CrockPot Tamale Pie Recipe

Tamale Pie is a fun and easy casserole that you can make with or without meat. This happens to be a gluten free, vegetarian version but you can certainly make it with All Purpose flour and any already-cooked meat that you have.

This is a hearty and filling meal that is  a great change from a traditional casserole to use up leftovers.

Tamale Pie is a fun and easy casserole that you can make vegetarian or with meat. This is a crockpot slow cooker recipe.

Day 115.

I am so excited to share this recipe---it worked really well, and was incredibly easy. I was thrilled that the cornbread topping set so nicely and it complimented the flavor of the filling perfectly.

I was inspired by this post from Lorie a month ago or so during slow-cooking Thursday. 

I get the best ideas from reading blogs!

How to Make Homemade From Scratch Tamale Pie

The Ingredients.
serves 4 to 6

These are the standard ingredients needed to make a tamale pie casserole from scratch.

Cornbread topping:
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour (I used Pamela's baking mix because we happen to be gluten-free)
1 cup milk (any variety is fine)
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder (use even if your gluten-free mix contains baking powder; this helps with rising)

The Filling.

I chose to make this vegetarian because I put this on at 6am and had no interest whatsoever in browning meat that early in the morning. I

 was lucky my slippers were on the right feet. You, however, can add 1 pound of your favorite browned or already cooked meat if you'd like. 

[this is a fantastic way to clean out your pantry and fridge and re-use leftovers!!]

1 (15-ounce) can drained and rinsed black beans
1 (14.5-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can drained corn
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup diced onion (I had some leftover in the fridge from a previous dish)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

The Directions.

For best results, use a 4-quart slow cooker. [affiliate link]
I'd highly recommend the 4-quart just because there isn't all that much food, here. 

Spray your crockpot with cooking spray. 

Dump in the filling ingredients--cheese, too!-- and stir well to distribute the spices. 

You will not be able to stir this again, so please check to see that the spices aren't in a clump anywhere.

In a separate bowl, mix together the cornbread topping. 

When finished, pour evenly over the filling, spreading with a spatula if needed.

Cover and cook on low for 4 to 7 hours or on high for 2 to 4 hours. 

I was shocked at how quickly this cooked. I set it on low and expected it to take about 8, but it was all brown and golden and perfectly crispy at the 6 hour mark.

 So we ate it for lunch!

I did not prop open the lid or use papertowels to absorb the condensation. All I did was take the lid off and let it stay open for about 15 minutes before cutting into.

I scooped it out with a large spoon after testing with a knife that the cornbread was finished.

If you'd prefer to NOT make a homemade from scratch cornbread topping because you already have a mix in the house, that's fine!

Just mix it up according to the package instructions. No problem at all. :-)

The Verdict.

The kids at first only ate the cornbread topping, but then discovered that the beans and the corn were tasty and ate the rest. 

This was a nice, hearty meal that didn't leave me over-full. It's a keeper recipe!!


Tamale Pie casserole is a great way to use up leftovers in the house. This is a gluten free and vegetarian version that can be made easily in the crockpot slow cooker.

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Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at April 24, 2008

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What they say about this article

  1. Anonymous4/24/2008

    I just wanted to thank you for your blog - which i only found recently. You have inspired me to pull my crockpot out every Tuesday. It has been wonderful.
    I work full time and it is really nice not to have to start cooking dinner for two boys and a husband at 5:00. Usually we eat about 6:15 but on Tuesday we have time to do other things because we eat before 5:30. It has been GREAT!
    Thank You. I'll let you know if I find anything extraordinary to cook.

  2. Mmm, this sounds like my favorite taco soup topped with tamale batter. Why haven't I thought of this before?

  3. This sounds delicious. I love how you included real photos, particularly of the ingredients. So helpful!

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  4. I'm so happy to see this doesn't involve a boxed cornbread mix! I love tamales, but would never have the nerve to actually make some so this will be a great alternative. It looks so good!

  5. Anonymous4/24/2008

    A friend tuned me into your blog. I have been looking for tasty, healthy crock pot recipes since I work part time and am a mother of an infant and 5 year old. Tonight I'll be trying this recipe and have marked many others that I would like to try. Crockpots are great! Thanks for all the recipes and your humor.

  6. OMG! this looks great...too bad in my vast stockpile I don't have a single container of cornmeal...guess who is running to the store?

  7. Anonymous4/24/2008

    This looks great! I was recently looking at a conventional tamale pie recipe but didn't want to heat up the oven.

    I can't tell you how much I appreciate this blog!!!

    P. S. I like that I recognize the ingredients/brands you use. You must have the same stores around that I do. Plus anything that makes me "need" to go to Trader Joe's is okay in my book LOL!

  8. We both had mexican on the mind - sounds yummy!

  9. Hi Steph. this sounds so good and am glad to hear that it wasn't heavy..thanks for the well wishes for McKenna ;) and for the blog visit..have a great weekend.

  10. Love it, I've tried this recipe before and it's so good.

  11. I've made a similar recipe a couple of times but never thought of making it in the crockpot. I will give this a try. Thanks for being the guinea pig ;-)

  12. Steph, a thought on browning beef: I have started buying the Laura's brand extra lean *four percent) ground beef, and I find you can actually put it straight in the crockpot with no worries.
    For tamale pie, i'd chunk it up into the veggie mixture and let it go. I SWEAR it is not greasy if you use the extra lean stuff (also works with turkey breast and ground bison).

    LOVE love love this recipe. WIll try it next week when Randy is here!

  13. this was so good and easy. i even used silk milk in mine and it came out great...wish I wouldn't have forgotten the corn though, lol.

  14. This sounds wonderful! Sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing! :D

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  15. i am going to try this tamale recipe today and have a good feeling about it. thanks, i really like your blog and have bookamrked it.

  16. Just wanted to delurk and tell you that we had this last night and it was DELISH! I cheated and used a cornbread mix (from Trader Joes), but it was really yummy anyway. My husband the carnivore didn't even realize that it was vegetarian. Thanks so much!

  17. I found this last night. I put the ground beef in the crock this morning on high. It was cooked through in about 3 hours on high. Now I am just going to add all the other stuff. It has saved so much time.
    thanks again for all the recipes

  18. I love this recipe and that I can have it on weight Watchers!

  19. No peppers??!! That is a rare treat, for mexican food. My pepper-intolerant family thanks you.

  20. Anonymous7/30/2008

    I made this for dinner last night with the addition of browned ground turkey. At 4.5 hrs on low the cornbread topping was still mushy so i turned it up to high. I cooked it on high for 2 more hrs. The darn thing was still mushy and gummy. The bottom part was delicious though. I tossed out the gummy cornbread mess and made cornbread muffins for the leftovers. I plan on making this again without the topping.

  21. Anonymous8/07/2008

    I am preparing the topping right now and am wondering where the vegetable oil is in the recipe. Is it meant to have a different texture than cornbread? Does it come out dry. The topping recipe is similar to a cornbread recipe I use except for the lack of 1/4 cup veg oil. So far, the filling smells great and I am looking forward to having dinner ready following an afternoon dr's appt!

  22. Hi Lisa,

    I didn't add any veg oil. It will end up with the same corn-bready texture after cooking. it doesn't need the oil as moisture since it can't dry out the way it could in the oven.


  23. This sounds YUMMY!!!!
    I'm always looking for new things to cook!!!

  24. I saw you on the Rachael Ray show, and immediately checked out your blog. I think you had a great and very ambitious idea. I made this for my family and my parents last night and everybody loved it! I can't wait to try some more of your recipes. Thank you!

  25. Anonymous9/13/2008

    Could I use ground beef or ground turkey in this? And would I leave out anything because of it? My husband loved Tamale pie but also loves meat.



  26. Hi DeAnne,

    absolutely. I would brown either ground turkey or beef on the stove, drain, and then add to the mixture. I think the meat would create too much juice and oil if it cooked in the crockpot with the vegetables and the cornbread wouldn't set properly.


  27. Anonymous9/13/2008

    oops, I'm so sorry that I didn't read the first part of the blog, I now saw that you said to put meat. Sorry I took up your time. And I read that while at the store and read your reply after I put it in the pot. Any how, I used ground beef from my fathers ranch so I didn't drain it but it's not fat at all, there was maybe 2-4T of liquid in the bottom of the pot, and when I mixed it, it appeared to look pretty thick.

    Well, time will tell. I was so excited that my husband asked for a crock pot meal because I haven't really had the urge until he asked.

    I'll give the verdict later....


    thanks again.


  28. no worries, DeAnne. I hope it works out well for you two!

  29. Oh your going to love this, my husband said that it took him back 40 years to his childhood when someone in his family made tamale pie. He gave it a "G" rating for gluttony. Thanks again for another great meal. And all three of the kids ate it, they are 4, 3 and 11 mo.


  30. I made this for dinner last night. It did take the full time to cook k(6 hours) but it turned out GREAT!

  31. Anonymous11/10/2008

    Made this the other day and it was great. It was done in 4 hours on low! The cornbread was done, but moist. For leftovers, I separated the cornbread from the meat-bean mixture and made soup by adding a can of tomatoes and some water. Had some sour cream on hand to put a spoonful on top. We reheated the cornbread in the microwave. Really good eating!

  32. Thanks for another great recipe. I made this last night and it was so yummy. I did overcook the cornbread because I forgot to call home and have my boyfriend check on it. It was still delicious. Next time I will only cook for 4 hours.

  33. i am planning on making this tomorrow. what size crockpot should i use? i have a 7 quart and a 3 quart. suggestions? thanks!

  34. Hi there,

    I used a 4 quart when I made it. If you use the 7, you'll need to up the amount of ingredients. I am pretty sure everything will fit in the 3 quart okay; but I haven't tried it personally.


  35. Anonymous2/02/2009

    I doubled this recipe for my office pot-luck (to serve 12), and added 1lb lean ground beef, 1lb pork sausage and 1 can diced grren was a huge hit! I blended all the incredients (with exception of cornbread mixture) the night before and stored in fridge..flavors melded nicely! Thanks for a great, easy and de-lish recipe :)

  36. Anyway to make this without eggs? My son has an egg allergy and I'd really like to make this. I haven't had much success with the Ener-G egg replacer in the past.

  37. Hey, I just made this tonight and the fam loved it!

  38. Erin Koble7/10/2009

    Ohhh my gosh, I made this today for my boyfriend and I.... it was AMAZING! Took 5.5 hours to cook on low, and the topping was like SOOO super perfect and delicious and the bottom stuff was sooo good. We are vegetarians, next time I think I am going to add some soy crumbles at the bottom... I wanted more stuff at the bottom too since the top was so nice and thick! Thanks for a great recipe.

  39. Dear CrockPot Lady - I am very excited to try crock pot cooking for the first time (new-working-mom). I wanted to try the tamale pie, but it seems like i need to be home to watch for it to be done - would you agree with that? (especially since i have no experience with the crock pot). I hope you are still answering questions and i am excited to have found your site as I begin my crock pot journey....

  40. hi Stacy, I'd agree with you, that if you're using the crock for the first time, this might not be the best recipe for you to begin with.

    I'd recommend a roast, stew, or soup as one of your first adventures.


  41. The flavor was good but it didn't come together the way it was supposed to for me... I think my crockpot is too deep and narrow because the topping was really thick, around 1" at the edge to 2" at the center. Also, when I got home (it had been on low for about 4.5 hours at this point), the topping was cooked but there was a lot of liquid all around the edges. I drained some off worried it would be gummy but then cut a slit between the topping and the side of the pot. It hissed like a geyser and all the remaining liquid rushed back under, it was really odd! I had to cook it a lot longer so the topping wasn't mushy on the edges so the filling was dry. :(

    No one else reported their topping making a complete seal and trapping the liquid on top?

  42. Anonymous8/02/2010

    Mine actually came out a little dry. Unlike the taco soup, which is just about right. Did cheat and used Jiffy cornbread mix, but think next time I will add about a cup of chicken broth to filling. Still tasty and delish w/ some sour cream on top! Thanks for the recipe!

  43. Anonymous11/18/2010

    I used a mix, skipped the oil, and cooked it at High for 2.5 h in an oval pot. The cornbread wasn't bread-y at all, but had the texture of the cornmeal in tamales. I wonder if that was because I started it at home, then had to transport it for 40 mins, then plugged it in again? It was a hit, at any rate!

  44. This was the first I tried from the cookbook, which I just bought... great flavor, but like a pp, my crockpot must be too narrow, because it seemed like there was way too much cornbread. It was thick and dry!

  45. Jamie in IL8/08/2011

    I made this one tonight & it turned out great!!

  46. This looks great! I want to make this for a potluck that I'm attending on Wednesday night, so I was wondering if I'd have to double the recipe... How many servings did this make as is? Thanks in advance for the feedback!


  47. I'm making this right now, I forgot to add the corn but I added ground turkey, so I will probably just make a cream cheese corn to go along with this. Smells so good, Thanks!!


  48. I just discovered your blog this past week and i've been eyeing this recipe for a few days. I love that all of the ingredients were in my cabinet already. My husband enjoyed it and so did I.Next time I may just add a tablespoon of sugar instead of the full 1/4.You have saved this mom to a newborn a few headaches when it comes to dinner.

  49. I made this last night! Added some browned extra lean ground beef to the bottom, and a chopped up jalapeno to the cornbread. The BF loved it, he ate it with a bit of salsa. Cooked it for 3.5 hrs on high. You're the best Steph!

  50. Love this. My wife sometimes makes something similar to this in the oven, but I've been experimenting with the Slow cooker (and glad I came across your blog...heard you on NPR).

    I cheated and used a Trader Joes cornbread mix. I also added a lb of browned lean ground beef. I think I could have added another can of tomatoes or even another can of beans, cause there was a lot more cornbread than I thought. I really like how well the cornbread cooked in the slow cooker. When my wife makes this in the oven she sometimes runs the risk of having a few undercooked portions of bread in the mix.

  51. I made this tonight. Struggled to find black beans and fire roasted tomatoes so used normal canned tomatoes and smoked paprika and some black eyed beans and it was AMAZING! My boyfriend and 4 yr old demolished it. Took me a while to convert everything from cups to grams as we don't use cups here in the UK but it was so so worth it. Thank you!

  52. I added 1.5 lbs ground beef (cooked with taco seasoning) and topped with 2 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix. I didn't use the slow cooker--no time--but baked it in the oven. Tasty, topped with guacamole, salsa, sour cream.

  53. I forgot to add that previously I had used the slow cooker, without meat, for this recipe. It turned out perfect in the slow cooker.