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Tamal Pie

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I love tamales (plural) but they can be really time-consuming to make. When I saw recipes out there for tamal pie I decided to make in a way that had more true Mexican flavors to it. So this is what I came up with. The topping wasn’t as fluffy as it was when I made it with cornbread mix. With this, it is a little denser and closer to a real tamal. As are the spices I used.

tamal pie
Tamal Pie

Or as us gringos would say Tamale Pie. I have seen a few recipes for Tamale Pie, even tried one and it was good. However, it didn’t have the taste of the tamal that my wife (mi Mexicana Bonita) made. The recipe that I followed used cornmeal + flour.

In order to get that taste of a real tamal, I used Maseca para tamal, Tamale flour. For the meat portion of the dish, the recipe called for one pound of ground beef and one package of Taco Seasoning. Like I said previously the dish was good but….. I went a little further and tried to get more authentic flavors.

For the meat portion I used a rack of baby back ribs I had in the freezer. I know, I know, some of you will think I am crazy but let me just say, the flavour of the pork was awesome after it was boiled and simmered. It’s a good way to desecrate baby back ribs, so hate me. And for the seasoning, I made a sauce with dried chiles + spices.

The Filling

One rack of bbribs enough for 1 1/2 pounds of meat (or any cut you desire). Cut the rack up so it fits into a pot. Cover with water add 1 coarsely chop a large onion, and some garlic. I used lots of garlic because I like it, go with your taste.

Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 2 to 3 hours until the meat is really tender and the bones drop out. After the meat is done reserve the liquid. Take two forks and pull the meat apart just like pulled pork. set aside and let it cool.

The Sauce:

  • 8 ancho chiles
  • 4 guajillo chiles
  • 2 chile de arbol (for heat – optional)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon cumin ground
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon (Canella Mexican)
  • 1 Teaspoon Mexican Oregano
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon salt


  • Clean all the dried chiles, wipe the dust off, etc.
  • Cut the stems off and de-seed, leave the seeds in if you want more heat as that is where the heat is, (in the seeds and ribs of the chiles).
  • Put them in a dry fry pan or comal and heat just until fragrant.
  • Place them in a bowl and cover with boiling water.
  • While you are waiting for the chiles to hydrate roast the tomatoes and onion.
  • Place on the stove burner and get a char going on the outside.
  • When the chiles are hydrated about 20 minutes and the onion and tomatoes are charred place the chiles and onion and tomatoes in a blender and puree.
  • In all likelihood, the blender will need some liquid to help the process so add some of the reserved broth from the “MEAT” and process until it is the consistency of a pancake batter.
  • The liquid from the chiles may be a bit bitter so discard that. As you are blending the sauce add the remaining ingredients.*** This part is essential if you want a filling that will hold together and not run when you dish it out of the pan.Using a deep sided 10 to 12 inch cast iron fry pan or stainless (I have a thick bottomed Kirkland) add some shredded pork and sauce and mix well. Heat the mixture on medium-high.

    ***In the meantime add 1/2 cup of sauce to a bowl with 1/4 cup flour and mix well into a paste.

    When to sauce and meat is hot, gradually add the paste until the mixture thickens really good. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes to cook the flour. You can cool the mixture or add the topping and bake. Salt to taste.


    Topping (dough):

    Preheat Oven to 350 F
    3/4 cup masa para tamal
    1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 cup whole milk
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    One 4-ounce can green chiles
    1 cup cotija cheese or shredded cheddar cheese OR your choice.

    Mix the dry flours with the salt sugar and baking powder, and mix well. Add the egg and the extra virgin olive oil to the milk, whisk slightly then add the chiles, mix again. Take half the cheese spread on top of meat mixture already in the pan. Now mix the dry with the wet and mix, don’t over mix. It will be thick. Spread out and cover the meat mixture and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the juices bubble from the side.

    Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes so the filling cools a bit and will set. Enjoy. Slather with salsa verde (Green Salsa) and a bit of sour cream might be good as well.


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2 thoughts on “Tamal Pie”

  1. Oh my gosh, this looks wonderful and delicious!! I am hoping I will get up the gumption to try it out~! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    • Oh my gosh, this looks wonderful and delicious!! I am hoping I will get up the gumption to try it out~! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

      Your welcome if you do let me know how you like it


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