Black Bean Pumpkin Tamale Pie

Fall has definitely settled in here.  Days in the 60’s.  Leaves ablaze in yellow, blinding red and orange, begging attention to the risk of traffic accidents for the glorious distraction they cause.  The filtered light making everything softer, quietly reminding us to try to slow down and maybe take it all in.
My own hibernation instincts are starting up.  I want seasonal comfort food.  And I want more time so meals I can put together with ease without sacrificing taste or the touch of seasonality.
I’m embarrassed to admit how limited my vision of using pumpkin has been in my adult life.  Pie.  I thought pumpkin was for pie.  And carving.  Over the recent years I’ve torn appealing recipes from magazines and grouped them seasonally since that’s how I eat….and think.  I’ve had a recipe for some time for a Black Bean Pumpkin Tamale Pie.  Not sure why I haven’t made it but I decided the time had come.  So glad I did.  It features many aspects of the seasonal produce and flavors I love; pumpkin, chiles, corn and all in a soul-warming package.
The heat in the recipe is moderate so I’ve provided a suggestion for pumping it up.  I also provided a spin on a Jalapeno-Green Olive Salsa as an accompaniment.
Adapted from Better Homes and Garden
I typically make almost everything I cook from scratch, beans and everything.  That’s not always practical or of interest so you’ll find options to do most of this from scratch or to substitute canned or frozen alternatives.  You’ll note I specified the fat content of the ground beef.  A lot of the flavor of the ground beef often comes from the fat content.  The beef is drained after browning so the final dish is not fatty in the least.
Makes 12-3 ½ inch by 3 inch portions
·         1 pound 85% fat ground beef
·         3 cups, peeled and finely chopped pumpkin
·         1 large yellow onion, chopped
·         1-15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
·         1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
·         4 ounces mild Anaheim chiles, seeded and chopped OR 1 4 ounce can diced green chiles*
·         ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cup beef broth
·         2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
·         3 ounces cream cheese
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon ground cumin
·         1 ½ teaspoon mild chile powder
·         12 ½ ounces cornbread mix (I use Bob Red Mill’s Gluten Free Cornbread Mix)
·         2 large eggs, lightly beaten
·         1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
·         1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree (click here to make your own)
·         ¾ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
·         ¾ cup Monterey Jack cheese, grated (if you want more heat you could use Pepper Jack)
*if cutting your own chiles, wear gloves!  Accidental contact with eye, nose or mouth when chopping chiles can lead to significant irritation.
To step up the heat:  Substitute hotter chile powder and hotter variety of chiles such as Serrano or Jalapeno.  I’m always a proponent of tasting a recipe the first time before ‘pumping up the heat’.  If the recipe is not hot enough for your liking you can always add hot sauce.  With this recipe I feel the cornbread top layer helps mute the heat some too.
Tip for saving unused Pumpkin Puree:  We all think of saving summer vegetables but not so much for fall.  If you make pumpkin puree and don’t use it all, freezing it in ice cube trays and them bagging the puree cubes in the freezer  for future use allows a space saving way to enjoy fall’s spoils in other seasons (do I sound like ‘Martha’?)
1.       Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.      In a large skillet on medium-high heat begin to brown the ground beef.  As you note the browning starting (3 to 4 minutes), add the onion and pumpkin.  Turn the heat to medium and fully brown the beef and until onions are softened.
3.      Drain any fat from the meat mixture.  Add the black beans, corn and chiles.  Stir to combine.
4.      Add beef broth, vinegar, cream cheese, salt, cumin and chile powder.  Stir to combine and transfer into a 13 inch by 9 inch baking pan.
5.      In a large bowl combine the cornbread mix, eggs, milk and pumpkin puree.  Stir to fully combine.  Spread the cornbread mixture on the top of the other ingredients in the baking pan.
6.      Place in the oven for approximately 20 minutes until the cornbread begins to brown and a toothpick comes out clean (of the cornbread top only).  While the Tamale Pie is baking you can make the salsa!
7.      When baking is complete add the grated cheese on top and return to the oven until it melts (5 minutes maximum).  Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before serving.
Jalapeno-Green Olive Salsa
Adapted from Better Homes and Garden
·         ½ cup Jalapeno-stuffed green olives, rough chopped**
·         1 ½ cup chopped fresh tomatoes (heirloom variety if possible)
·         2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Toss all ingredients together and serve with the Tamale Pie.
** If you are unable to find jalapeno-stuffed green olives you can substitute regular green olives and 1-2 jalapeno peppers.
Truth be told some of the group to whom I’m serving this think pumpkin is only for Jack o Lanterns.  I knew I’d have to be in stealth mode to pass this by them.  The small chop of the pumpkin and the fact they turn the color of cooked potatoes were on my side.  It is a delicious dish without forcing those unready to face pumpkin in a pie-less context out of their comfort zone!


  1. says

    I'm am loving the combination of ingredients here. Sounds like some great flavors. Must give it a try. And yes, I would have added some more heat too.

    The Fall colors are spectacular this year, seems like more so than I can ever remember. I hated when the wind came up the other day and started blowing leaves around, but almost all the beauty survived.

    Great photos as always Toni.

  2. says

    Amazing! Seriously amazing! I love all the ingredients in this. I haven't had a tamale in ages. I used to live in KC and when I lived there, there was this little Mexican place. Total hole in the wall, but they made the MOST amazing tamales. This reminds me of the flavors. Gotta try it

  3. says

    Oh this looks so delicious!! Comfort food but colorful and flavorful! how spicy is this? I'm thinking of giving this a try for a casual event that I'm catering next month. How many does this recipe serve? Thanks for the good idea!!

  4. says

    This looks delicious! I love the addition of the pumpkin, and the home made salsa topping! Tamale pie sounds perfect for the cooler fall days.

  5. says

    Hi 'L' (Tartedujour)! This makes 12 3 1/2 inch by 3 inch servings. In my house there were defintely second serving requests as well!

    The original recipe had no seasonings. Due to serving a variety of heat tolerances I seasoned it lightly I felt and really did not detect any heat when eating the final creation I suspect from the cornbread topping which bakes up to a bit over an inch thick. You could definitely season it more. Maybe a 'test run' pre catering for your family? Toni

  6. says

    Okay this looks freaking amazing. I have never been a fan of pumpkin but I think I might need to expand my horizons. Kudos to you for this one. Super yummy!

  7. Annapet says

    Just when one [I mean ME] thinks she's not hungry anymore [just had dinner]…A friend posts this.

    I love this, and totally digging the jalapeno-olive salsa!

  8. says

    Toni-Your pumpkin black bean tamale pie is so colorful, healthy, and delicious. A unique recipe, that I haven't seen around…but then, everything you make is your own style.

    Eating this Tamale pie sure is a sign of fall, temperatures dipping here, to a comforting climate, in South Florida. Now, it' probably not eve 70 degrees…just perfect and comfortable, and I would love to sit down and enjoy you perfect tamale pie:DDD

  9. says

    Wow. I can't say I would have ever been brave enough to try this recipe myself (and yeah, my family would hit the hills running if they knew pumpkin was in it too) but this sounds and looks mouth watering.

  10. Sarah says

    I have made this recipe twice now and absolutely love it! I’m a huge pumpkin fan and have been trying all sorts of recipes lately but this one is without a doubt my favorite recipe that I’ve stumbled across thus far. I usually spice it up a lot and use jalapenos and pepper jack or other spicy cheese. Thanks Toni!

    • Toni | Boulder Locavore says

      Sarah I’m thrilled! Love that you’ve ‘made it your own’ with pumping up the spice factor. It’s such a filling and nutritious dish. In fact you are reminding me I need to make it again soon! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  11. Amy says

    I am looking for a tamale pie recipe where I can use up some leftover masa harina. Do you think it would work in place of cornbread mix? The rest of the recipe looks soooo good, and I’m trying to do a tamale pie with an “autumn” theme….


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