Can tamale casserole recipe

Can tamale casserole recipe

When it comes to comfort food, few dishes can beat the hearty and flavorful tamale casserole. This Mexican-inspired dish combines the traditional flavors of tamales with the convenience and ease of a casserole. It is a perfect meal for busy weeknights or for feeding a crowd at a potluck or party. But what exactly is a tamale casserole and how can you make it at home? In this article, we will explore the origins of this dish, its ingredients and variations, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to make a delicious tamale casserole at home.

The History of Tamales

Tamales have a long and rich history in Mexican cuisine. The word “tamale” comes from the Nahuatl word “tamalli” which means “wrapped food”. Tamales were a staple food for the Aztecs and Mayans and were often used as portable meals for hunters and warriors. They were also an important part of religious ceremonies and celebrations.

The traditional tamale is made by spreading a corn-based dough (masa) on a corn husk or banana leaf, filling it with a savory or sweet filling, and then steaming or boiling it. The filling can vary from region to region and can include meats, vegetables, cheese, and even fruits. Tamales are often served during holidays and special occasions, and they are a beloved dish in many Latin American countries.

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The Birth of Tamale Casserole

The tamale casserole, also known as tamale pie, is a modern twist on the traditional tamale. It is believed to have originated in the United States in the early 1900s when Mexican immigrants started to adapt their traditional dishes to the ingredients available in their new country. The first recorded recipe for tamale casserole appeared in a cookbook in 1911, and it has since become a popular dish in American households.

The tamale casserole combines the flavors of tamales with the convenience of a casserole. It is made by layering cornbread or cornmeal on the bottom of a baking dish, followed by a filling of meat, beans, and vegetables, and then topped with more cornbread. The casserole is then baked in the oven until the cornbread is golden and the filling is hot and bubbly.

The Ingredients of Tamale Casserole

The beauty of tamale casserole is that it can be made with a variety of ingredients, making it a versatile and customizable dish. However, there are some key ingredients that are essential to making a delicious tamale casserole.

Cornmeal or Cornbread Mix

The base of a tamale casserole is usually made with cornmeal or cornbread mix. Cornmeal is a coarse flour made from dried corn kernels, while cornbread mix is a pre-made mixture of cornmeal, flour, and leavening agents. Both options work well for a tamale casserole, but cornbread mix tends to be sweeter and more flavorful.

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Traditionally, tamales are made with pork, but for a tamale casserole, you can use any type of meat you prefer. Ground beef, chicken, or even vegetarian options like black beans or tofu can be used as the filling for the casserole. The meat is usually cooked with spices and seasonings to give it a flavorful kick.


Vegetables are an important component of tamale casserole, adding texture and flavor to the dish. Common vegetables used in tamale casserole include bell peppers, onions, corn, and tomatoes. You can also add other vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms, or spinach to make the casserole even more nutritious.


Cheese is a must-have ingredient in any tamale casserole. It adds a creamy and gooey texture to the dish and helps to bind the ingredients together. Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or a Mexican blend of cheeses are all great options for a tamale casserole.

Spices and Seasonings

To give your tamale casserole an authentic Mexican flavor, you will need to use a variety of spices and seasonings. Some common spices used in tamale casserole include chili powder, cumin, oregano, and garlic powder. You can also add some heat with cayenne pepper or hot sauce.

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Variations of Tamale Casserole

As mentioned earlier, tamale casserole is a versatile dish that can be customized to suit your taste preferences. Here are some popular variations of tamale casserole:

Vegetarian Tamale Casserole

For a meatless option, you can skip the meat and add more vegetables and beans to the casserole. You can also use a vegetarian meat substitute like tofu or tempeh for added protein.

Green Chile Tamale Casserole

This variation adds a spicy kick to the traditional tamale casserole by using green chiles and jalapenos in the filling. You can also top it with a layer of green chile sauce for extra flavor.

Enchilada Tamale Casserole

This version combines the flavors of enchiladas and tamales by using enchilada sauce and shredded cheese in the filling. It is a great way to use up leftover enchilada sauce and gives the casserole a deliciously tangy flavor.

How to Make Tamale Casserole at Home

Now that you know the history, ingredients, and variations of tamale casserole, it’s time to learn how to make it at home. Here is a simple and delicious recipe for tamale casserole:


  • 1 cup cornmeal or cornbread mix
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup shredded cheese


  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and then add in the vegetable oil and milk. Mix well.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Pour half of the cornbread mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread it evenly.
  6. In a large skillet, cook the ground beef over medium heat until browned. Add in the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened.
  7. Add in the diced tomatoes, black beans, corn, chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder. Stir to combine and let it cook for a few minutes.
  8. Pour the meat and vegetable mixture over the cornbread layer in the baking dish.
  9. Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of the meat mixture.
  10. Pour the remaining cornbread mixture on top of the cheese and spread it evenly.
  11. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cornbread is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  12. Let the casserole cool for a few minutes before serving.

In Conclusion:

Tamale casserole is a delicious and versatile dish that combines the flavors of tamales with the convenience of a casserole. It is a great option for busy weeknights or for feeding a crowd. With its rich history and endless variations, tamale casserole is a dish that will continue to be loved by many for years to come. So why not give it a try and add it to your list of go-to comfort foods?

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