Photo by Sonia Mendez Garcia

Tex-Mex Beef Tamale Pie

Cuisine: Tex Mex
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour 25 Minutes
Servings: 8 servings
A classic Tex-Mex version of tamale pie prepared with a beef picadillo filling. Serve as-is or garnish with your favorite warmed enchilada sauce! A meal the whole family will enjoy!

Are you ready for a hearty beef tamale pie? This classic Tex-Mex beef tamale pie is prepared with a cheesy polenta crust. Oftentimes you will see tamale pie prepared with a cornbread crust. Both are equally delicious! The original tamale pie originated in Mexico. A cast-iron skillet is ideal for preparing this recipe. But in a pinch, an oven-proof baking dish will work, too. Get creative with your fillings. For a chicken version, simply mix shredded chicken with your favorite enchilada sauce. Or keep it vegetarian by adding your favorite roasted vegetables. Whichever version you decide on, your friends and family will enjoy this for hearty meal on a cool night.


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  1. Preheat large pot to medium heat for a few minutes. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the beef and season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¾ teaspoon of pepper. Cook until nicely browned, breaking down with spoon as it cooks. Remove any extra grease.
  2. Add the onions, poblano and bell pepper. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes.
  3. To the blender, add the chopped tomatoes. Pulse to chop until you have a coarse puree. Pour into pot with beef, add the garlic and stir well to combine. Add the remaining ingredients for the filling. After it simmers for a few minutes, taste for spices. Adjust as needed. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare your ovenproof skillet or baking dish by spraying with oil. Set aside.
  5. Add the 6 cups of chicken broth to a deep sauce pan and bring to a boil. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal, whisking the whole time. Quickly switch over to stirring with a wooden spoon to stir the polenta. Turn down heat slightly. Be careful because the polenta will bubble rapidly and can burn you. Continue stirring for 5 minutes.
  6. After 5 minutes, add the butter and stir just until melted. Remove polenta from heat and mix in half of shredded colby jack cheese and half of extra sharp cheese. Stir just until melted. It's never a bad idea to taste for salt at this point.
  7. Working quickly, spread half of the polenta into the bottom of your prepared skillet or baking dish. Add the beef picadillo, a little more of each cheese and then the remaining polenta to cover the top. Add the remaining cheese evenly over the top. Add the jalapeño pepper rings.
  8. Place tamale pie onto a baking sheet before baking. This is just in case it boils over while it bakes. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 20-25 minutes before slicing. Garnish with fresh cilantro, enchilada sauce or your favorite salsa.

Chef Notes

I cannot stress enough that you use a deep pot when preparing the polenta. It can bubble rapidly. Keep a lid handy and turn down the heat slightly once you have added all the cornmeal. Tamale pie is much easier to slice once it has cooled slightly.

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