Tamale Pie/Pastelle Pie (Homemade From Scratch)

This tamale pie is easy to make and all from scratch - no box mix for this delicious version of tamale pie. It is the perfect Sunday food made with a very rich and hearty ground beef filling that is cooked/simmered slow (for the best flavour) until thickened, flavoured with warm earthy spices, beer, and mixed with olives, raisins and capers for some sweet and savoury flavour boosters. I made this tamale pie with some reminiscent Trinidadian pastelle pie flavours and add ins. The tamale pie or pastelle pie feeds a crowd and way easier to make than traditional tamales or pastelles. You’ve got a deeply flavoured and spiced meaty filling, a cornmeal coating that bakes into a pillowy tamale-like top, and less supplies involved, less cleanup, and much less cook time - can’t beat that!!

Tamale Pie

What Is Tamale Pie?

I call it a Tex Mex shepherds pie since it is very similar to a shepherds pie in composition with a layer of spiced mince mixed with veggies and a pillowy top covering it. Tamale pie is thought to have originated in Texas in the 1900s, and believed to have become popular in times of wheat shortage. There are many many variations of tamale pies which can include beef like this one, pork, chicken, chorizo, cheese, vegetable etc. Some have a masa topping and others like this one have sort of a cornbread topping made with corn flour. Quicker versions use a box mix for the toppings and that is totally fine but this version is homemade and easy to make. I flavoured my tamale pie with the flavours in Trinidadian pastelle pie. Trinidadian pastelles are cornmeal pies filled with meat, fish or vegetables very similar to tamales more specifically Venezuelan Tamales which are made with a thin layer of corn dough made with corn flour and stuffed with a meat filling. They then are wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf or plantain leaf. One of my friends back in Trinidad makes the best pastelles, she always balances the savouriness with a hint of sweet from raisins or currants. Not too sweet but just a hint and so I tried to get the same flavours here in the pastelle pie/tamale pie. You will love this tamale or pastelle pie so much and it makes enough to feed your family and have enough for leftovers which I would say taste even better the next day.

Tamale Pie

Here’s What You Need To Make This Tamale Pie/Pastelle Pie Casserole:

For The Filling

  • Ground Beef: I like to use lean ground beef which Is quick and easy to cook. You can also use chicken, ground turkey or a vegan mince if you prefer but beef gives you the best flavour. You can even use rotisserie chicken in a pinch as well or even add in some chorizo sausage to your ground beef for a blend and more flavour
  • Onions, Garlic & Green Onions: For aromatics
  • Peppers: I used poblano peppers but you can use bell pepper (red pepper or green) , a handful of pimento peppers or even a few jalapeños fro some extra heat or smokiness
  • Tomato Paste: Adds richness to the beef filling and sauce
  • Spices: I used a blend of fresh thyme, ground cumin, chili powder, dried oregano, ground coriander. Use as little or as much of each as you like and omit the ones you do not like. Some recipes call for using a couple of tablespoons of taco seasoning for more of a Tex Mex flavour and you can definitely do that if you prefer to use a pre-blend of spices
  • Beer: Beer adds so much flavour to the meat sauce/chili. Feel free to use a stout beer or lager or whatever beer you like or if you prefer red wine you can use it instead. If you prefer to make it without the booze no problem just substitute with more broth
  • Broth/Stock: I used chicken stock or broth but for a richer deeper more beefier flavour use beef broth or beef stock
  • Canned Tomatoes: I used canned fire roasted diced canned tomatoes but plain ones will work just fine
  • Green Chilies: These come from a can and add a subtle tang
  • Corn: (canned, frozen, or fresh) optional but adds to the texture and sweetness of the sauce
  • Sliced Olives & Capers: They add a nice salty briny flavour to the sauce
  • Raisins: or currants for some sweetness but totally optional
  • Cheese: Monetrrey Jack cheese or Sharp cheddar cheese adds great flavor to the filling and the topping. Use freshly shredded cheese for best results if possible because it melts better. Packages of pre-shredded cheese have extra add ins that affect the way they melt
  • Fresh Herbs: I used fresh cilantro or chadon beni but you can use fresh parsley too or a bit of both
  • Salt &Black Pepper: to taste

For The Topping

  • Cornmeal
  • All Purpose Flour & Baking Powder
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Whole Milk: or dairy free milk
  • Vegetable Oil: or melted butter
  • Cheese

Ingredient Variations & Add Ins

  • Add some Canned Black Beans or pinto beans if you prefer it heartier or want to replace the corn with it or some of the meat
  • Make it vegetarian: swap the ground beef for beans and/or brown lentils.
  • Use a combination of cheeses, such as Mexican-style or Tex Mex cheese blend
  • Make it Gluten Free by using a good gluten free 1-1 all purpose flour
  • Add extra vegetables like zucchini, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, etc…You will want to swap some of the meat for the extra veggies.
  • Add some more heat by adding some cayenne pepper, chili flakes, or hot sauce, chopped pickled jalapeños or even some minced chipotle peppers in adobo to the meat sauce
  • Use enchilada sauce instead of diced tomatoes
  • Store bought Cornbread topping: you can try swapping the tamale pie topping with a store bought box cornbread topping (cornbread mix) or corn muffin mix like jiffy - just follow the box instructions and top meat and bake as directed

Tamale Pie

How to Make Perfect Tamale Pie / Pastelle Pie

This crowd-pleaser of a meal is easy to make and so delicious. The sauce takes a little patience and time to simmer and develop the best flavour but other than that the steps are simple and come together quickly. Here is an overview of how to make it (full details in recipe below)

  • Make The Ground Beef Filling (chili/meat sauce): Brown the ground beef, onion, garlic and peppers. Cook with the salt, chile powder, and cumin, thyme, coriander and scallions, then the tomato paste. Deglaze with beer then add the broth and simmer until sauce is thickened and rich. Stir in the corn, olives, raisins if using, capers and cheese.
  • Make The Cornmeal Topping: Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and 1 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Whisk eggs, milk, cheese, and remaining ⅓ cup oil in a medium bowl. Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients until just combined.
  • Assemble & Bake: Transfer beef filling to prepared pan, dollop the cornmeal batter over top then smooth out evenly and bake until topping is golden and baked through and filling is bubbling.

Tamale Pie

Can I Make Ahead Tamale Pie /Pastelle Pie

You can make portions of the pie, or the whole pie ahead - here is how

  • The Filling: You can cook and make ahed the tamale filling (the meat sauce or chili only) up to 3 days in advance. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to make tamale pie. Once you are ready to make the tamale pie remove from fridge and spoon filling into prepared pan then you can make the topping and bake as directed
  • The Whole Pie: You can assemble the whole tamale pie filling and topping and store wrapped in plastic wrap up to a day before. Allow the pie to sit at room temperature while you preheat your oven and bake as directed adding a few extra minutes if needed to cook through

How to Store and Reheat Tamale Pie / Pastelle Pie

  • Storage: Store the leftover tamale pie an airtight container or covered tightly with plastic wrap in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. You can easily reheat tamale pie recipe in the oven or microwave
  • Reheat Oven: Remove plastic wrap and cover the pan loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees F until warmed through
  • Reheat Microwave: Reheat individual servings in the microwave until heated through

Can I Freeze Tamale Pie / Pastele Pie

Yes, you can freeze tamale pie before baking or after (the texture in either scenario will not be exactly the same as freshly made and baked but the outcome will still be quite delicious)

  • Freeze Before Baking: Make the entire pie recipe then allow to cool completely. Wrap it tightly with double layers of plastic wrap and then a layer of foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before baking or bake from frozen - your baking time will need to be adjusted (I usually tack on 20-30 minutes) and keep an eye on it and tent with foil if needed to avoid burning the topping if baking from frozen
  • Freeze After Baking: To freeze this dish, cool completely to room temperature, then freeze, covered, in its baking dish or in a smaller container, for up to 3 months. Thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight before reheating it in the oven.

If You Enjoyed This Recipe You Will Love These:


Servings: 8
Yields: one 9x13 baking dish/cassrole dish
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 40 min


For Filling

  • 2 tablespoons olive
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 3 poblano chiles, finely chopped (or bell peppers or pimento peppers or jalapeños)
  • 3 Green onions, ends trimmed and chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh Thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons coriander (optional)
  • 1 cup dark beer (sub with broth)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (4-ounce) can green chiles
  • 1 15 oz can or 1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn, frozen or canned
  • 1 (4-ounce) can sliced olives (2/3 cup)
  • ⅓ cup raisins (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro /chadon beni
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Topping

  • 1¼ cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 6 ounces Monterey Jack, grated 2 cups


  1. MAKE FILLING: Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add the ground beef, onion, garlic and peppers. Add salt, chile powder, and cumin, thyme and scallions. Cook, stirring occasionally until the ground beef has browned on all sides. 7-10 min
  2. Add tomato paste, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute.
  3. Deglaze pan with beer - simmer a couple of minutes ( 3-5 min ) until half reduced then add the tomatoes, chilies and broth, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened, 45–60 minutes into a rich chili.
  4. Skim fat or excess grease from surface of chili if needed, stir in the corn, olives, raisins, capers, cheese, cilantro and adjust seasoning if needed.
  5. Transfer beef mixture to a 13x9” baking dish or casserole dish
  6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°.
  7. MAKE TOPPING: Whisk cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and 1 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Whisk eggs, milk, cheese, and remaining ⅓ cup oil in a medium bowl.
  8. Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients until just combined.
  9. Dollop batter over chili and spread in an even layer with the back of wooden spoon (it’s okay if it doesn’t cover the entire surface). Bake casserole until top is golden brown and filling is bubbling around edges, 30–40 minutes or until topping is cooked through.
  10. Let stand 10 minutes. Then dig right in

Recipe Notes

  • Can I make tamale pie recipe in a skillet? Yes but you will need to divide the recipe between two skillets. You can make tamale pie in a 9×13 baking dish as shown or in two lightly greased lightly greased 12–14-inch cast iron skillets. Baking Time May vary by a few minutes
  • Prevent edges from burning: You may need to cover or tent the edges of the tamale pie with foil if they are browning too quickly to avoid burning the topping - keep an eye on it as it bakes
  • This tamale pie doesn’t need any toppings bt toppings are always fun so feel free to top your tamale pie with your favorite ones like sour cream or Greek yogurt, chopped cilantro, jalapenos, avocados, tomatoes, black olives, chopped green onions, etc.

Tamale Pie