Real Tamale Pie

Tamale Pie with Real Tamales
Real tamale pie begins with a great chili recipe. The chili is then topped with real tamales. No silly. You don’t have to make them. Just buy your favorite tamales at your local grocery or Mexican restaurant. Unless of course you happened to make them Christmas Eve. Choose your favorite flavor, whether they are pork, beef, chicken or cheese; any tamale will work in this tamale pie. Well, probably not chocolate!

Tamale Pie

My new year is beginning slowly. I’m still thinking it is Sunday when the calendar says Wednesday. There’s only one solution to my problem and that is comfort food. Pray that it gets me to Friday. After eating so well over the holidays my brain is fried, and asking Manservant what he wants for dinner only ever yields three words.  Breakfast or Mexican. He is easily pleased. Which is a good thing since I am not a good planner, though I will have you know that I do have this month’s blog posts charted out, and January is looking good. So stay with me, ‘kay?

I never ate tamales as a kid. For that matter I never had Mexican food as a kid. It seems though that tamales are a big thing for a Texas boy and so I quickly adapted once I met Manservant. I’ve made real tamales more than once and though they aren’t difficult to make, they are time consuming. Yes. Tamales are one of Manservant’s favorite foods, so when we do eat Mexican he always gets a combo with a tamale or orders one ala carte. When I decided that tamale pie would make a great dinner I was surprised to not find one recipe with real tamales.

Nope, tamale pie is usually just made with a tamale topping. That requires one to have cornmeal or masa in one’s pantry and frankly I’d just rather have real tamales! We always have them stuck in the freezer for when the urge strikes, so rather than creating more work for myself, I decided to construct this tamale pie casserole with real tamales! Go figure.

Tamale Pie

I love this perfectly spiced, not too hot chili, that is the base of this recipe. Not a standard chili recipe, it is made with corn and red peppers and olives. Throw in some pintos because Manservant claims that it isn’t chili without pintos, but please use your favorite bean. For that matter use your favorite meat, too. Ground chicken is my fave because I love chicken tamales, too! Season this tamale casserole mixture well, and then crumble some thawed tamales on top, throw on a sour cream topping and pop into the oven and bake. This may seem like a lot of ingredients, but it comes together fast.

Tamale pie

And I’m not going to tell. You want the simplest tamale pie? Just use your favorite chile. Place it in a skillet. Top with some cheese. Throw on the crumbled tamales and then the sour cream. Bake and enjoy. Who said dinner can’t be simple? After all, there’s more than one way to make a real tamale pie!

Tamale Pie

So what to serve with this real tamale pie? Salad would seem like the perfect choice to me, so check these out!

This jicama and orange salad from Cooking on the Ranch would be divine. Want something heartier? Quinoa and Black Bean Salad from That Skinny Chick Can Bake sounds delish!

One of my favorite salads is this mixture of hearts of palm, mandarin oranges, and avocado.

Hearts of Palm, Avocado and Orange Salad is divine! As easy as opening a can of of Mandarin oranges and some hearts of palm, slice an avocado and make a very simple dressing; well this is a salad that people ask for more! #salads #hearts of palm #mandarinoranges

A few pickled jalapenos would be great on this and they are so easy to make!

Pickled Jalapenos

Please Pin and Share the Pie!

Tamale Pie

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Tamale Pie with Real Tamales

Real Tamale Pie

  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 45 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 Minutes
  • Total Time: 70 Minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 Servings 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Stovetop/Baking
  • Cuisine: Mexican


Real tamale pie begins with a great chili recipe. The chili is then topped with real tamales. No silly. You don’t have to make them. Just buy your favorite tamales at your local grocery or Mexican restaurant.



2 T olive oil

1 lb ground chicken, beef, pork or turkey

1 medium diced onion

1 diced red pepper

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded if you don’t this too spicy, and diced

4 cloved garlic, minced

1 c fire roasted corn kernels (I use Trader Joe’s frozen corn)

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained

1 T ground cumin

1 t ground coriander

1 t dried oregano

3 T ancho chile powder or your favorite kind

1/2 to 1 c pitted and sliced deli green olives (I like the ones stuffed with jalapenos)

1 T soy sauce (This gives a salty flavor and adds richness. No this doesn’t make it taste like Chinese food!)

1 15 oz can pinto beans, black beans or your favorite beans (rinsed and drained)

Salt and Pepper

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 c chopped cilantro

1 1/2 c sharp Cheddar cheese

34 large tamales, crumbled and thawed if frozen

3/4 c sour cream

1 t ancho chile powder

1 4 oz can green chiles (diced and rinsed)


Preheat oven to 425.

Heat oil in a 10-12″ cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add your choice of ground meat and cook until almost cooked through. Add diced onions and peppers. Cook until softened. Add garlic. Let cook a few minutes.

Stir in corn and diced tomatoes. Add cumin, coriander, oregano and chile powder. Turn down to medium and let cook until you smell the seasonings beginning to work. Stir in olives and soy sauce and beans. Bring to a simmer and let simmer about 20 minutes to develop flavor.

Season with salt and pepper. Mix in scallions and cilantro. Sprinkle Cheddar cheese over chili mixture.

Crumble tamales over cheese.

In a small measuring cup, mix together sour cream and green chiles and ancho chile powder. Spread over tamales.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until skillet is bubbly. Let sit a few minutes before diving in. If you are Manservant you will dip Fritos into this but I just prefer it with a fork!

Keywords: real tamale pie, tamale pie, tamale casserole, tamale skillet dinner, chicken tamale pie recipe


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  • Mae
    January 9, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    Tamales in my experience have corn husks wrapped around them — as opposed to tamale pie which I thought was the same thing in a casserole instead of wrapped up. I guess from your recipe that there are also unwrapped tamales?

    best… mae at

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      January 9, 2019 at 9:00 pm

      Hi Mae, Tamales do have cornhusks wrapped around them. So please, when you crumble them, crumble them without the husks. Many tamale pies that I’ve seen make a top crust out of cornmeal, but tamales are made from masa which has been soaked in a lime mixture, unlike regular cornmeal. The taste is similar but different. Hope this helps!

  • Karen (Back Road Journal)
    January 8, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Growing up on a ranch in Texas, you know I’ve eaten my fair share of tamales. As a matter of fact, if I go to a new Mexican restaurant for the first time, I look to see if tamales are on the menu. If they aren’t then I know it is not a very good restaurant. Your version of tamale pie sounds good. :_

  • Gerlinde @Sunnycovechef
    January 4, 2019 at 8:42 am

    I never had Mexican food until I moved to California. My husband loves tamales and this tamale pie would be perfect for him as long as I use ground beef.

  • Healthy World Cuisine
    January 4, 2019 at 4:42 am

    I just had the best tamales in this little hole in the wall Mexican place up in Northern Michigan, believe it or not. There is just something so cozy and comforting about tamales and to out them in a pie is just pure genius! Did you first make your tamales homemade or did you buy them at the market? Great way to feed a crowd.

  • Susan
    January 3, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    I had never eaten Mexican food growing up either. I think I was in college the first time I did. We have some pretty good Mexican restaurants in the Milwaukee area but I’ve never eaten a tamale. I love your idea of making a pie and the flavors sound delicious!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      January 3, 2019 at 8:32 pm

      The first thing I ever ate was a chimichanga in Phoenix! Took me awhile to graduate to tamales!

  • John / Kitchen Riffs
    January 3, 2019 at 8:06 am

    I usually plan my blog posts. But when it comes time, I never feel like making what I planned to, so I end up scrambling anyway. 🙂 Anyway, this looks terrific — love chili, love tamales, and the two play together so well. This is a wonderful flavor combo, although not you’ve got me wondering about chili and chocolate tamales. 🙂

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      January 3, 2019 at 8:33 pm

      Isn’t that the truth? Yeah…I think we think alike!

  • Holly
    January 3, 2019 at 8:03 am

    I agree with Manservant- breakfast or Mexican is the way to go for nearly any meal and this one would hit the spot!

  • Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch)
    January 3, 2019 at 5:42 am

    I love, love, love this idea. Especially since I don’t have to make the tamales. I’ve heard there’s a place on Broadway/Arapahoe that has good tamales. So this is a must try. Pinning. And that salad looks incredible.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      January 3, 2019 at 8:38 pm

      That place is pretty good. We’ve been there a bit…and yes…he’s bought the tamales!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      January 3, 2019 at 8:49 pm

      It is a good hole in the wall. And yes, Manservant has had the tamales! Thanks LeaAnn!

  • Liz
    January 3, 2019 at 3:42 am

    Yeah, in Iowa, tacos made with a package of taco seasoning were the only Mexican food we ever ate growing up. Tamales are a special treat and tamale pie sounds even better!!!

  • angiesrecipes
    January 2, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    I have never had a tamale, real or not, let alone to make one! This looks beyond delicious and so comforting, Abbe.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      January 3, 2019 at 8:45 pm

      Tamales are made from cornmeal and usually stuffed with meat or cheese. They are then steamed in corn husks, unwrapped and eaten. I’ve had sweet ones also. So good and every version is a little different. You need to find some Angie!