Tamale Pie is a delicious hearty comfort food recipe that’s so easy to make. A saucy layer of ground beef, onion, black beans, corn, pumpkin, green chilies, earthy spices, a cornbread topping and cheese make a mouthwatering dinner recipe and perfect for gatherings.
If you love traditional tamales you’ll definitely love this tamale pie recipe. It’s everything about real tamales just without the corn husk AND with more added!
It’s easy to make baked as a tamale pie casserole. It’s a family favorite perfect for a busy weeknight.
Loaded with your favorite toppings it’s a festive meal you’ll want for dinner tonight and the next night too!
Easy to make with conventional ingredients or gluten-free (both options included).
Traditional Tamale Pie
Truly traditional tamale casserole or Tamal de Cazuela is a delicious way to enjoy the flavor of tamales without the rigors of making them individually which can be a lot of work.
Tamale Pie is an Americanized version of this dish featuring a meat layer with cornbread crust.
It’s often served, as we do here, with familiar toppings like salsa, sour cream, guacamole, fresh tomatoes, and fresh cilantro.
It’s a hearty, satisfying dish and easy to make.
A secret ingredient
Something that makes this recipe unique is pumpkin. There is some chopped pumpkin in the meat mixture and some pumpkin puree in the corn bread topping.
For those who are saying ‘but I don’t like pumpkin’, hang in there because you’ll love this!
If you are not a pumpkin lover, don’t worry. This Tamale Pie does NOT taste overly pumpkin-y.
The small chopped pumpkin in the savory meat portion doesn’t taste like pumpkin and the texture reads like potatoes to your senses.
Being a pumpkin late bloomer myself I’ve learned a trick: pair sweet winter squashes with spicy flavors and they taste very different. The deep sweetness many love is lightened and made delicious.
This Spicy Chipotle Chicken Pumpkin Chowder recipe is a great example.
This seasonal tamale pie recipe was inspired by a pumpkin bake recipe I tore from a magazine several years ago.
I loved the southwestern feel and after making it several times, playing with the seasonings, it has become something we look forward to each autumn. It’s a filling meal and great for gatherings as well.
Recipe Ingredients + Notes
Ground Beef. We recommend 85% fat which gives great flavor.
Chopped pumpkin. We share instructions to prepare the pumpkin yourself but stores often sell prepared chopped squash in the produce department. Frozen thawed pumpkin can also be used. You’ll need 3 cups.
Yellow Onion. Use a medium yellow onion peeled and chopped.
Black Beans. One 1 15-ounce can drained and rinsed.
Corn Kernels. You’ll need 1 cup. Fresh or frozen whole kernel corn are recommended but canned/drained also works.
Mild Green Chilies. 1 4-ounce can green chiles drained. Use mild chilies instead of hot.
Low-Sodium Chicken Broth. Used in the saucy meat filling.
Apple Cider Vinegar. This perks up the flavors without making it taste vinegar-y.
Cream Cheese. One 8-ounce package will be needed. We recommend full fat cream cheese for the richest results.
Kosher Salt. We use kosher salt because it’s a less salty tasting salt.
Chili Powder and ground cumin.
Cornbread or mix. Instead of using masa harina or corn meal a package of corn muffin mix is used (or corn bread). Instructions are included for both regular and gluten-free cornbread mix.
Unfortunately regular and gluten-free mixes are not available in the same size so a few other ingredients will need to be adjusted depending on which version is being made.
Refer to the NOTES section of the recipe card below for the gluten-free version.
Eggs. One or two lightly beaten eggs are used (depending on the version being made).
Milk. We recommend whole dairy milk.
Pumpkin Puree. Canned or homemade can be used.
Sharp Cheddar Cheese. Shredded cheese will be used. Shred the cheese yourself for best melting (versus using shredded store bought cheese).
Monterey Jack Cheese. Same note on shredding yourself for best results.
Use a different squash. If desired use a different winter squash for the meat mixture. If the grocery store sells cubed fresh butternut squash, use that! A great time saver and the flavor will be delicious.
Substitute Taco seasoning. For a shortcut taco seasoning can be substituted for the combination of spices. We prefer homemade taco seasoning which has far less salt.
Swap in different beans. Instead of black beans try pinto beans.
Use ground turkey. For a leaner dish ground turkey can be used instead of ground beef.
Want more vegetables? Add some chopped green bell pepper or red bell pepper when adding the onions to sauté.
Love tomato flavor? Some tomato paste, tomato sauce or enchilada sauce can be added to the meat mixture.
How to Make this Tamale Pie – Step-by-Step
STEP 1. Preparation
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
STEP 2. Make the meat mixture
In a large skillet over medium-high heat brown the ground meat breaking into small pieces. After 3-4 minutes add the onion and chopped pumpkin.
Add the beans, corn and green chiles. Stir to mix in.
Add the chicken broth, vinegar, cream cheese, salt and seasonings. Stir and spoon the beef mixture into a 13-inch by 9-inch casserole dish (baking dish).
STEP 3. Make the cornbread layer
In a large bowl combine the cornbread mix, eggs, milk and pumpkin puree. Stir to fully combine.
Spread the cornbread batter on the top of the meat filling in the baking pan.
STEP 4. Bake
Bake in the preheated oven approximately 20 minutes until the cornbread begins to brown and a toothpick comes out clean (of the cornbread top only).
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.
STEP 5. Serve
Serve topped with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, chopped fresh tomatoes, and/or chopped fresh
How to Prepare Fresh Pumpkin
Prepping a pumpkin can take a bit of time. We prefer pie pumpkins which are smaller.
- Using a heavy large kitchen knife, cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out the inside fibers and seeds (save them to make roasted pumpkin seeds)
- Cut the pumpkin vertically into strips
- Remove the outer skin with a vegetable peeler
The soft meat of the pumpkin is easy to chop into small pieces.
How to Save Extra Pumpkin Puree
I love making pumpkin puree from scratch but whether doing this or wondering how to use extra canned puree I have a trick I love.
Spoon extra puree into the cavities of an empty ice tray and freeze.
How to Store
Store any leftovers sealed with plastic wrap or in individual serving airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Reheat in the microwave.
More recipes you’ll love!
Black Bean Pumpkin Tamale Pie
- 1 pound Ground Beef 85% fat
- 3 cups peeled and finely chopped Pumpkin
- 1 medium Yellow Onion peeled and chopped
- 1 15-ounce can Black Beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup Corn Kernels frozen or fresh
- 1 4-ounce can Mild Green Chilies drained
- 1/2 cup Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
- 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 8-ounce package Cream Cheese
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 2 teaspoons Chili Powder
- 1 teaspoon ground Cumin
- 1 8.5 ounce package Cornbread Mix see NOTES for gluten-free version
- 1 large Egg lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup Milk
- 1/3 cup Pumpkin Puree
- 3/4 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- 3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large skillet on medium-high heat begin to brown the ground beef breaking it into small pieces. After 3 to 4 minutes, add the onion and pumpkin. Fully brown the beef and allow onions and pumpkin to soften (5 additional minutes).
- Add the black beans, corn and chilies. Stir to combine.
- Add the chicken broth, vinegar, cream cheese, salt, cumin and chili powder. Stir to combine and transfer into a 13 inch by 9 inch baking pan.
- In a large mixing 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Serving: top with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, chopped fresh tomatoes, and/or chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 12.5-ounce gluten-free cornbread mix
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
Originally published: October 11, 2011.