This Tamale Pie is the ultimate comfort casserole, utilizing a combination of humble pantry staples and refrigerator ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen. This delicious and filling dish is perfect for a comforting night in or for serving to a small gathering.
Tamale Pie Casserole Recipe
There’s nothing quite like a plate of comfort food to provide some much-needed relief from the stress of daily life. Whether it’s a bowl of steaming hot soup or a heaping serving of mac and cheese, these dishes have a way of making us feel warm and cozy on the inside. After a long day, there’s nothing better than sinking into the couch and indulging in some favorite comfort food meals and this tamale pie is no exception.
Comfort food is hard to define, but there are a few things these dishes have in common. They’re typically made with simple, familiar ingredients, and associated with positive memories and feelings of nostalgia. From creamy mashed potatoes to rich, cheesy lasagna, I consider comfort foods to be the ultimate indulgence, with every bite leaving me satisfied and content.
With all the challenges and hardships life throws out, it’s important to take time to savor the little things that ignite joy. Good food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and there’s no better way to unwind after a long day than by enjoying a delicious and satisfying meal. So go ahead and treat yourself to a heaping serving of this tamale pie, you’re going to love it.
Where Did Tamale Pie Originate?
Tamale pie is believed to have originated in the state of Texas during the 1900s and gained popularity in high school cafeterias as a nourishing meal for students. The many versions out there feature various ingredients such as beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, beans, and cheese, combined with vegetables, cornbread or even creamed corn. Tamale pie gained significant popularity during times of wheat scarcity, such as the era of World War II.
There are different variations of the dish, including those with a masa topping like a traditional tamale and others (like this recipe), which have a cornbread topping.
Tamale Pie is a classic pot-luck casserole dish that embodies quintessential American cuisine. Despite its name, Tamale Pie bears little resemblance to the authentic Mexican dish and has a unique flavor of its own. Nevertheless, it’s a delicious and cost-effective option that can satisfy a large crowd with ease.
- If you prefer more heat, use canned jalapenos instead of green chiles
- Easily swap out the ground beef for ground turkey for a lower calorie dish.
- Make it vegetarian by swapping out the ground beef for beans or lentils.
- Feel free to use any blend of cheese you prefer.
How to Store and Reheat
To store the tamale pie, keep it covered in its baking dish and refrigerate it for several days. When reheating, loosely cover the pie with foil and warm it in a 350°F oven until it’s heated through. The precise timing for reheating will depend on the amount of pie being reheated.
If you want to freeze the dish, allow it to cool completely to room temperature before covering it and placing it in the freezer in its baking dish or a smaller container, if needed. When ready to reheat, allow the frozen dish to thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight before heating it up.
WINE, BEER, SPIRIT AND COCKTAIL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TAMALE PIE
When pairing wines to dishes, I always start with the sauce first, and then loom at it’s base and in this case it’s chiles. Believe or not, a lot of chiles have some of the same flavor profiles you find in wine. For example a guajillo pepper has bright, aggressive spice, so I would look for a wine with bright fruit like raspberry or other ripe, red fruit. Pasilla peppers have chocolatey undertones and coffee flavors, so I would look for wines that mirror those flavors. However, with this recipe and red enchilada sauce in general, I have found three medium-bodied white wines to really work the best, their acidity cuts nicely through all the flavors and leaves you with a refreshed palette.
Here are a few of my varietal wine recommendations for serving with Tamale Pie:
- Pinot Grigio: the light and zesty profile of Pinot Grigio will cut through the richness of the beef and the enchilada sauce, while its crisp acidity will balance out the spiciness of the dish. The citrus notes in the wine will also complement the sweetness of the corn, while the green apple and pear flavors complement the green chiles and other flavors in the dish.
- Chenin Blanc: for the same reasons Pinot Grigio works with dish, so does Chenin Blanc ~ crisp acidity, citrus notes, but Chenin Blanc also has some honey notes, which will work really well here. It’s a great versatile option for many Mexican-inspired dishes.
- Chardonnay (mildly oaked): ask your wine shop professional for a mildly oaked bottle of chardonnay, and they will point you in the right direction. The buttery flavor from the oak and general acidity found in chardonnay will help create a synergistic pairing I think you’ll really enjoy. Chardonnay will also complement the cornbread topping, better than any other wine listed here.
Here are a couple of my beer recommendations for serving with Tamale Pie:
- Mexican Lager: A light and crisp beer with a mild flavor that won’t overpower the boldness of the sauce. It’s also refreshing, so it works well in between bites.
- IPA: An India Pale Ale has a hoppy bitterness that cuts through the richness of the sauce. It also has citrusy notes that complements any acidity found in the enchilada sauce.
Here are a couple of my spirit recommendations for serving with Tamale Pie:
- Tequila (Blanco): Tequila is an obvious choice to pair with this tamale pie. Blanco tequila is a safe option, mostly because it’s crisp and clean flavor won’t overpower the food. The sweetness and citrus notes of tequila complement acidity too.
- Mezcal: Mezcal is another Mexican spirit that has more smoky and earthy notes and can handle complex flavors really well.
- Whiskey: I probably wouldn’t pair this dish with whiskey, but for the die-hards, make sure it’s a high-proof rye for the best results.
- Paloma: Paloma is classic cocktail made with tequila, grapefruit soda, and lime juice. The tartness of the grapefruit will provide a refreshing edge here, while the sweetness of the soda will balance out the spiciness of the sauce.
- Bloody Mary: A Bloody Mary -bold and spicy – is a really good idea with the tamale pie. All the flavors work together here and will taste great.
- Michelada: A Michelada is a Mexican beer cocktail made with beer, lime juice, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. The savory and spicy flavors in the Michelada create an intense flavor profile with this recipe. It’s a perfect choice.
- Margarita: You won’t be disappointed with a margarita here. The tartness of the lime, the sweetness of the triple sec or agave balance out the spiciness of the sauce.
While tamale pie is not Mexican cuisine, its Tex-Mex ingredients tend to pair well with alcohol that goes well with Mexican food. I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll enjoy in this list.
More Comfort Casseroles to Enjoy
There are few meals as comforting as a casserole — warming, hearty, and filling. They’re even better when they pack in gooey, melted cheese. Here are a few more favorites.
- Green Chile Enchilada Casserole
- Taco Noodle Casserole
- Chicken Tortellini Casserole
- Cheesy Shrimp and Rice Casserole
- Mexican Bowtie Pasta Bake
- Cheesy Ham Casserole
- Best Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas
- Cinnamon Roll Casserole
- Apple Pie French Toast Casserole
- Chicken Pot Pie Casserole
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- cooking spray
- 1-1/2 lbs. ground beef (93% lean)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 oz. taco seasoning
- 3 tbsps. water
- 1 (15 oz.) can yellow corn, drained
- 1 (15 oz.) can red enchilada sauce
- 1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles, mild or medium heat
- 1 (8.5 oz.) box cornbread mix (include whatever is required to make cornbread according to package directions, such as an egg and milk))
- 1-1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese, divided
- garnish: sliced green onions (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare baking dish by misting with cooking spray. (Dish used was an 10.5 x 7.5 casserole dish, but an 8 x 8 square will also work well. A 9 x 13 pan will make the casserole thinner and require more cornbread mix to cover the whole casserole. If you choose to make it in a 9 x 13, increase the ingredients by half, but use 16 oz. of cornbread mix,)
- Brown and crumble ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through and no longer pink. Add diced onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add taco seasoning and water and cook for one minute. Remove from heat. Drain any excess grease if you have any.
- Add corn, enchilada sauce, chiles and 1/2 cup shredded cheese to the meat mixture. Stir until combined. Spread meat mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.
- Prepare cornbread mix according to package directions (do not bake) and spread evenly over the top of the meat mixture with a large spoon or flat spatula.
- Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the cornbread mixture.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until bubbling and the cornbread is fully cooked through (comes out clean with a toothpick in the center).
- Slice and serve warm with sliced green onions or any other toppings you prefer.
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