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Easy Tamale Pie (Skillet or Cast Iron Technique)

This Easy Tamale Pie comes together quickly for any busy weeknight. Golden delicious cornbread is baked right on top of a satisfying layer of beef chili. It’s a family favorite!

Easy Tamale Pie (Skillet or Cast Iron)
This skillet Tamale Pie is comforting and delicious.

easy tamale pie in a Skillet

When the urge for a cozy bowl of comforting chili and golden cornbread hits, there’s nothing quite like a fabulous tamale pie to satisfy that craving.

What’s tamale pie, you may ask? It’s nothing short of a weeknight dinner lifesaver. It’s a cornbread chili casserole, made extra easy with our one-skillet cooking. method.

The virtues of this tamale pie are plentiful:

  • It’s easy and quick, taking less than an hour from start to finish
  • No need to cook and transfer anything into a casserole dish; everything is done in the same large pan, cast iron, or skillet
  • There are only 10 basic ingredients needed
  • It’s a all-in-one meal deal, with protein, carbs, and veggies all taken care of

How to make tamale pie

  • Simply stir together some onions, garlic, olive oil, and chili powder.  It might seem like a lot of chili powder, but after all is said and done, it’s just the right amount of little kick.  Just enough to taste the zing, but not overly so.
  • Add in diced tomatoes, black beans, and lean ground beef to the aromatics already sizzling in the skillet.
  • Stir in the shredded cheese. Cheddar, monterey-jack, or Mexican blend cheese all work well here. Now a good time to season with kosher salt and add more chili powder if you prefer more kick.
  • Stir all that goodness together until nice and hot. Smooth beef mixture in an even layer, as you’ll want an evenly thick layer of cornbread on top.
  • Keeping with the easy and quick dinner theme, feel free to use your favorite cornbread mix, as long as the package is about 15 oz.
  • If you don’t mind making your own cornbread batter from scratch, this one is truly unbeatable.

Common Questions and ANswers

What kind of cornbread mix should I use for the topping?

You can use your favorite brand of dry cornbread mix, and prepare it according to the package instructions; rather than bake it by itself, you’ll bake it on top of the beef chili mixture. Your box or package of dry cornbread mix should be about 15 oz.

Can I use another kind of ground meat?

Yes, you can sub the ground beef with lean ground turkey, chicken, or pork. You can even make it meatless by adding an extra variety of beans or using plant based ground “meat.”

Does tamale pie reheat well?

This dish does reheat very well. Be sure to store leftovers in an airtight container to retain moisture. For best results, reheat in an oven-safe container, covered, for about 10 minutes at 350F.

What other dishes can I serve with tamale pie?

Friends and family love this Mexican Street Corn Salad (Esquites) for a side of crunch and healthy goodness. Top your tamale pie with our favorite fixings: 5-Minute Real Guacamole and Restaurant Style Salsa for your tortilla chips!

Easy Tamale Pie (Skillet or Cast Iron)
Tender, fluffy cornbread rests on top of a satisfying beef chili.

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Tamale pie, In Action:


Easy Tamale Pie (Skillet or Cast Iron)

Easy Tamale Pie

4.92 from 12 ratings
This recipe is quick and easy for weeknights, making smart use of your favorite cornbread mix. It's simply delicious for all your busy weeknights. 
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Servings: 6

Ingredients  

  • 2 TB oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2-3 TB chili powder
  • kosher salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese
  • 1 15oz box of your favorite cornbread mix, plus any required ingredients listed on the package
  • Optional garnishes: Fresh Tomato Salsa, sour cream, sliced green onion, shredded cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat: Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 450F*
  • Aromatics: In a 12 inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat, warm up the oil until hot. Add onion, chili powder, and 1/2 tsp salt and cook just until onion is soft. Stir in garlic and cook 30 more seconds.
  • Cook: Stir in ground beef, drained beans, and drained tomatoes. Cook and break up the meat with a spatula until fully browned, about 5 min. Off heat, stir in cheese. Season with kosher salt to taste. Add more chili powder if desired. Smooth beef mixture into an even layer in the skillet.
  • Prepare Cornbread: According to package instructions, mix the cornbread batter. Spread cornbread batter evenly on top of the beef mixture in skillet.
  • Bake: Bake until edges are golden brown, approx. 15 minutes. Check center of cornbread for doneness. If needed, cover loosely with foil and bake another 5 minutes or until center is cooked through. Let rest at room temperature 10 minutes before serving. Garnish as desired.

Notes

If you don't have an oven-proof 12-inch skillet, you can layer casserole into an oven-safe baking dish instead.
*Bake time may need to be adjusted, depending on thickness/brand of your cornbread in chosen baking dish. Brands of boxed cornbread mixes vary, so adjust bake time as needed for center to bake through. 
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and give it a rating ♡

Nutrition

Calories: 681kcal | Carbohydrates: 128.4g | Protein: 17.5g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 6.4g | Cholesterol: 19.2mg | Sodium: 1252.5mg | Fiber: 50.9g | Sugar: 4.7g
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Mexican American
Method: Oven

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Recipe Rating




22 comments

    • Katie
    • 5 stars

    I’m super excited to try this! I just took it out of the oven…I jumped on Pinterest to let readers know that if you’re intuitively thinking the recommended oven temp of 450 is too high….YOU ARE RIGHT! Luckily I check the oven at 15 minutes instead of 20 because the top was dark brown. The box of cornbread said 350 so I was nervous and should have went in the middle at 400 or covered with foil until the last 5 minutes or something.

      • Amy Dong

      Thank you, Katie! Updated to reflect various brands of cornbread. So glad you liked it!

    • Moop Brown
    • 5 stars

    This looks like a meal perfect for weeknights and like something everyone in the family will enjoy.

    • Ksenia
    • 5 stars

    I love, love, love tamales, and the ease of this preparation has totally won me over! I’ll be making this again and again; it’s a real winner.

    • Tristin
    • 5 stars

    I grew up eating tamale pie!! Your recipe brought back so many memories. This is such a classic dish that everyone needs to make. Thank you for reminding me how awesome it is!!

    • Marisa Franca
    • 5 stars

    I love tamales but I hate making them. Then I found this recipe and it was so easy to make. I had the ease of a pie and the taste of the tamales I enjoy eating. This recipe sure is a winner.

    • Dana
    • 5 stars

    I love the cast iron version of this. It came out so flavorful. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

    • Nicole
    • 5 stars

    My husband never turns down cornbread and this recipe was a huge hit. I didn’t add as much chili powder as called for, simply because my toddler can be a touch fussy, but it was still excellent (went heavy on the garlic instead). Definitely a make again recipe!

      • chewoutloud

      Sounds amazing, Nicole!

    • Jessica

    This tamale pie did not let me down!!! It was simple to prepare and so delicious. My whole family loved it and requested I make it again soon which I definitely plan to do.

      • chewoutloud

      Super happy that your family loved this!

    • Jenny
    • 5 stars

    What a wonderful recipe! This tamale pie looks delicious. I have all the ingredients in my pantry right now. Thank you for your post; I will make it tonight for dinner, can’t wait!

      • chewoutloud

      So excited for you to taste this!

    • Marie
    • 5 stars

    This is such an easy, scrumptious dish! My family loved it loaded with toppings: I slipped in diced bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and even baby spinach for extra veggie points.

      • chewoutloud

      Yes, more veggies are always good! 🙂

    • Kathryn
    • 5 stars

    This tamale pie is even better than tamales! I love the filling and topping- so easy to make too! Will be making this again next week, thank you!

    • Faye Wilson

    Cool pie before serving not cook before serving.

    • Grace

    I think I messed something up the cornbread is still way too golden after cooking 15 mins longer then your reccomended time

    • em

    Looks yummy! There’s a similar recipe for tamale pie on the Trader Joe’s website using their precooked polenta instead of cornbread, which is a super healthy and easy substitute if you don’t want to bake cornbread!

      • chewoutloud

      Polenta sounds delish, too! Thanks for the tip 🙂

    • Liz

    Thank you for the nice recipe.

    • cscusack

    Looks amazing! Can’t wait to try

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