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.

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 jalapeño, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)

  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 2 tablespoons ancho chile 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 large 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 to 35 minutes. Serve with sour cream, if desired.


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.

Special Equipment

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

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
655 Calories
33g Fat
55g Carbs
36g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 655
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 33g 42%
Saturated Fat 13g 66%
Cholesterol 163mg 54%
Sodium 1508mg 66%
Total Carbohydrate 55g 20%
Dietary Fiber 5g 19%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 36g
Vitamin C 12mg 59%
Calcium 225mg 17%
Iron 8mg 42%
Potassium 886mg 19%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)