Tamale Pie

Tamale Pie in a baking dish and in a bowl

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 25 mins
Cook: 45 mins
Total: 70 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Yield: 1 12-inch pan
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
551 Calories
29g Fat
47g Carbs
30g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

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 with ground turkey
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 ingredients in bowls

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  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.

    ground turkey and onions cooking in a cast iron skillet on a burner

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    bell pepper and garlic added to the turkey mixture in a cast iron skillet

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    chili powder, cumin, and salt added to the turkey mixture in the cast iron skillet on a burner

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    black beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chiles, and corn added to the turkey mixture in the cast iron skillet on the burner

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    Turkey and vegetable mixture in a cast iron skillet

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    combine the masa harina, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  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.

    Dough mixture in a bowl and a hand mixer

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  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.

    Dough in a bowl and hand mixer

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    Turkey mixture in a cast iron skillet topped with cheese

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  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.

    Turkey and cheese topped with masa mixture in a cast iron skillet

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  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 in a cast iron skillet on a cutting board

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck


  • 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 9x13-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.

Article Sources
The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Smith, A. (2007). The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford University Press.