Old School Tamale Pie with the Best Cornbread Topping

Old school tamale pie is a hearty and delicious skillet casserole recipe made with lean ground beef, corn, black olives, diced tomatoes, green chilies with the best cornbread recipe baked on top. Comfort food at its finest!

Tamale pie on a spoon with the title at the top.

If you’ve never had tamale pie before, you’re missing out. It’s a hearty dish that’s so easy to make and is so full of flavor that once you try it, you’ll be hooked for life. Here in Texas, tamale pie is a staple for so many of us. I make tamale pie for dinners and potlucks a lot because it’s delicious and feeds a crowd. It also makes great leftovers. Tamale pie is delicious, but so many people outside of the southwest have never heard of it before. That’s why I’m sharing this delicious old-school tamale pie recipe with all of you. You need to experience the flavors to understand just how amazing it is!

Old School Tamale Pie

This old-school tamale pie is all about the classic flavors of this dish. There are no bells and whistles here. It’s just the pure, delicious flavors of ground beef, onions, garlic, corn, olives, enchilada sauce, and more all cooked together and topped with cornbread. It’s a simple, delicious bake that even beginners can make, and it’s satisfying enough to please even the heartiest eaters. This Tex-Mex feast is always a winner.

Easy Tamale Pie

This is probably the easiest tamale pie you’ll ever make. The ingredients and the process are extremely easy. It only takes one pan and just a little bit of sauteing. The cornbread topping uses a box mix as a base, so even that is a simple affair. This recipe is so easy, you’ll be in and out of the kitchen in no time.

An overhead picture of Tamale Pie in a shallow white bowl with the cast iron pan full of Tamale Pie in the background.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before we get into the recipe, let’s stop and take a look at the most commonly asked questions about tamale pie. This FAQ will give you a ton of information about the recipe, so it’s worth a read.

What is Tamale Pie?

Tamale pie is a Tex-Mex dish consisting of ground meat, vegetables, chilis, olives, and other classic Tex-Mex ingredients that are then topped with cornbread and baked.

Where did Tamale Pie Originate?

No one knows exactly when tamale pie was invented or who invented it. We do know that it was invented in Texas sometime in the early 1900s. Later into the 1900s, the dish was popularized by a cookbook printed during World War I, touting it as a family meal that could help save wheat.

A close up picture of Tamale Pie in a cast iron pan.

What to Serve with Old School Tamale Pie?

Tamale pie is a great stand-alone meal, but it can benefit from some tasty Mexican-inspired sides, as well. Some great options to serve with tamale pie include:

Can you Make Tamale Pie Ahead of Time?

Yes. You can prepare the dish ahead of time, then refrigerate it until ready to bake the next day. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months for later baking.

How to Store and Reheat Tamale Pie?

This old-school tamale pie will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. For longer storage, you can place it in the freezer and freeze it for up to 3 months.

To reheat the pie, place it in a 325-degree oven for about 20 minutes until heated through. If frozen, allow the pie to defrost in the refrigerator overnight before reheating the next day.

A close up picture of Tamale Pie on a white plate.

Old School Tamale Pie Variations

Like all casseroles, this old-school tamale pie is not only delicious, but it’s so versatile, as well. Just a few tweaks here and there will allow you to make it with pretty much whatever you have on hand or completely convert it into an entirely different recipe. These are all easy changes that can make a big difference in taste. Just have fun with it!

Different Meat

You can use a variety of meats in this dish. They’ll all work wonderfully well while still keeping the Tex-Mex sensibilities of the dish. Some great ideas are:

  • Ground Turkey or chicken
  • Shredded chicken or turkey
  • Beef, shredded
  • Shredded pork

Different Cheese

Lots of kinds of cheese work well in this dish, leaving you free to choose the kind of cheese that you like most. Use anything you like, but the following are my favorites to use in this recipe.

  • Cheddar cheese
  • Colby Jack cheese
  • Monterey Jack cheese
  • Mexican blend
  • Taco blend

Different Sauce

Here’s where you can really change things up. Changing the sauce can change the entire feel of the recipe. It’s an easy way to switch things up, creating an almost completely new recipe. Some great options include:

  • Green enchilada sauce
  • Red chili sauce
  • Spicy enchilada sauce

Add Vegetables

For more texture and even more flavor, try adding more vegetables to the recipe. so many different recipes will work in this dish. Get creative and see what tastes the best to you. My favorites for this recipe include the following.

  • Diced bell peppers
  • Diced jalapenos
  • Mixed vegetables
  • Black beans
  • Navy beans
  • Pinto beans


The following toppings make great finishing touches to the recipe. Simply put a little on the top of each serving for an extra splash of flavor and a finished look.

  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Green onions
  • Cilantro
  • Greek yogurt (a great sour cream alternative)
A close up picture of a bite of Tamale Pie on a spoon.

Old School Tamale Pie Ingredients

It doesn’t take a ton of ingredients to make this dish. Most of them are spices and canned goods. Anything you do need to shop for can be easily found at your local grocery store.

For the Tamale Pie Filling

  • Lean ground beef
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Black pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Salt
  • Corn
  • Rotel
  • Sliced olives
  • Red enchilada sauce
  • Diced green chilies
  • Colby jack cheese

For the Cornbread Topping

  • Marie Callender’s Cornbread mix
  • Sour cream
  • Water
  • Large egg
  • Onion
  • Diced green chiles
  • Colby Jack cheese
A double picture of Tamale Pie with the title in the middle.

How to Make Old School Tamale Pie

Making this tamale pie is so easy, even beginners can do it. It only takes a few simple steps, and you’ll be well on your way to a Tex-Mex feast everyone will love.

Step 1: Make the Filling

Cook the meat and onions in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until the meat is no longer pink. Then, add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain if necessary and return the mixture to the skillet. 

Next, season the mixture with cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper and stir. Finally, pour in the enchilada sauce, Rotel, corn, olives, and diced green chilies. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add Colby jack cheese, stir and let simmer while making the cornbread topping.

Step 2: Make the Cornbread Topping

Add the cornbread mix to a large bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, mix the sour cream, water, egg, onion, and green chilies together. Then, pour the wet ingredients into the cornbread mix and stir. Add 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and stir again.

Step 3: Put it Together

Spoon the cornbread batter onto the top of the filling and top with the remaining shredded cheese. Bake uncovered in the cast iron skillet at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cornbread comes out clean.

This can be made in a baking dish. Just follow the recipe then spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and bake as directed.

Try This Delicious Tamale Pie Recipe Today

This old-school tamale pie is a classic. It’s a simple, rustic Tex-Mex dish that satisfies even the biggest eaters, and the flavor always has everyone coming back for more. Make it for a weeknight dinner or bring it to potlucks or barbecues. No matter where you serve it, you’ll never have to worry about leftovers! Give it a try, and I know you’ll love it as much as I do.

A three picture collage of Tamale Pie with the title at the top left corner.

Other Mexican-Inspired Recipes

Rib Eye Street Tacos – These street tacos are full of deliciously seasoned rib-eye steak, white onions, cilantro with corn tortillas, and topped with Queso Asadero cheese, and Cholula green hot sauce.

Chile Relleno Casserole – This delicious casserole is made with fresh, oven-roasted, poblano peppers and the smoky flavor the peppers give to this recipe is what makes this Chile Relleno so delicious along with all the cheese.

Cheesy Ground Beef Empanadas – These empanadas are loaded with perfectly seasoned ground beef, two types of cheese, and baked until golden brown. A delicious, flaky empanada recipe everyone will enjoy.

And, here are some delicious Easy Beef and Bean Enchiladas from Deliciously Seasoned.

Old School Tamale Pie with the Best Cornbread Topping

Great Grub, Delicious Treats

This tamale pie is absolutely delicious and is packed with perfectly seasoned ground beef, onions, corn, black olives, tomatoes, cheese and topped with the best cornbread topping.

Prep Time 30 mins

Cook Time 45 mins

Total Time 1 hr 15 mins

Course Dinner, Lunch

Cuisine American, Southwest

Servings 8 Servings

Calories 971 kcal


For The Meat Filling

  • pounds ground beef
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 15 ounce can corn drained
  • 10 ounce can Rotel drained
  • 3.8 ounce can sliced black olives drained
  • 15 ounce can enchilada sauce
  • 4 ounce diced green chilies
  • cups Colby jack cheese

For The Cornbread Topping

  • 3 cups Marie Callender’s cornbread mix
  • 8 ounce sour cream
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup onions chopped
  • 4 ounce can diced green chilies
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded, divided


For the Meat Filling

  • In a large cast iron skillet, cook meat and onions over medium high heat until meat is no longer pink. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain grease and return to skillet.

  • Season with cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Stir.

  • Pour in enchilada sauce, Rotel, corn, olives, and diced green chilies. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, add Colby Jack cheese, stir, and simmer while making the cornbread.

For the Cornbread Topping

  • In a large bowl, add cornbread mix. Set aside.

  • In a medium bowl, mix sour cream, water, egg, onion, and diced green chilies together.

  • Pour wet ingredients into cornbread. Stir. Add ½ cup of cheese. Stir.

  • Spoon cornbread batter on top of meat. Top with remaining 1½ cups of cheese.

  • Place cast iron skillet into the oven and bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.


Serving: 1 ServingCalories: 971kcalCarbohydrates: 97gProtein: 34gFat: 49gSaturated Fat: 23gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 150mgSodium: 1923mgPotassium: 548mgFiber: 6gSugar: 61gVitamin A: 1323IUVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 492mgIron: 5mg

Keyword Best Cornbread Recipe, Tamale Pie, The Best Tamale Pie

Here are a few pics that are perfect to save to your favorite Pinterest boards.

Enjoy, Terri

A spoonful of Tamale Pie over a white bowl of Tamale Pie.
A spoonful of Tamale Pie being taken out of the cast iron pan with the title at the top.

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