Beef Tamale Pie With Cornmeal Crust Recipe

Simple and satisfying, chili pie is an all-seasons people pleaser. Jennifer Olvera

Though not slow-simmered, this dark, brooding chili gets a boost—and plenty of depth—from earthy ancho powder and unsweetened cocoa. The trick is having enough liquid, so the pie retains moisture while cooking. Having tried a few batches, this lineup—undrained tomatoes, two cans of chili beans (one drained), six ounces of beer and lime juice—works just right.

Meanwhile, a cornmeal crust adds texture and a touch of sweetness, thanks to a sprinkling of sugar. Just don't skimp on the baking soda, which keeps the topping airy.

Individual baking dishes work best, though a traditional casserole will more than suffice.

Note: The trick to making this dish work is having enough liquid in the filling and the right amount of baking soda in the crust. Individual baking dishes work best, though a traditional casserole will more than suffice.

Recipe Facts



Active: 25 mins
Total: 60 mins
Serves: 6 servings

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  • For the Chili:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large jalapeno, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained
  • 2 15-ounce cans chili beans, one drained
  • 6 ounces beer
  • 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lime
  • For the Cornmeal Crust:
  • 2/3 cup coarse-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • Sour cream (optional)


  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. When oil is shimmering, add onion, jalapeno and garlic to pan and sauté until slightly translucent. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Add chili powder, cumin, cocoa and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, beer, and lime juice and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook while you prepare the crust.

  3. Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, milk, eggs and melted butter in a medium bowl, whisking with a fork until just combined and lump-free. Fold in cheese, stirring to combine.

  4. Spray cooking spray on inside of individual baking crocks or a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Season chili to taste with salt. Fill prepared dishes 3/4 of the way with chili. Top with cornmeal mixture and spread evenly over the top of chili using a spatula.

  5. Place in oven and bake until browned and bubbly, 30-35 minutes. Serve with sour cream, if desired.

Special equipment

Six individual, oven-safe potpie dishes with two-cup capacity or a 13- by 9-inch baking dish