pork tamale pie

While many people aren’t fans of casseroles, I happen to love them. I grew up with casseroles of various sorts – tuna noodle being the most famous of them all – and for me, they represent the ideal comfort food. If you can get the main components of a meal – protein, vegetable, starch – in one dish, I’m all for it. Especially if the kids will eat it.

While searching for casseroles that my picky son might go for, I ran across several recipes for tamale pie. Elise at Simply Recipes has one using ground beef, and I found this one at Serious Eats using shredded pork shoulder. Ultimately, I happened upon this one from a 1990 issue of Gourmet magazine, and that’s the one the recipe below is adapted from.

There is a great mix of spices in this recipe – cumin, allspice, chili powder, and oregano. Hot sauce gives it an extra kick, and this can be tailored to suit your palate. I used only 1 teaspoon since I was trying to make it a bit more kid-friendly. To make it more filling, I added a can of kidney beans, but you could easily add a different kind of beans or leave them out entirely. My son loves beans, so I thought this would be a great way to sell him on the dish.

The aromas that filled the house as this was baking were heavenly. The dish is probably one suited better to cold weather, but I can’t be faulted for liking this kind of comfort food year round. Offer me a steaming bowl of chili in August, and I’ll quickly take you up on it.

But I promise I don’t wear white shoes after Labor Day.

The tamale pie was full of flavor, and although my husband complained that there wasn’t enough heat in it, he had two servings. My daughter also had two servings, and she happily ate the leftovers the following night.

My son? Wouldn’t touch it.

Yield: Serves 6.

Pork Tamale Pie

The cornbread topping is very easy to make, but if you wanted to substitute a box mix (like Jiffy), I'm sure that would work just fine, too.


Ingredients for Filling

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds lean ground pork
1 1/2 cans (15-ounce each) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
10 ounce package frozen corn, thawed
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon Worsterschire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco), plus more to taste
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Ingredients for Topping

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 4-ounce can green chili peppers, drained and chopped


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Make the pork filling: In a large skillet, cook the onion and bell pepper in the vegetable oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until onion is softened. Add the pork and break up any large pieces. Cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the pork is no longer pink. Stir in the tomato sauce, tomato paste, corn, beans, cumin, allspice, chili powder, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, cornmeal, and salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. At the end of the simmering time, add the teaspoon of cider vinegar. Taste the mixture and add additional hot sauce to suit your taste. Pour the mixture into a shallow 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Note: This step may be done up to one day earlier and kept covered and chilled.

Make the topping: Into a bowl, sift together the flour, corn meal, sugar, and baking powder. Add the melted butter, milk, and the egg, and stir until just combined. Stir in the cheese and the chopped green chili peppers. Drop the batter by large spoonfuls around the edge of the casserole.

Bake the casserole in the middle of a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake for additional 30 minutes.