oil and a spoon of chicken bouillon and just had hot water there to keep adding until it’s the right consistency. I added the cheese to the top of my meat mixture in the dish, then poured over the masa topping. So hearty and just tastes better the next day. Thank you!

  3. I loved this recipe. My family and I enjoyed it very much. The only reason why I didn’t give a 5 star is that supposedly your suppose to “pour the corn flour mixture on top.” I even added extra chicken broth to thin it up. I didn’t know how much I could add without messing it up. I basically had to spread it on but I wouldn’t call it spreadable. It would be nice if the recipe could be updated to make it as it says it’s suppose to. Nonetheless the recipe is a keeper.

  4. Love how easy this was to make, but still so flavorful! My family loved it.

  5. Perfection indeed! Terrific flavor, great textured cornmeal topping – yum!

  6. I love tamale pie! This recipe is awesome. Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. I like your recipes. I follow your boards in Pinterest. Why have you turned off ‘pinning’ the recipes? I want the recipe in one of my categories not an entire board (where it is difficult to search)!

  8. Why can’t I use the pin it button?

  9. Somewhere in my house, I know I have a recipe that is similar to this, but I looked in all kinds of places and didn’t find it. I will have to make yours soon, because now I’m hungry for it. I also like tamales. A few years ago, my Latina neighbor gave us a bunch of tamales at Christmas time as a thank you for assistance with snow shoveling. They were delicious. It was nice being the recipient of such a nice treat! We haven’t gotten them in a while, though. Now our other neighbor works at a cheese packaging plant and they give us a big bag of various cheese treats at Christmas now!

  10. I was really nervous about making this new Tamale pie recipe.. But it turned out great. The masa flour really made a difference .

  11. Nummy, easy, people pleaser.
    I made this with chorizo and black beans instead of the hamburger. I separated it into 2 casserole dishes – made one, froze the other. Both times it was well received. It was easy to pull the frozen one out and bake. I did let it thaw overnight in the frig rather than putting it directly in the oven.
    I just love tamales and being able to make a masa topping like this on a casserole is certainly easier but just as tasty. I simply love corn anything.
    I didn’t put cheese in the filling, and only some in the corn topping. Sometimes I feel the cheese flavor gets lost and then It’s just extra calories. If I had queso fresco or other type of Mexican cheese, that would probably be great.
    I like the idea someone mentioned of putting corn in the tamale topping! Thanks for a great recipe.

  12. What a wonderful recipe!
    I made it as is and the flavor of the masa topping is soooo tamale! It didn’t need any extra moisture-
    It was the true consistency of the batter used in making tamales.
    It spread nicely.
    I can’t wait for my daughter to come home from work  and taste this casserole!
    Definitely saving this!
    Thank You!!!

  13. Love this!! I intended to make tamales this winter with some leftover smoked brisket I had in the freezer, but really wanted the flavor now. So glad I found this recipe (many tamale pie recipes call for a box of jiffy corn muffin mix. Not the right flavor as it’s too sweet). I did use the smoked brisket instead of ground beef. I also used spicier chiles because we like the heat and beef stock instead of chicken stock. Thanks for this!

  14. I had to double the chicken broth because the masa to broth ratio was the consistency of clay.

  15. Delicious!!! Made a 9×13 pan and my husband and son tried to eat it all themselves. This size pan needs more filling. The masa was too dry had to add water to thin it but was still too thick. My men didn’t seem to notice. I make tamales and yes this is easier. Thanks

  16. I really want to make this but I’m out of chicken stock and bouillon. Can I use water?

  17. Can I use a cornbread mix? Have that in my pantry, no cornmeal. Thanks 

    • I use a gluten-free cornbread mix for this recipe and it works great. Just follow the directions on the box and spread the mixture on top.

  18. My batter wasn’t even close to being able to pour out. Too late now, we’ll see how it turns out. Reminder to self, use more chicken broth.

  19. Is there a way to make this in an instant pot? I am having a potluck at work and would like to bring it prepared and cook at work before lunch so it is warm and ready to eat. Thanks.

  20. Delicious! One of the few meals my family of 5 all liked! I hid finely ground frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot mix to the meat  to hide some veggies and the kids had no idea! I’ll add less salt next time since we try to watch our sodium. My son asked that I add the corn to the tamale layer instead of the meat layer. Thank you for sharing!

  21. We made this tonight and both had seconds. Loved it!!!! I used homemade enchilada sauce (https://dinnerthendessert.com/best-homemade-enchilada-sauce-and-quick/) in place of the can of crushed tomatoes. We didn’t change anything else. I love that the crust of this recipe is made with masa, which is light and moist, and not cornbread. Cornmeal is coarser than corn flour. The masa crust was perfect. Just a really nice little recipe!!! Really fun for a couple or a family to make together, also, one making the masa topping while the other slices or sautees the filling.

  22. I love it that I can use my masa instead of having to get Jiffy corn bread mix. It’s in the oven now. I put foil over it to make sure the masa is cooked and not dried out for the first 20 minutes.
    I used my leftover shredded beef, mixed with some corn and salsa layered with leftover bean dip at the bottom and top with masa mixture. Oh, yikes! I forgot the baking powder…hmmm, now I’m worried. I sprinkled some cheese on top in the last 3-4 minutes of baking. It looks OK, smells great.
    Super quick dinner! Thank you for the recipe.

  23. yes. it takes much longer than 10 minutes. you forgot to give an oven temp. is it baked uncovered or covered?

  24. The flavor of this was very good!

  25. i haven’t had a great tamale pie in forever! i’m going to need to make this!

  26. Looks like such a warm and comfy dinner for fall time!

  27. I am a very big fan of Mexican food so I can’t wait to try this! Keep the great recipes coming!

  28. I’ve looked into making my own tamales and it’s SUCH a daunting process — I can’t wait to try this instead!!

  29. Great way to satisfy a tamale craving!

  30. This looks so warm and comforting!