Nov 1, 2018
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I love tamales. And before I get nay-sayers commenting on how this skillet tamale pie is not a traditional tamale; this recipe has everything you love about tamales except the time commitment to make them.
So yes, I’m breaking all the rules and turning tamales into a skillet pie. But unless your tia or abuela invite you to a tamale-making party or you have a killer Mexican restaurant that makes them really authentic… this is the next best thing.
First, the recipe is super easy to make. It all comes together in a cast iron skillet.
What are tamales made of?
If you’ve never had a real tamale, you owe yourself a favor. Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made with masa (corn dough) and meat that gets wrapped and cooked in corn husks. It’s one of those dishes you’ve got to taste for yourself, but once you’ve tried, there is no going back.
Only one problem, traditional tamales are a real production. The entire tamale making process involves HOURS of work. So, if anyone is going to make tamales it’s not going to be one batch for a meal; instead, you make dozens…
But that’s not happening today or anytime soon at our houses now that I’m sharing this tamale skillet pie recipe. It’s exactly what we need to get that tamale fix without spending an entire day wrapping meat and masa into corn husks. Yup, you’re welcome.
Instead, the meat gets seasoned with chili spices, cooked in a cast iron skillet, and topped with masa (corn) batter. Transfer the pan into the oven and that pillowy masa crust turns golden brown… YUM!
When you take it out of the oven you’ll ask yourself “Did I really just make this, all by myself?” Yes, yes you did.
Can I substitute the ground turkey for another meat?
This recipe uses ground turkey but you can substitute ground beef, pork, or chicken.
And just like traditional tamales, this recipe is known to feed a crowd. So, in case you need to feed a small army, Tamale Skillet Pie is your answer.
Personally, this is one of my go-to dishes for Sunday supper when I’ll usually family over. It’s a hearty family meal everyone loves and the presentation is killer. Like you slaved over a meal… but didn’t.
As far as leftovers go, you’ll rejoice because leftovers are better the second day! The smoky spices sit overnight and really get into the ground meat. Plus, if you’re using turkey or chicken… they tend to be kind of bland so the more time it has to absorb the seasoning the better.
For lunches, I pack it into a thermos for the kids since they don’t have access to a microwave. I bring it to the office in a glass container and microwave it.
Can you freeze tamale pie?
Oh yes, you can! I like to bag it in single-serve portions for later. It thaws and heats faster plus it’s a single meal for another day.
An important tip is to let it rest for 5 minutes after you pull it out of the oven so the meat and masa have time to set. And it’s fine. It won’t get cold since a cast iron skillet keeps everything warm longer.
If you have cilantro around, sprinkle some. Then add a little avocado -because… avocados on everything! and you’re ready to devour a delicious meal.
Do you like tamales? Where do you normally buy them? or do you make them?
Turkey Skillet Tamale Pie
For the filling:
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 medium bell pepper cored, seeded, and chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups frozen corn
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 1 cup water
For the topping:
- 2 ½ cups milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 large eggs beaten
- cilantro for garnish
- 2 avocados sliced
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- In a cast iron skillet or oven-safe skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook, for about 4 minutes until veggies have softened. Add in the ground turkey, chili powder, cumin, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper, with a wooden spatula break up the ground turkey and stir with the vegetables as it cooks, for about 5 minutes. Add in the tomatoes and corn, and stir to combine.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal and water. Pour the cornmeal mixture into the skillet and stir to combine with the meat and veggies. Reduce to the to simmer.
- Meanwhile, prepare the cornmeal topping in a medium saucepan over medium heat, by combining the milk, butter and remaining salt, stirring frequently until it comes to a simmer. Add in the remaining cornmeal and cook, siring, until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in cheese and eggs.
- Pour topping over the skillet and spread to cover. Place the skillet into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes until the cheese is golden brown and cornmeal mixture is cooked.
- Remove from oven. Top with chopped cilantro and avocado.
I made tamales from scratch a month ago..Half & 3/4 the way through hollered to hubby, well this won’t happen again..Hours later we ate them during football and all we could say why didn’t we make more? Will let u know how this goes over.
Now we know why they make tamale parties 😉
This sound delicious, but I’m dairy free. Can the cheese be eliminated? Fake cheese substitutes just don’t taste the same lol. I would assume non dairy milk and butter substitutes wouldn’t change the flavor too much?
The cheese can be eliminated or substituted with a dairy-free alternative. They don’t taste the same but they do add that cheesiness. Making this recipe dairy-free won’t change the fact that it’s epic and it really serves a crowd. Enjoy!
Hi Laura – this looks delicious! Can you please update/clarify how the cornmeal should be divided? Steps 3 & 4 are a little confusing without this info. Thanks!
Hi Carolyn! I’ve updated the recipe. For some reason, it didn’t show all of it.
How much cornmeal do you use with water to put for thickener And how much for the topping. Would like to try this.Thanks!–
Hi Barbara, sorry about that. The recipe did now show the quantity for the toppings. It’s now updated.