Recipe: Easy Skillet Tamale Pie

Recipe: Easy Skillet Tamale Pie

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Grace Elkus
Aug 30, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Every year for the Super Bowl, my roommates and I make a big pot of chili and a fresh batch of corn muffins. We eat it for lunch, relax and digest for a few hours, and then go back for seconds at dinnertime. After Thanksgiving, it's quite possibly my favorite food day of the year.

It may come as no surprise then that I think tamale pie is one of the greatest food mash-ups ever created. Instead of baking cornbread separately from cooking chili, the batter gets spread atop a simmering mixture of ground beef, beans, tomatoes, and corn, then transferred to the oven and baked until golden. Needless to say, my Super Bowl meal just got way easier.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

4 Smart Tips for the Easiest Tamale Pie

1. Start with an oven-safe skillet.

In my opinion, one of the most compelling reasons to make tamale pie is to cut back on the number of dishes you're using. It's an entrée and a side dish, baked into one! So instead of simmering chili on the stove and then transferring it to a casserole dish (a common ask in many tamale pie recipes), we cook the entire thing in an oven-safe skillet — which acts as your serving dish, too.

2. Skip the measuring and use full cans.

I can't stand it when a recipe calls for half a can of tomatoes or a third of a can of corn. Not only does that mean more measuring, but it also means I'm stuck with awkward amounts of ingredients that more often than not get forgotten about in my fridge. This recipe calls for a full can of beans, corn, and tomatoes, so you waste no time (or food) at all.

3. Fold sour cream into the cornbread, then use the rest for serving.

The addition of full-fat sour cream makes for a deliciously tender cornbread with a crispy golden crust — and you can use the remainder of the carton for dolloping on top of your pie.

4. Adapt the ingredients to fit your needs.

Serving a vegetarian crowd? Replace the ground beef with tempeh. Making this pie for kids? Use a can of tomatoes without green chiles to cut back on the spiciness. White, pinto, or kidney beans can be used in place of black beans, too.

Easy Skillet Tamale Pie

Serves 6 to 8

Prep time: 15 minutes ; cooking time: 35 minutes

  • For the cornbread:
  • 3/4 cup

    stone-ground yellow cornmeal

  • 1/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon

    granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1/2 cup

    full-fat sour cream, plus more for serving

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, melted and cooled

  • 1 cup

    shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  • For the filling:
  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1

    medium yellow onion, diced

  • 2 tablespoons

    chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 4 cloves

    garlic, finely chopped

  • 1 pound

    lean ground beef (90% lean)

  • 1 (15-ounce) can

    black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 (15.25-ounce) can

    whole kernel corn, drained

  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can

    fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles (do not drain)

  • 1 cup

    shredded sharp cheddar cheese

  • Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro or sliced pickled jalapeños, for serving

Make the cornbread:

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425°F. Place the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk the egg, sour cream, and butter together in a small bowl. Add the sour cream mixture to the cornmeal mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the cheese (the batter will be thick); set aside.

Make the filling:

Heat the oil in a 10-inch oven-safe skillet (such as cast iron) over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, chili powder, and salt and cook until onion is softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the beans, corn, and tomatoes and stir to combine. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese.

Dollop small spoonfuls of cornbread batter over the filling. Use the back of a knife or an offset spatula to spread into an even layer. Place the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the cornbread is golden-brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving with cilantro or pickled jalapeños if desired, and a dollop of sour cream.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)
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