Fake Tamale Pie Oh My!

Creating Mexican food-focused meals is not my strong suit. I love to eat Mexican food (tacos, enchiladas, burritos, etc.) but I’m not that astute when it comes to making a unique dish with Mexican flavor. So now you know. 

That being said I have made some attempts at making Mexican food that has been successful including Black Bean Tacos, Enchilada Soup, NotCho Average Nachos, Taquitos, and Holy Mole Guacamole.  Today though I’m dipping my wooden spoon into uncharted territory – tamale pie. Since my mother cooked more Italian food than Mexican (even though we lived in Southern California a little over an hour away from the Mexican border), I’m not sure what real tamale pie is supposed to taste like. 

So I’m off on this adventure not clear on the taste or ingredients – thus the label “fake tamale pie.” 

I took advantage of a pre-made ingredient (Jiffy Cornbread Mix) which I don’t normally do. It turned out to be a great addition to the recipe! I made the cornbread mix in a cast-iron dutch oven for some authenticity and then decided to assemble the various ingredients on top of the cornbread to finish cooking. It was actually quite fun poking holes in the cornbread and letting the meat mixture ooze through it once it was added on top. It turned out to be quite a hardy dish that tasted as close to what I imagine real tamale pie is supposed to taste like. You be the judge.

Cornbread mix in the dutch oven.

Meat and sauce mixtures in frypan.

Cornbread is done, and ready to poke holes in it.

Meat mixture topped with cheddar cheese. 


Fake Tamale Pie

Serves 4-6

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  • 1 box JIFFY corn muffin mix
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red & orange peppers, chopped
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/3 cup red or green enchilada sauce
  • 1 1/3 cup shredded Cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped (or leave whole and serve as garnish)
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. PREP: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cornbread baseIn a medium bowl, combine corn muffin mix, corn, sour cream, butter, and eggs and whisk until evenly combined. Pour into large cast iron Dutch oven or skillet and bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
    Tamale Pie ToppingIn a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil and cook bell pepper and onions until tender (about 5 minutes). Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
  3. Add ground beef to skillet and cook until no longer pink (about 6 to 8 minutes). Drain fat.
  4. Stir in ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, and chili powder. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until thick (about 5 minutes).
  5. AssembleUsing the bottom of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cornbread. Pour the enchilada sauce over the cornbread.
  6. Add the meat mixture and top with shredded cheese.
  7. Cover with a lid or foil and bake until the cheese is melted (about 20 minutes). Remove cover and broil until cheese begins to brown (about 5 minutes).
  8. Serve with chopped cilantro (or leave whole and serve as garnish).


Calories: 3885 cal
Carbohydrates: 357 g
Fat: 207 g
Sodium: 5803 g
Cholesterol: 746 g
Protein: 152 g
Fiber: 9 g

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