Tamale Pie definitely falls into the classic comfort food section of the Capsule Kitchen. To us it’s like chili, but far superior because of the soft cornmeal crust that blankets the chili-like base. We offer two versions: one with plant-based meat and beans and another with just beans and corn. We also have an option for topping the cornmeal crust with crushed tortilla chips if you want to keep it totally plant-based, a little shredded cheese if that works for you, or you can use both! Like most recipes we create, you can customize it.
It is simple and quick enough to make for weeknight dinner, yet festive enough to serve for a casual dinner when you add a basket of tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa—a pitcher of margaritas!—to start. To accompany the Tamale Pie, make some Simple Slaw (recipe below), and then end the meal with a batch of Easy Chocolate N’Ice Cream.
[To make Simple Cole Slaw, mix 8 cups shredded cabbage, 2 coarsely grated medium carrot, 1/2 small thinly sliced red onion, 3/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably plant-based), 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 2 teaspoon celery seeds, and generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.]
Making Tamale Pie Ahead
You can make and refrigerate Tamale Pie a day ahead, including topping it with the cornmeal mush. Before refrigerating it, place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the pie to prevent the cornmeal mush from forming a skin. An hour or so before serving, adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap, top the pie with cheese and/or tortilla chips, cover with heavy-duty foil and bake until heated through, about thirty minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with cilantro and optional red onion and follow the broiling and resting instructions in the recipe. Any leftovers can be covered and refrigerated for up to three days and reheated in the microwave.
A Note on Plant-Based Meat Substitutes
People are split on the plant-based meat substitutes. Some say they can’t taste the difference and have enthusiastically embraced them, while others have said they don’t quite like the taste and are leery of the lengthy ingredient list. I’m completely non- judgmental about it. Our mission is simple: get people eating less meat. For some that will include plant-based meat substitutes, for others it will not. And I want to make sure we provide recipes for people in both camps.
As for our family, we really enjoy fun foods like plant-based ground beef for burgers or loaded nachos. We also enjoy Morning Star meatless breakfast sausages alongside eggs or a tofu scramble. We find that eating these products once or twice a week helps us cut down on our meat consumption even further.
Tamale Pie (Plant-Based Meat Version)
- 1 1/2 pounds plant-based ground meat, such as Beyond or Impossible
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chili powder blend, divided (make sure you use a chili powder spice blend, not straight chili powder)
- 2 cans (16 oz each) pinto beans, drained with 1/4 of beans mashed
- 2 cans (2.25 ounce each) diced green chiles, you can substitute a diced and sautèed green bell pepper
- 1 jar (16 oz) prepared salsa (1 jar is about 2 Cups)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
- 1 cup cornmeal
- (1 tablespoon) plant-based butter, if not using cheese)
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (1 cup cheddar is about 4 ounces)
- 1 cup crumbled tortilla chips
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and turn on broiler. Heat a large (12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add plant-based meat and cook, stirring frequently, until it loses its raw color, a couple of minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the chili powder, then beans, chiles, salsa, and 1/4 cup of the cilantro; simmer to blend flavors, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of water, cornmeal, remaining 2 teaspoons of chili powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt to boil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, whisking frequently until mixture thickens to soft mush consistency, just a couple of minutes. (If not topping it with cheese, stir in plant-based butter now.)
- Pour mush over hot meat mixture, spreading with a spatula to completely cover. Sprinkle with optional cheese, remaining 1/4 cup of cilantro, and the crumbled chips. Broil until chips turn golden brown, cheese (if using) melts, and mush gets a little crusty, about 5 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes and serve.