This paleo tamale pie combines a beef chili base made with peppers, tomatoes, and squash with a fluffy, grain-free “cornbread” topping.
Have you heard of tamale pie? It’s a casserole that’s loosely based on the ingredients for tamales, except they’re layered in a dish or skillet instead of wrapped in corn husks. Think a really delicious beef chili with a layer of cornbread baked right on top. I didn’t grow up eating tamale pie, but apparently a lot of people did–a Bon Appétit article caught my eye recently with the headline: “Cornbread Tamale Pie Is the Greatest Recipe of All Time.” The author made a great case for why this dish is one of the best foods ever, and I was left with a distinct hankering to create a paleo tamale pie of my own.
For the filling, I packed in as much delicious produce as humanly possible: diced scallions, garlic, tomatoes, bell peppers, butternut squash, and cilantro. No, butternut squash is not a traditional ingredient in tamale pie, but I had half of one in the fridge just begging to be thrown in. I ended up loving the subtle sweetness the squash added. Conventional tamale pies often have corn kernels in the filling, so the butternut makes up for that by lending sweet pops of flavor without the addition of grains.
When you make this, you may find yourself tempted, like I was, to just eat the chili base on its own and to forget about the faux cornbread topping. I actually spooned myself out a little bowl of filling to eat while the tamale pie baked, and I suggest you do the same: I don’t want you to miss out on the fluffy topping, but the chili is great in its own right, so why not sneak in a little mid-cookup snack?