Tamale Pie

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I had a bit of a frustrating day in the kitchen today. I worked on a recipe that I’ve been dreaming of making for a few years now. It’s a recipe for homemade crullers (aka Crushiki in Polish) that I always loved as a kid when my grandma would bring me a package. I haven’t had one in years, but I’ve definitely dreamed about them a time or two. So I was excited to dig in and get to work. The crullers were looking beautiful as I pulled them out of the oil. The dough was seeming a little too tough, but I ignored that and just kept plowing ahead. After I had about a dozen made, I tasted one. Blech! They were bland, too thick and definitely tougher than the flaky crushiki I remember. I didn’t even bother with the remaining half of dough.

So, not only did I waste a few hours, I didn’t get to enjoy that childhood favorite I had been craving. On top of that, I essentially “wasted” 5 egg yolks and didn’t even end up with a blog-able recipe! Oh well.

Moving on to a success. This tamale pie is absolutely delicious! I’ve been making cornbread-topped casseroles for a long time and we’ve always enjoyed them. For example, BBQ Beef & Bean Cornbread Casserole is a favorite. However, as much as we’ve enjoyed those casseroles, I’ve always thought that I’d prefer a topping with more moisture.

I decided to go for a more traditional tamale-style cornmeal mixture and the results were fantastic! That topping stays moist and almost melts into the chili mixture below it. As we finished up dinner, my 5 year old asked me the question all the kids have taken to asking me lately – “is this recipe on your blog?” I always answer by asking them if it should. When I get 4 nodding heads, I know I’ve got something good!


Tamale Pie

Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
Course: Main Course
Keyword: Tamale Pie


  • 1 onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained (or 1 1/2 c. fully cooked dried beans)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 cup water
  • 1 tsp water
  • 2/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp pepper


  • Dice onion, green pepper and celery. Mince garlic. Refrigerate until using.
  • Place ground beef in a large skillet. Add the diced and minced veggies. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until meat is fully browned. Drain grease. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, chili powder, cumin, cocoa powder, 1 t. salt and cayenne pepper. Stir until well combined. Pour into a 13×9 casserole dish. Cover and refrigerate until using.
  • + 20 – 25 minutes baking time Bring 3 c. water to a boil. Stir in the salt. Slowly pour in the cornmeal, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon. Reduce heat and continue cooking until thick and creamy, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the butter and black pepper. Pour over the chili mixture in the casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until cornmeal mixture is just lightly browned.


This would also be the perfect treatment for leftover chili, if you’re lucky enough to ever have some on hand.