Easy tamale casserole is a fun dinner that has the flavor of tamales in a quick and fun layered casserole form. Tamale pie is a perfectly flavorful weeknight dinner that is sure to be a hit!
This tamale casserole is much quicker to make than tamales themselves, but it is loaded with delicious flavor that your family will love. The delicious cornmeal base whips up quick.
The sauce, meat and melted cheese are the perfect way to bring it together. Top it with all of your favorite toppings and your family will be begging for this to be in the regular dinner menu rotation!
Obviously tamales are a special occasion food. They some time to put together and little finesse.
Taking a little bit of that feel and flavor and turning it into a casserole makes everything more approachable and doable for a weeknight meal. So tamale pie is much more likely to make an appearance at our dinner table than the real deal.
Of course this tamale pie is nowhere near traditional. But it is a fun play on the idea of a tamale.
I suppose it is another fun entry for your Tex-Mex repertoire, with a little midwesterner thrown in for fun. Maybe we can go ahead and call it fusion to make it extra hip!
The Corn Base
Of course if you are going to name something after tamales, there needs to be cornmeal. Instead of making a masa, this recipe uses a box of corn muffin mix as the base.
If you don’t want to use a mix, check out my recipe for homemade tamale pie. I has the same feeling as this recipe, but starts with individual ingredients instead of the mix.
Either way, the end result is delicious. The mix shaves a few minutes and ingredients off the list making getting dinner on the table that much easier.
There is no shame in a shortcut if it means getting a tasty homemade dinner on the table instead of ordering out. So do whatever works for you!
All you have to do is stir in some milk, egg, a can of creamed corn and chopped green chilies and you have a tasty base. It’s not too unlike chili cheese corn casserole to be honest.
Then pour it into a 12-inch cast iron skillet or a 9×13-inch pan and throw it in the oven to set up a bit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. That gives you a delicious base to build on.
Use whatever kind of ground meat floats your boat on top of the cornbread base. I started making this recipe using ground turkey almost exclusively just because it is economical and easily sourced.
However ground venison is a great option as well. We love using venison in recipes like tacos and the spices in this casserole lend itself well to the flavor of that meat if you have hunters in your family.
Of course ground beef is a perfectly tasty option as well. Whatever you happen to have is great!
Just brown it up with a few simple ingredients from your spice cabinet and you’ll be on your way to a tasty supper!
The Sauce and Cheese
The sauce is another place where you can choose to make it easy, or go whole hot. Open up a can of enchilada sauce if you have one you love, or make your own homemade enchilada sauce if you would like.
It is completely up to you and the amount of time and ambition you have. I’ve only ever made it with red enchilada sauce, but I can’t see any reason why you can’t use green if that’s your favorite.
Of course a layered of melty cheese makes a casserole that much better. So a nice smattering of cheese on top is pretty much a requirement.
We almost always have colby jack on hand, so that is what I tend to reach for. However, cheddar, pepper jack, Monterey jack or whatever you have is sure to work wonderfully.
Just sprinkle your browned meat, sauce and cheese over top of your partially cooked base and pop it back in the oven to bring it all together. When it comes out, it will be gooey and delicious.
The toppings are a great place to make this meal your own. There are so many fabulous options you could sprinkle on top.
We love sour cream, so that is nearly a necessity around here. A handful of chopped cilantro adds a pop of fresh herbiness, but leave it off if that’s not your jam.
A spoonful of guacamole is another way to add that creaminess to a dish. I certainly wouldn’t say no to some yummy guac on top.
A spoonful of salsa or a bit of chopped tomato would be another way to top it off. Or add some jalapenos for added spicy kick!
It is fun to set out a variety of toppings and let everyone customize their own plate with whatever goodies speak to them. Then everyone can have their own masterpiece!
More Tex-Mex Recipes
Chicken enchiladas are a fabulous meal. My sister-in-law shared her signature recipe with me several years ago and I switched up the filling recipe to let it cook in the slow cooker. They really are pretty fabulous!
Ground turkey and rice burritos have layer after layer of flavor. They are a great hearty dinner filled with so much homemade goodness.
One pan taco rice skillet is another way to get big Tex-Mex flavor on the table without a ton of effort. It all cooks in one pan making clean-up easy as well!
If you are looking for something sweet to finish the meal, fried ice cream bars would be a fun option. Or you could try cinnamon sopapilla cheesecake bars or layered lime sherbet bars for fun and flavorful desserts.
- 1 lb ground meat (turkey, beef or venison work great)
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 egg
- 14 oz can cream style corn
- 4 oz box corn muffin mix
- 4 oz can chopped green chilies
- 2 cups enchilada sauce
- 1 cup shredded Colby jack cheese
- salt and pepper
- Optional toppings: sour cream, green onions, cilantro, jalapenos
- Preheat oven to 400°F and spray a 9×13 pan or a 12-inch cast iron skillet.
- Brown turkey, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and cumin. Drain if necessary.
- Stir together the milk, egg, cream style corn, corn muffin mix and chopped green chilies.
- Spread into prepared pan and bake until just barely set, about 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and spread turkey over the cornbread mixture. Top with enchilada sauce and then shredded cheese. Bake for another 15 minutes.
- Serve with sour cream, cilantro, green onions and jalapeno slices.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 449Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 123mgSodium: 1208mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 3gSugar: 12gProtein: 31g
All nutritional information is estimated and will depend on the exact ingredients you use.
This recipe originally appeared on Cooking With Carlee in 2016. It was updated with new pictures, a video and an updated recipe card in 2021.