Enchilada Tamale Pie: a tasty Tex-Mex one-dish meal

Mexican and Tex-Mex definitely top my list of favorite cuisines. Their use of spices elevate and enhance simple ingredients to create delicious, comforting dishes. One of my favorite Tex-Mex dishes is Tamale Pie, which is a casserole that is supposed to mimic the flavors of a traditional Mexican tamale: shredded or ground meat encased in a masa (cornmeal) mixture, wrapped in corn husks and then steamed.  Tamales are very time consuming to prepare so I decided to take the easy road and make tamale pie.

The following is a recipe for tamale pie I "Katie-fied" (my technical term for "tweaked") from one I saw on "Simply Delicioso with Ingrid Hoffman" on Food Network. Most tamale pie recipes I've seen used ground beef, but you can use ground pork, chicken, turkey, boar, ostrich, whatever your heart desires. I don't usually use canned items but I decided to in this one, just to make it easier for those of you at home to find the ingredients in the store and save time on preparing ingredients from scratch- I like to call it the "gringo approach". 

The "enchilada" part of the dish comes from the use of enchilada sauce in the meat mixture and covering the top of the dish with it, along with copious amounts of cheese (very gringo).  This version is "gringo spicy" (another technical term of mine, meaning, "not overly spicy"), so if you want to raise the heat level a bit more, feel free to add more cayenne or even fresh jalapenos. 

And my last note for this dish: PLEASE do yourself a favor and spend a little more on good quality cheese (no processed, pre-shredded stuff) for the topping because it has so much more flavor and achieves the perfect gooey consistency (I recommend Cabot's Jalapeno White Cheddar or something similar).

Enchilada Tamale Pie

(Makes: one 8x8 square baking dish, 4-6 servings)

(Adapted from this recipe by Ingrid Hoffman)


3 cloves garlic, minced

1 white onion, diced

1 bell pepper (any color), diced

1 pound ground chicken

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon adobo seasoning (found in the ethnic section of grocery store)

1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 can Ro*Tel (diced tomatoes and chilies), drained

1 can black beans, drained

1 can enchilada sauce, divided

3 scallions, chopped and divided

3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped and divided

Cornbread Topping

1 package cornbread mix

1 small can diced green chilies, drained

1 white cheddar, grated (or more, to your preference)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large pan over medium heat, cook garlic, onion, and bell pepper until somewhat soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Turn up the heat a bit and add the ground meat to pan, breaking up it up as you stir and cook it evenly.  Add salt and spices (through pepper).  Cook meat until no longer pink and drain most of the liquid from the pan.

3. Stir in the Ro*Tel, beans and 3/4 of the can of enchilada sauce and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Let simmer, stir occasionally, until the liquid has reduced (about 15 minutes).  Taste and season more, if needed.

4. While meat is simmering, prepare cornbread mix according to package directions (eggs, milk, etc.) and stir in the diced green chilies.  Set aside.

5. Remove pan from heat, stir in half each of the chopped scallions and cilantro.  Let rest and cool for about 5 minutes.

6. Spray an 8x8 baking dish with non-stick spray and pour in meat mixture evenly.  Pour cornbead batter evenly over meat mixture.

7. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until cornbread is just cooked (it will start to crack on top a bit). 

8. Remove from oven, pour remaining enchilada sauce on top and sprinkle grated cheese over it evenly. 

9. Bake another 5-7 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted.  Remove from oven and top with remaining scallions and cilantro.  Let cool for a few minutes and serve.




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