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?
This super easy, one-bowl topping is a variation of the skillet “cornbread” from my cookbook Paleo Planet. The almond flour helps replicate the texture of cornmeal, tapioca flour makes the topping fluffy, and a little honey adds just a tad of sweetness and helps the topping form an irresistibly golden brown crust.
The scent of this tamale pie as it bakes is one of the best smells to come out of my kitchen in a long time, and the taste of the finished pie is just as good. While I especially love this right after it’s made because of the contrast of the topping’s crispy crust and fluffy interior, leftovers are also great heated up over the next few days.
Because this paleo tamale pie is packed with meat, a variety of veggies, and a good dose of healthy fats, I enjoy it as a one-pan meal and don’t feel the need to serve a side. However, if you want to round out the plate, a simple green salad and/or a dollop of guacamole would fit right in.
If you grew up eating tamale pie, what ingredients went into yours? And if you didn’t, have I convinced you to give my paleo version of this Southwestern comfort food classic a chance?
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For the chili filling:
For the “cornbread” topping:
Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 482Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 105mgSodium: 598mgCarbohydrates: 27gFiber: 5gSugar: 9gProtein: 24g
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