Tamale Pie

Ever have a week that you wish you could start over? I desperately want to go back to last Monday morning, before I had to make the decision to start my mother on hospice care.

The 14 year battle with lung cancer is coming to its conclusion. It is not over yet, but there comes a time when even the bravest and strongest warriors must lay down their arms, and surrender.

I am going to do my best to keep up with posting here, but forgive me if the post is just a photograph or a previously posted recipe. Some of early posts were seen by about three people total, so hopefully they’ll be “new to you.”

This recipe is one of my mother’s favorite. I remember her making this tamale pie all the time when I was a kid. I would steal the black olives and stick them on my fingers, then eat them one by one. I’ve already shared that joy with my daughter, since your fingers don’t fit into the olives once you grow up.

This recipe for tamale pie is a little different than others, in that you do not make a cornbread batter to spread on top. You just sprinkle the cornmeal over the juicy, spiced meat, which then absorbs all that flavor.

Recipe: Tamale Pie


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with 1/2 can water
  • 1 cup black olives, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups corn meal, divided
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Over medium high flame, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
  3. Add the onion and red pepper to the pan, stirring occasionally, cook 3-5 minutes, until vegetables are softened.
  4. Add the garlic, cook about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  5. Add the ground beef, chili powder, salt, and cumin to the pan, stirring to mix well.
  6. Brown the beef, then add the tomatoes and half can of water, and the olives.
  7. Spoon about half the ground beef mixture into a large, deep casserole.
  8. Sprinkle half of the cornmeal evenly over the ground beef.
  9. Top the cornmeal with the remaining ground beef, then sprinkle the the remaining cornmeal over the top.
  10. Spread the cheese evenly over the entire top of the cornmeal.
  11. Bake the tamale pie for 45-50 minutes.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 45 minute(s)

13 thoughts on “Tamale Pie”

  1. You are at the very hardest part of the journey. May your mother’s next little while be as painless as possible, may you and Ruby take whatever joy you can in her company for as long as possible, and may you all hold each other close. We all love you Cheryl.

  2. I feel so blessed to have found your website with such wonderful recipes from such a gifted woman. May God carry you through this difficult time. You made the right decision with Hospice. They are wonderful and will help you through this difficult stage in your life and your mother’s. Thank you for sharing and God bless.

  3. Having experienced a similar final year with my mother I want you to know that the memories of all the good years you shared will get you through this.

  4. PRAYERS TO YOU !!! I lost my father about a year and a half ago and my mother has Alzheimer’s….. so I hear your struggle, God bless your Mom’s journey, may it be as painless as possible, and prayers for strength to you and your family. YOU are a blessed and talented chef, I appreciate you !!!! Karen

  5. This brought back memories of a frantic call I got from my sister one year around the holidays asking if I had a copy of one of Mom’s recipes. She was afraid it was lost forever as another sister didn’t have the recipe either. Doesn’t take much to make the association of a home cooked meal and recipe with those we love.

  6. The year anniversary of my mother’s death is nearing. She suffered from dementia for several years before she passed. It is the beginning of a difficult journey. Her light will be within you. Her strength will be within you. Her memories will be within you. What comforted me the most after her passing was being able to let go of my recent memories of her illness. Friends and family provided me with stories and pictures of her girlhood, ther teen years, as a young woman dating and then marrying my dad; of a young mother. Reflecting on those parts of her life that were in the end obscured by her illness gave me some peace; I hope the same for you. The depth of the sadness is a reflection of the fullness of you memories of the life you shared with her.

    Prayers for peace for the both of you.

  7. You are a great daughter. Blessings to you. Thank you for sharing this important step in your life.

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