Tamale pie with chive cornbread topping

A tasty twist for Taco Tuesday…or any day of the week!

I recently ventured down a delicious and inspiring internet ‘rabbit hole’. After typing the following into my search engine: ‘what is the greatest recipe of all time’, I took a deep breath and scanned the first few pages of the 67,600,000 hits that were presented. Among them, I spied an article from Bon Appetit magazine talking about a dish I’d never heard of before: cornbread tamale pie. Well, I thought, I’ve enjoyed tamales before and I adore cornbread; this might be an interesting experiment. It was better than that – it was actually a glorious explosion of flavour and quite possibly my new favourite comfort food. Another great thing about my version of this dish is that you can make the filling ahead of time (it could even be prepared then frozen), so all you have to do is whip up a batch of cornbread batter, pop it in the oven, and dinner will be ready in no time at all.

Tamale Pie with Cornbread Topping


Meat filling:

  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped green pepper
  • 1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and very finely minced
  • 1 pound (454 g) ground chicken, turkey or beef
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup (250 mL) frozen corn kernels
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 mL) chili powder (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) tomato paste*
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar, Monterey Jack or Tex-Mex blend cheese

*I keep a tube of concentrated tomato paste in the fridge at all times. They’re super handy for when you just want a few tablespoons.

Cornbread topping:

  • 3/4 cup (185 mL) yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) buttermilk (or regular milk mixed with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) finely minced chives (or green onion)


  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Make the filling by warming the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, green pepper and jalapeños. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the ground beef to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up the meat, until browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the corn, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir well to ensure that the spices and the tomato paste are evenly distributed. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning after it has simmered.
  • While meat mixture simmers, prepare the cornbread topping.
  • Make the cornbread topping by whisking the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and melted butter.
  • Pour the wet ingredients over the cornmeal mixture along with the chives and stir together just until incorporated.
  • Stir the grated cheese into the meat mixture and spoon it into a 9×13-inch baking dish, levelling with the back of the spoon.
  • Pour the cornbread batter over the filling, using a spatula to even it out on top. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the top of the cornbread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Allow the tamale pie to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 6.

tasty tamale pie with cornbread topping

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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