Tamale pie (Cornbread pie)

February 10, 2007 at 5:18 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Beans, Derek's faves, Mexican & S. American, My brain) ()


Look in just about any vegetarian cookbook from the 70’s or 80’s and you’ll find a recipe for Tamale pie. True tamale pie is made with masa, but more often the topping is a simple cornbread. This is a great one-dish meal that’s healthy, filling, and hits the spot when then windchill is -15 and you’re in the mood for some comfort food.

Update 7/7/2019:

I made cornbread pie for lunch yesterday and it was a pretty big success. Everyone liked it, including Alma (at almost 4.5 years). I followed this AMA cookbook cornbread recipe for the cornbread portion, but I didn’t follow a recipe for the bean portion. I first sauteed up some red onion, garlic, green bell pepper, then added some finely chopped tomatoes and frozen corn, and seasoned the whole thing with cumin and a little chili powder and a little crumbled feta cheese, then added 6 cups of (already pretty nicely seasoned) pinto beans including the thick goo (essentially reduced cooking liquid) that surrounded them. I added the cornbread mixture when the beans were simmering, then I baked it in the oven for 20 minutes, following the cornbread instructions. The cornbread pie turned out well. The cornbread wasn’t soggy on the bottom, like it sometimes gets (presumably because the beans were hot when I added the batter, so it cooked the bottom).

In the past I’ve often felt like there was way too much cornbread in comparison to beans, but this time the ratio seemed right, because I added more beans and made a slightly smaller cornbread (only 1.5 cups of total flour not 2 cups). The only problem was that my cast iron skillet was so full it started boiling over a bit in the oven. Luckily I had put it on a baking sheet. But next time I think I will use slightly less beans—3 cups is clearly not enough, but 6 cups was a bit overfull. Maybe 4.5 or 5 cups? This time the cast iron skillet was almost completely full even before I added the cornbread. Next time I want there to be a tiny bit more space. Alternatively, I could try cooking it in cast iron my dutch oven.

The “recipe” as written above made a lot, maybe 8 servings? Derek and Alma and I ate it for brunch and there was more than half left.

Original post from 2/10/2017:

I don’t quite have a “recipe” yet–I tend to just eyeball it. But here’s approximately what I did last night:

  • 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 cups of homemade, lightly salted, black beans, with their juice filling in the measuring cup
  • about 1 cup of Frontera salsa
  • 1/2 can diced green chilies (I put the other half in the cornbread)
  • ground cumin, maybe 2 tsp?
  • chipotle powder, maybe 1 tsp?
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn kernels
  1. I sauteed the garlic in my cast iron pan (I usually add onions too but I was out). Then I added the black beans and mashed them a bit with a potato masher. I added the other ingredients and just let the beans simmer while I made the cornbread.
  2. I preheated the oven to 425, then made the cornbread (I’ll post recipes in a separate post). I poured the batter on top, using a spatula to spread it out evenly. I baked for about 30 minutes.

This came out quite well–the beans were especially tasty. I usually use pintos but the black beans were nice as well. Derek thought the bean to cornbread recipe was too low, but I actually thought it was perfect. Maybe a compromise is to make extra beans and take them out before adding the cornbread, so Derek can have extra beans on the side?

Obviously, this “recipe” needs work, but I think it has great potential.

I made it again using 4.5 cups of canned beans and it still didn’t have enough beans.  I think next time I’ll try 6 cups of beans, and cut the cornbread recipe down from 3/4 cup of cornmeal and flour each to 1/2 cup.

Rating: B
Derek: A-

Historical tidbit: When I made fast food at my co-op in college, this was a regular. I’d get out all our cast iron pans (we had about 5 of them, and some were huge). I’d make an enormous pot of beans and tons of cornbread then fill them all up and bake them in batches. They were always popular, except for one time… I found some cute little red and yellow peppers in the fridge. They were tiny, colorful, and adorable. I thought they were some kind of mini bell pepper, so I threw them into the beans even though I’d already added jalepenos and chipotle powder. I discovered only after making all five enormous cornbread pies, that the peppers were actually habaneros. Many of the members of the co-op prided themselves on their love of (and tolerance for) spicy foods. But no one could down more than one bite of these cornbread pies. Sadly, they all ended up in the trash.

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