Tamale Pie

tamale pie

The Spruce / Laurel Randolph

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 53 mins
Total: 68 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
734 Calories
39g Fat
62g Carbs
40g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 734
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 39g 50%
Saturated Fat 18g 91%
Cholesterol 178mg 59%
Sodium 1420mg 62%
Total Carbohydrate 62g 23%
Dietary Fiber 11g 40%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 40g
Vitamin C 85mg 426%
Calcium 393mg 30%
Iron 6mg 31%
Potassium 1116mg 24%
*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 under 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.


For the Filling:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

  • 1 pound lean ground turkey

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced

  • 1 bell pepper, diced

  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more 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 cheddar cheese, shredded

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, more as needed

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Steps to Make It

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

  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.

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

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

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

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

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

  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.

  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.

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

  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.

  12. Bake, uncovered, for about 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.

  13. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

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.


  • 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 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 shredded 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 portabello mushrooms and sauté along with the onion.
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.