Chicken Tamale Pie: With a flavorful filling of chicken, spices, cheese, black beans, corn, and tomatoes tucked under a lid of the best cornbread ever, this Tex-Mex casserole is a family-friendly meal that will warm you up on the chilliest of nights.

Chicken Tamale Pie

I can’t even tell you how excited I am that the weather now feels like fall here in New England! The leaves will be coming up to peak foliage in the next couple of weeks and my area of Connecticut is just exploding with fall color!

Every drive around town is pure bliss for this fall lover!

Chicken Tamale Pie

This time of year also means that we’re hunkering down with cozy weekend meals that involve long, slow cooks and braises in big pots on the stove and in the oven and crock pot. It’s SUCH a great time of year for cooking!

This tamale pie recipe is one I’ve been wanting to make for ages now. Before I first made it a year ago, I’d never actually eaten tamale pie before.

Going in completely blind to a recipe always makes me a little nervous but I figured if a recipe is topped with cornbread, how bad could it be?

Chicken Tamale Pie

What Is Tamale Pie?

For those of you who are as unfamiliar with a tamale pie as I was, let me explain the concept behind it.

Tamale pie is an extension of the Mexican tamale, which are filled masa pockets that are steamed in either corn husks or banana leaves. I recently watched Rick Bayless make them one morning on PBS and I was all but drooling all over myself!

Chicken Tamale Pie

Tamale pie is sort of a deconstructed tamale, where a filling of meat, spices, beans, and tomatoes, are cooked in a casserole dish under a lid of cornbread.

Typically, tamale pie recipes are made with ground beef. However, since I can’t ever leave well enough alone, I decided to make my tamale pie with chicken.

Remember that instant pot shredded taco chicken I made recently? Well, in addition to that hot 7 layer chicken taco dip, here’s yet ANOTHER way I decided to use it! I told you it was a versatile recipe!

Chicken Tamale Pie

How to Make Tamale Pie

This chicken tamale pie recipe could not be easier to make! You’ll first sauté some onions, jalapeño, and garlic. Then you’ll mix in the shredded chicken, tomatoes, black beans, corn, cheese, and cilantro.

We’ve really got all of the best Tex-Mexy flavors working here, don’t we?!

Then you’ll make a quick cornbread batter. Really quick, I promise! 10 minutes is all you need for this cornbread.

Chicken Tamale Pie

You’ll spread the cornbread batter out over the filling in a baking or casserole dish and bake it off!

The cornbread puffs up and browns so beautifully, while the filling flavors underneath have a chance to mingle into a tamale pie that is bound to a home run recipe for your family.

What We Love About this Tamale Pie Recipe

My cousin, Mariah, and I made this recipe one day a few weeks ago during one of our blitz cooking and baking days.

Chicken Tamale Pie

She’s been working with me a couple days a month on recipe development, planning, cooking, baking, food styling, and DISHES (thank heavens!), to pump out slews of new recipes for you guys. So the least I could do is come up with some great recipes I know she’ll love to eat while she’s here.

This also means that I have a new built-in recipe tester! And this one definitely passed her muster!

Frankly, this chicken tamale pie blew me away! The filling is so incredibly flavorful and the flavors meld together in the just the right way.

Chicken Tamale Pie

While this is like a tamale pie casserole, the filling is more like a Tex-Mex chicken chili tucked under a bed of some flat-out awesome cornbread.

The cornbread is actually the same recipe I used to make that skillet cornbread with honey butter recently too! So I knew the recipe would absolutely be the right one to top this tamale pie recipe. (And I was right!)

Even though there are minced jalapeños in the filling, it isn’t at all spicy so it’s also a fantastic family-friendly meal. Riley simply adored this one (she LOVES Mexican food!) and so I’m also deeming this recipe as another of my toddler approved recipes.

Chicken Tamale Pie

I know you guys will love this one! I hope you make some time to pull it together for your families this fall or winter. It really is the best kind of meal for these chilly nights!

Chicken Tamale Pie

Chicken Tamale Pie

Yield: 9 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 35 minutes
Rest Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Tamale pie is a hearty Tex-Mex casserole of flavorful meat, beans, corn, and tomatoes topped with cornbread that bakes right on top of the casserole. It's typically made with ground beef but my recipe contains shredded taco chicken instead. This change lightens the dish a little and makes it a great way to use up leftover chicken you may have in the fridge. The recipe makes 9 servings but you can certainly double it if you'll be feeding a crowd.

Ingredients

For the tamale pie filling:

  • ½ medium onion chopped fine
  • ½ jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 ½ tsp canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ recipe Instant Pot Shredded Mexican Chicken (see note below)
  • 14 oz crushed tomatoes
  • ½ can (about 7 ½ oz) of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¾ cup fresh (and drained) or frozen corn
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the cornbread topping:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp table salt
  • 1 cup liquid buttermilk, well-shaken
  • 4 oz (8 tbsp/1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the lime sour cream:

  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • ¼ tsp lime zest (optional for an extra zip of lime flavor)
  • Pinch of Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish with butter or cooking spray.
  2. To make the filling: Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, jalapeño, and a good pinch of salt and pepper, and saute, stirring occasionally for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onion have softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Mix the chicken, tomatoes, black beans, corn, cheese, and cilantro into the onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. To make the cornbread topping: Stir the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Measure buttermilk into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup or pour it into a medium bowl. Whisk in the cool melted butter and eggs. It's ok if the mixture becomes a little lumpy.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir them together until just combined with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
  5. To assemble and bake: Transfer the pie filling to the prepared baking dish and then top the filling with dollops of the cornbread batter. The dollops will make it a little easier to spread the thick batter out over the top of the filling. Take care to not press the batter too far into the filling or it will bubble up over the cornbread while baking.
  6. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Keep an eye on the cornbread about halfway through the baking time; if it's browning too quickly, lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the dish. Remove the tamale pie from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Notes

If you don't have an Instant Pot, simply mix 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning (or 1 store-bought packet) into 1 pound cooked, shredded chicken (from a rotisserie chicken or chicken that you've cooked yourself). Add this chicken to this recipe as instructed above.

adapted from The Make-Ahead Cook by the editors of America's Test Kitchen