Roasted vegetable tamale pie

June 13, 2010 at 3:08 pm (breakfast, C (2 stars, okay, edible), Necessarily nonvegan, Other, Starches)

Unlike the typical tamale pie recipe, this recipe from Rancho la Puerta does not call for beans.  Instead, sliced potatoes are layered on the bottom of a casserole dish, and veggies are mixed with egg whites, cornmeal, pureed corn kernels, yogurt, and a little cheese. 

First you make a “Mexican marinade” which is basically vinegar and lime with garlic, cilantro, and hot pepper.  Then you thinly slice 1 russet potato and soak the slices in the marinade.  While the potatoes are marinating, you saute garlic, zucchini, mushrooms, carrot, onion and oregano together.   Next you blend yogurt, egg whites, spices, corn, and cornmeal together in the blender, and mix the dough with the vegetables and cheeses.  Finally you extract the potatoes from the marinade and layer them on the bottom of the casserole, then spoon the vegetable-yogurt mixture over the potato slices.  The whole pie is baked for about an hour.

This recipe works fine.  The potatoes were cooked and the pie held together when sliced.  Still, the recipe was bland.  This was despite the fact that I actually added more oil and cheese than the recipe called for.  One problem is that the recipe doesn’t call for any salt.  I actually added some when I noticed this fact, but it wasn’t enough.  The tamale pie is supposed to be served with a shiitake-tomatillo salsa, which I’m sure helps with the blandness.  We ate the pie with a regular green salsa, but then it just tasted like green salsa over a bland egg-white and potato pie.  I’m guessing that Wavrin’s intention was to make a pie that looked nice and held together, and basically serves as a base for a tasty sauce.    Given how labor-intensive the recipe is, however, I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

I quite liked the idea of using sliced potatoes as the base of the pie.  Derek said it reminded him a little of the revolutionary tofu “omelette” in vegan with a vengeance.  This pie held together better, however, and was substantially less greasy.  If I could get more flavor into the dish I might actually try the potato-on-the-bottom-of-the-quiche technique again.  It’s a nice replacement for a traditional crust.  The Mexican marinade, however, didn’t seem to add any flavor.  The potatoes just tasted like plain potatoes.

The texture of the topping was not anything like cornbread.  It was more like a lowfat quiche maybe–a little rubbery.  The corn flavor didn’t really stand out at all.

The recipe says to cook this dish in a 2- to 2 1/2-quart casserole dish.  I always make tamale pie in my cast iron skillet, so I just figured that would work.  Wrong.  The batter filled the cast iron skillet all the way to the tip top.  Even worse, the pan was impossible to clean.  The egg white batter seemed to bond with the iron.  Even after letting it soak for an hour, the stuff would not come off without intense scrubbing.  Afterward my pan had to be reaseasoned.

I probably would have tossed the leftovers, but I spent a lot of time on this dish, and the pie was relatively healthy and low calorie, so I took it for lunch for several days until it was all gone.  I ate it with oven-roasted tomatoes which were pretty intense flavored, and helped counteract the blandness of the tamale pie.

Rating: B-

Derek: C+


  • 1 russett potato
  • 1/2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1/2 pound white mushrooms
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 cups nonfat plain yogurt
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • no salt!
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup stone-ground cornmeal (blue is recommended but I can’t get it here so I used yellow)
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese (I don’t think this adds any flavor but maybe it helps the pie hold together.  Feta would probably be better flavorwise.)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • shiitake-tomatillo sauce
  • 6 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro for garnish


  1. austingardener said,

    I am trying to figure out why it is called tamale pie?
    What I wanted to say is that I plan on buying a tortilla press to make my own masa harina tortillas. We had some at Changos last night and they were delicious. They used an old wood press that was awesome, but I will get just a regular one since I don’t think they come in wood in Austin anymore. I like corn tortillas more than flour and will tell you how it works out.

  2. Kelley said,

    Oh no, that is to bad 😦

    I got so excited when saw the title of the post – Tamale Pie!!! YUM! But once I started reading I could tell it was way more trouble than it was worth. I hate when recipes do not work out. You are a trooper to take it to work and finish it off. I always toss my stuff that doesn’t work. From the rest of your blog I can tell you have more success than duds 🙂

    Pity about re-seasoning your pan, though

    Anyway, I think there are some good ideas in this recipe. I bet you will be able to take some of the ideas and make them into something fabulous!

  3. Cookbook review: Rancho la Puerta « The captious vegetarian said,

    […] Roasted vegetable tamale pie:  this recipe worked, but the texture was rubbery and the flavor quite bland.  I wouldn’t make it again. […]

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