Tamale Pie

Tamale Pie

Prep: 25 mins

Cook: 45 mins

Total: 70 mins

Servings: 6 to 8 servings

Yield: 1 12-inch pan

Tamale pie is a comforting one-dish meal that’s completely cooked in a single skillet. A chili-like filling of ground turkey (or substitute your favorite meat), beans, corn, tomatoes, and spices is topped with melty cheese and a fluffy, cornbread-like masa topping and baked. It’s perfect for a chilly evening and leaves you with minimal clean-up.

Tamales are a favorite dish in South and Latin America with endless variations. They take time and care to make, and a good tamal is worth it. The tamale pie is believed to have originated in Texas and began appearing in cookbooks at the turn of the 20th century. While the dish takes inspiration from tamales’ masa dough and flavorful fillings, it’s a very different Southwestern dish that can be ready to eat in about an hour.

It’s easy to customize this dish to suit your tastes—swap the turkey for ground beef, shredded chicken, or more beans. Adjust the spices to your taste and use your favorite variety of melty cheese. The filling casserole needs little accompaniment; try serving with a fresh green salad for a nice meal.

«The tamale pie is delicious, and the ground turkey, which can be bland, gets loads of flavor help from the tomatoes, beans, corn, and seasonings. Definitely a winning family meal, and all in one pot. It’s a big pie and would be an excellent dish for visiting extended family or a party.» —Diana Rattray

Tamale Pie

A Note From Our Recipe Tester


For the Filling:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced

  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced

  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained

  • 1 cup frozen corn

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

For the Topping:

  • 2 cups masa harina corn flour

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, or more as needed

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

    Tamale Pie

  2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch deep skillet over medium heat (cast iron, stainless steel, or oven-safe nonstick). Once hot, add the ground turkey and onion. Sauté, breaking up the turkey, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the turkey is mostly cooked and the onion is turning translucent.

    Tamale Pie

  3. Add the bell pepper and garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 more minutes.

    Tamale Pie

  4. Add the chili powder, cumin, and salt and stir to completely combine.

    Tamale Pie

  5. Add the black beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chiles, and corn. Stir and cook just until bubbly.

    Tamale Pie

  6. Taste for seasoning. Turn off the heat and set aside while you make the topping.

    Tamale Pie

  7. In a large mixing bowl, combine the masa harina, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together to combine.

    Tamale Pie

  8. Add the chicken broth and use an electric mixer to beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until fluffy. Alternatively, beat with a wooden spoon.

    Tamale Pie

  9. Add the melted butter and egg and beat for 2 more minutes until well combined. The mixture should resemble creamy mashed potatoes—if it is too stiff, add another splash or two of broth. Add 1/2 cup shredded cheese and mix just to combine.

    Tamale Pie

  10. Spread the cooked filling out in the skillet into an even layer. Top with 1 cup of cheddar cheese.

    Tamale Pie

  11. Top with large dollops of the masa topping, then use a rubber spatula to gently spread into an even layer, spreading almost to the edge.

    Tamale Pie

  12. Bake, uncovered, for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until the filling is very bubbly, the topping is pale golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the masa comes out clean. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

    Tamale Pie


  • You can make the chili filling ahead of time. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to two days.
  • If you don’t have an appropriate skillet, you can transfer the filling into a 9×13-inch baking/casserole dish, top with the cheese and masa, and bake.
  • If desired, you can serve this tamale pie with a few toppings like sour cream or crema, sliced green onions, and cilantro. Have hot sauce ready for spice lovers.

Recipe Variations

  • Swap the ground turkey for ground pork, chicken, or beef. Depending on how fatty your meat is, you may want to drain most of the fat after browning.
  • Make it a meatier casserole by swapping the can of beans for another 1/2 pound of meat.
  • Shredded leftover rotisserie chicken, turkey, pot roast, or pork shoulder also work well. Sauté the veggies and then add the cooked meat along with the beans.
  • Or make a vegetarian version by using plant-based «meat» or swapping for another can of beans.
  • You can also replace the turkey with sautéed mushrooms. Dice one pound of portobello mushrooms and sauté along with the onion.

How to Store and Freeze

  • Store leftover tamale pie in a covered container in the fridge for up to three days. Reheat in the microwave or in a 350 F oven.
  • You can also freeze tamale pie for later. After making the filling, transfer it to a greased baking dish and top with the cheese and masa. Tightly wrap and freeze for up to three months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before uncovering and baking.

Is masa harina the same as cornmeal?

Masa harina, which means «dough flour,» is used to make tamales and corn tortillas. The dried flint corn is soaked in a lime mixture, such as calcium hydroxide, a process known as nixtamalization. Cornmeal does not go through this process; it is made with finely ground dried corn kernels.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 551
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g 37%
Saturated Fat 14g 68%
Cholesterol 134mg 45%
Sodium 1065mg 46%
Total Carbohydrate 47g 17%
Dietary Fiber 8g 30%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 30g
Vitamin C 64mg 319%
Calcium 294mg 23%
Iron 4mg 23%
Potassium 837mg 18%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.


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