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The Best Tamale Pie

The Best Tamale Pie // Karista's Kitchen


Sometimes all we need is good ole comfort food like Tamale Pie. I often made tamale pie for my girls when they were little. It was a sure method for getting everyone to the table. 

I loved hearing my girls squeals of happiness when they came into the kitchen and I announced we were having tamale pie for dinner.  My tamale pie is filled with tender ground beef, savory aromatics, fresh corn, black beans and loads of flavorful spices. Then it’s topped with a corn and cheddar laced cornbread that is slightly sweet. I serve it with sour cream, sliced avocados and a tossed green salad for good measure.

So, I have to admit, I kind of liked tamale pie night myself. It’s such a great way to use ground beef and the cornbread topping makes it feel a bit playful. Back in the day when I was making this dish often, it was a delicious way to serve a gluten-free meal for my gluten sensitive daughter. I also had a freezer full of grass-fed ground beef and needed inventive ways to prepare it.

The Best Tamale Pie // Karista's Kitchen

Today, my girls still love this Tamale Pie. They continue to crack me up as they are mostly grown up now and yet, still little kids at heart. They both love ground beef recipes, especially when it’s Tamale Pie.

I made this last week and both my daughters were completely delighted. Then the oldest daughter decided to take home the leftovers – for her lunch the next day. Much to the disappointment of my youngest daughter who I found rummaging through the refrigerator looking for it. 🙂 I guess I’ll be making another batch next week.

This is an easy recipe to pull together and pop in the oven. It just screams happiness and everything that makes dinner delicious. 

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


The Best Tamale Pie

Serving Size: 4-6

The Best Tamale Pie


    For the cornbread topping
  • 1 1/2 cups Masa Harina (I use Bob's Red Mill)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup corn (either fresh or frozen)
    For the filling
  • 1 tablespoon ghee, extra virgin olive oil or flavorless coconut oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 10.75 ounce can of tomato puree
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 cup of corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro, lightly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Squeeze of lime juice


Prepare the cornbread topping
  • Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
  • Whisk together the masa marina, melted butter, sugar, salt, baking powder and water. When the consistency feels good, like a cornbread batter, fold in the cheddar cheese and the corn. Set aside.
  • Prepare the filling
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a little oil to the pan. When the oil is hot add the onions and saute just until wilted. Then stir in the ground beef. When the ground beef is almost cooked through, add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, coriander and red pepper flakes. Cook for one minute longer and then take the skillet off the heat.
  • Gently stir in the tomato puree, the corn, black beans and fresh cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the filling into an 8x8 square baking dish or an 8x10 rectangular baking pan. You can use a large baking pan but you may need to use 1 1/2lbs of ground beef if using a larger pan. You will have plenty of cornbread topping for the larger pan.
  • Once you've add the filling to the bottom of the baking pan, spread the cornbread filling over the top. Place it in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the cornbread is done and the sides are bubbly.
  • When the tamale pie is done, take it out of the oven and let it sit for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve with sliced avocado, sour cream, extra cheese, diced tomatoes, salsa and anything else you think would be delicious.
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    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Sassy Side dishes

    Bacon, Apples and Brussel Sprouts

    Brussels sprouts, apples and bacon side dish or one dish meal // Karista's Kitchen

    I have to admit, roasted Brussels sprouts with a little olive oil, salt and pepper is simple perfection.  I make them often but on occasion I switch things up and make this lovely Bacon, Apple and Brussels Sprouts side.  It’s easy to prepare and combines three distinct flavors that pair exquisitely together.  The smokiness of the bacon combined with the sweet of the apple… honestly, I could eat these two ingredients all by themselves.  But toss in some Brussels sprouts and the recipe somehow tastes complete.

    Of course I throw in some fresh garlic and sometimes add a splash of parmesan to the finished dish.  I think some shredded Irish cheddar would be tasty as well.

    Not only does this make a great side dish or one dish meal, it’s a lovely side for all the holiday dinner celebrations.  It happily accompanies turkey, prime rib, whole roasted salmon and a honey glazed ham.  Now I’m hungry!

    Just in case you’re not convinced Brussels sprouts are for you… I’ve added a few additional sides to browse.  You know, just in case. 😉

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love!


    Bacon, Apples and Brussel Sprouts

    Serving Size: 4-6

    Bacon, Apples and Brussel Sprouts


    • 6-8 ounces bacon, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 cups thin sliced apples, whatever is local and in season (I use Oregon local Honey Crisp)
    • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs Brussels sprouts, cleaned, bottom ends trimmed but core intact and then halved through the core. I prefer the smaller to medium sprouts if you can find them.
    • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • Squeeze of lemon


  • Fill a large pot with water and season the water generously with salt. Bring the water to a boil and add the Brussels sprouts. Turn the heat down to a simmer and let the sprouts cook for about 5-7 minutes or until the sprouts are tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. Shake out the excess water and set aside.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, add about 1 - 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot add the diced bacon and cook. When the bacon is crispy, remove it with a slotted spoon and add the Brussels sprouts.
  • Increase the heat to medium high allowing the Brussels to brown and crisp a bit. When the Brussels look golden brown, gently toss in the garlic and the apples.
  • Turn the heat back down to medium and let the apples cook until crisp tender. Once the apples are done, stir in the bacon and give it a squeeze of lemon.
  • Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve warm.
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    Mashed cauliflower side dish

    Cauliflower Mashers


    Several years ago I posted this Cauliflower Mashers recipe in a post with several other enticing side dishes. 

    Roasted Cranberry and Mandarin Salad with Pistachos and Toasted Coconut


    Another lovely and sweet side for Roast Turkey and Honey Baked Ham.

    roasted beet salad with gorgonzola and candied walnuts

    Winter Roasted Beet Salad


    A gorgeous and delicious salad easily prepped and served – making your holiday celebration stress free.

    Green Bean and Smoked Goat Cheese Salad with Dried Cherries and Toasted Pine Nuts

    Green Bean and Smoked Goat Cheese Salad with Dried Cherries and Toasted Pine Nuts


    Hands down one of my favorite salads.  Again, easy to prepare and so delicious paired with Roast Turkey, Whole Roasted Salmon, Duck Breast, Honey Baked Ham or Prime Rib.

    brussels sprouts gratin

    Brussels Sprouts Gratin


    Brussels Sprouts are grand all on their own, but combined in a gratin with cheese and cream totally elevates this dish to spectacular!

    Beef Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Pork


    Colcannon with Swiss chard, ground pork sausage, green onions and Irish cheddar / Karista's Kitchen

    I’m deeply enamored with Ireland.  It feels a poetic and romantic place.  Melodic Celtic music that seems to transcend time, lush green landscapes, drifting fog and rugged shores. All creating visions of charm and daydreams.   

    I’m just as enamored with Irish cuisine.  Deep, rich flavors that warm a belly and comfort the soul.  Hearty fare my Grandmother used to call “stick to your ribs” cuisine.  Perfect for the cool evenings still to come.

    Colcannon Bake text

    There’s no celebrating the arrival of spring at my house without some festive and hearty Irish fare.  One of my favorite dishes to prepare is Colcannon. Traditionally a mashed potato, cabbage and green onion side dish, I decided to re-create this lush recipe into a one pot meal.

    Sautéed onions and ground sausage with wilted Swiss chard and green onion all gently swirled in mashed potatoes – and then topped with creamy Irish cheddar.  A perfectly enchanting one-dish meal.   Skip the ground sausage and serve it as a Sunday side dish with corned beef and cabbage or a traditional pot roast.    I promise, there will not be a speck of leftovers.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Karista’s Kitchen Colcannon

    Serves 4-6


    1-2 tablespoons oil

    1 small onion, diced

    1-2 cloves garlic, finely diced

    1lb ground mild or sweet pork or turkey sausage

    1 large bunch Swiss Chard, stems removed and chopped

    2 green onions, chopped

    4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes

    4-6 tablespoons butter

    ½ cup sour cream

    Salt and pepper to taste

    1 1/2 cups Shredded Irish Cheddar (I used Kerrygold Dubliner Irish Cheddar)

    8×8 or 9×11 buttered baking dish


    Heat the oven to 350F.  Prepare the mashed potatoes.

    Place the cubed potatoes in a medium or large pot and cover with cold water.  Add a few pinches of salt.  Bring the water to a boil and continue a lively simmer until the potatoes are fork tender.

    Drain the potatoes and then place back into the pot.  Add the butter and mash the potatoes with a potato masher.  For smoother potatoes, I transfer them to my kitchen aid mixer (with the paddle attachment) and mix until smooth.

    Gently mix in the sour cream and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside and try not to sneak bites. 🙂

    In a large skillet over medium high heat, add a tablespoon or two of oil and sauté the onions.  When the onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic and ground meat and cook until done.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Transfer the ground meat to a bowl and reserve.

    Using the same skillet, sauté the Swiss chard over medium heat until wilted. Take the skillet off the heat and toss with the green onions.

    Next, gently fold together the mashed potatoes, wilted Swiss Chard/green onions and ground sausage.

    Pour into a buttered baking dish and sprinkle evenly with shredded Irish cheddar.

    Place the baking dish in the oven and heat until the cheddar is melted and sides are bubbly, about 15-20 minutes.

    Let the Colcannon cool slightly – then garnish with additional sliced green onions and serve.  This can certainly be served as a one dish meal; or serve with spring greens dressed in lemon or citrus vinaigrette.

    Original publication March 2013, Issaquah Press
    Recipe and article by Karista Bennett
    Beef Kid Friendly

    Skillet Tamale Pie

    Skillet Tamale Pie

    I have a chalkboard hanging in my kitchen that says “Menu”.  Most of the time it displays Suzie Q’s artistic expressions and maybe a quote or two.  I hung it in the kitchen with the intention of posting our weekly menu, but most of the time I don’t have the heart to erase the creative artwork. 

    I think Suzie Q loves summer.

    On the occasion my menu board is undecorated, I post my own artistry, what were having for dinner.  And if I’m on task, I’ll post the dinner menu for the next two or three days.  I always feel so efficient when I plan more than two days at a time. 

    Tonight it’s Skillet Tamale Pie.  Tamale pie recipes have been around as long as I can remember.  It’s delicious comfort food with beefy filling and cornbread topping, usually with lots of cheese.  Mmmm.  

    I found this new recipe in Mark Bittman’s book, Food Matters Cook Book.  Ok, I don’t usually get too serious on this blog because frankly, life is serious enough.  But… I strongly encourage watching these eye-opening food documentaries.  Food Matters, Food Inc and Food Fight.  Food does matter.  It’s what either keeps us strong and healthy, or sick and obese.  

    Tamale Pie baked in a ramekin... adorable

    Ok, so I could go on and on about buying local, buying organic and clearing all the pantry shelves of processed food, but I won’t.  Today anyway.  Today it’s all about Skillet Tamale Pie.  And my two gals love this Tamale Pie. (me too!).  Sometimes I just make the filling, let it cool and then serve it on top of a big bowl of crispy romaine with a little salsa and plain yogurt.

    Although I changed a few things in this recipe, to suit the Bennett Crew’s taste buds, the original recipe is just as fabulous.  The goal of this recipe is super tasty, simple, fresh and lots of smiles.  I definitely saw lots of Bennett smiles.

    Skillet Tamale Pie

    Adapted from the Food Matters Cook Book by Mark Bittman

    Serves 4


    1 cup cornmeal (fine or medium grind, I like Bob’s Red Mill brand and I mix 1/2 corn masa with 1/2 medium grind)

    ½ – 1 cup hot water, or more as needed


    2 tablespoons olive oil or Grapeseed oil, or more as needed

    1 lb ground beef or pork or chicken or a mixture

    Black pepper

    1 onion, chopped

    1 tablespoon minced garlic

    1 tablespoon chili powder

    1  15 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

    3 cups corn, fresh or frozen (I like Cascadian Organic)

    ½ teaspoon baking powder

    ¼ chopped fresh cilantro or green onions (or both) for garnish

    Dollop of sour cream (optional)


    Heat the oven to 400F.

    Combine the cornmeal, hot water and a large pinch of salt; stir with a fork until smooth.  Let it sit while you prepare the filling.

    Put the oil in a deep oven proof skillet.  If you are going to bake the tamale pie in a baking dish or individual single serving bowls, no need for the oven proof skillet, just use any large skillet. 

    Heat the oil over medium high heat and then add the meat.  Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper.

    Brown the meat for 5-10 minutes and then lower the heat and add the garlic and onion.  Cook until the vegetables soften, adding more oil if needed.

    Stir in the chili powder, tomatoes and corn and turn off the heat.

    Stir the baking powder into the cornmeal mixture until it’s completely incorporated.  The mixture should be the consistency of thick pancake batter; if not add a little more water.

    If using the oven proof skillet, spoon the batter into the skillet on top of the filling and spread it around a bit.  If using a small baking dish or individual bowls, pour the filling into the dish or dishes and then spoon the cornbread mixture over the top of the meat filling. 

    Bake until the cornbread has cracked and turned golden and is cooked all the way through, about 20 to 25 minutes for a large skillet or baking dish, a little less time for individual bowls. 

    Garnish with cilantro, green onion, pepper jack cheese and sour cream.