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Tamale Pie

This tamale pie recipe is about to become a new easy, family favorite! This tamale pie has it all with its layer of saucy, boldly seasoned ground beef, corn, beans, and cheese crowned with a velvety, cheese infused masa crust. It’s hearty old-school, budget friendly comfort food that’s quick and easy to make with pantry friendly ingredients, plus it can be easily customized to suite your tastes. This tamale pie recipe is also make ahead and freezer friendly; it can be made in one 9x13 pan or two skillets so you can enjoy one now and freeze one for later!
Course Main Course
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 12 servings


For the Filling:

For the Masa Topping:

  • 3 cups masa harina
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray one 9 X 13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Filling: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef, onions, and red bell pepper and cook until beef is cooked through and onions are softened. Season with beef bouillon and all seasoning. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add corn, black beans, diced tomatoes, green chiles, tomato paste and beef broth and stir until well combined. Heat over medium heat to warm through then stir in cheese; set aside.
  • Topping: Whisk together all the dry ingredients (masa harina, baking powder, salt) in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg and chicken broth until combined, then mix that into the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir in the melted butter followed by cheese.
  • Assemble: Remove 1/2 cup of the masa batter and stir it into the filling then transfer the filling into prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Transfer the remaining masa batter to the 9x13 and evenly spread over the filling. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Note that the topping may not look cooked so make sure to check it anyway with a toothpick; tamale pie is done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the masa topping comes out clean. Serve warm with sour cream, salsa, hot sauce, tomatoes, avocados, etc.


Tips for Success

  • Masa harina: Is a type of naturally gluten-free corn flour treated with an alkali solution which gives it a distinctive flavor (used in tamales, tortillas, sopes, etc.) Masa harina should be easy to find at your grocery store in the flour aisle or Latin aisle or you can purchase it on Amazon.  The most common type is white masa harina, which is made from dried white corn, or you can also use yellow masa harina, which is made from dried yellow corn. The white is a bit sweeter, but both will work. You may or may not see “instant” on the label – both will work great.
  • Beef bouillonYou can use bouillon powder, bouillon cubes or better than bouillon.  If using cubes, crush them up and then add directly to the filling without dissolving in liquid first.  You will need three cubes in this recipe.
  • Customize ingredients: You can add additional veggies to the filling in place of ½ pound ground beef.  You don’t want to just add more veggie or it will throw the ingredient ratio off.  You can also play around with ground turkey or chopped chicken.
  • The tamale topping isn’t overly fluffy like cornbread: Instead it is tender - and tastes like tamales! Also, don’t worry after the topping is fully cooked that it is more moist on the bottom where it meets the filling– it is still cooked, it is just mingling with the juices for added flavor.
  • Skillet tamale pie:  You can make tamale pie in a 9x13 baking dish as shown or in two lightly greased lightly greased 12–14-inch cast iron skillets.  The skillets will take longer to bake.  You can also halve the recipe and bake in on skillet.


You can make the tamale pie filling ahead of time or assemble the entire casserole ahead of time.
  • Filling: You can prepare the tamale filling up to 5 days in advance. Store in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it. Then, all you’ll have to do is quickly whisk together the tamale topping, add ½ cup to the filling and bake. Do NOT make the masa harina topping ahead of time without spreading it over the filling or it will become too thick. 
  • Assemble ahead: You can completely assemble the entire tamale pie including the masa harina topping up to 24 hours ahead of time. Let the casserole sit on the counter for 20 minutes before baking and increase baking time by 10-15 minutes.

How to Store and Reheat  

  • Storage:  Store the tamale pie an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. This tamale pie recipe keeps and reheats well both in the oven and in the microwave:
  • To reheat in the oven: Cover the pan with foil and bake at 325 degrees F for approximately 20-25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
  • To reheat in the microwave: Reheat individual servings in the microwave by transferring to a microwave safe plate and microwaving for 90 seconds. Continue to microwave at 20 second intervals until heated through.

How to Freeze

This tamale pie should be frozen UNBAKED to preserve the texture of the topping – do not bake beforehand.  To freeze tamale pie:  
  • Add the corn batter topping and smooth but do not bake.
  • Transfer to the freezer for 1 hour for the topping to harden.
  • Wrap with two layers of plastic wrap all the way around the dish followed by one layer of aluminum foil.
  • Label the tamale pie and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to bake, place in the refrigerator 48 hours ahead of time to thaw completely then remove plastic wrap and foil and bake according to directions, adding an additional 10-15 minutes.
  • Alternatively, you can bake from frozen at 400 degrees F for 60- 70 minutes. Cover with foil if the top starts to darken too quickly.