Vegan Texas Tamale Pie 🌶 A simply delicious and satisfying Southwestern Tex-Mex inspired recipe filled with zesty flavor and a colorful combo of beans, peppers, tomatoes, and sweet corn, topped with fluffy homemade cornbread.
This vegan Texas tamale pie recipe is one of those great down-home, budget-friendly meals that is perfect to whip up when you need something hearty, healthy, and filling to serve to your hungry family or friends in under an hour.
Prepared with basic ingredients you might keep in your cupboard, this simple recipe can be easily adjusted to suit your tastes with the groceries you have on hand, much like my 20-minute vegan chili or this easy and delicious vegan lentil veggie soup.
Where did the tamale pie originate? If you aren't familiar with tamale pie, the first recipe originated more than a century ago in Texas and became a popular dish to serve in high school cafeterias. Texas tamale pie is an American "Tex-Mex" dish influenced by Southwestern cuisine, with ingredients commonly used by the Tejano people of Texas. Typically made with layers of ground meat, cheese, peppers, and olives baked with a corn meal topping, tamale pie could be thought of as a deconstructed version of traditional Mexican tamales.
What is vegan Texas tamale pie, you might ask? Considered a classic comfort food, and while there are as many opinions on tamale pie as there are variations, this recipe uses only vegan/plant-based ingredients, including beans, peppers, onion, tomatoes and the best vegan cornbread you've ever tasted!
Table of Contents
🥕 See the printable recipe below for quantities and complete details.
🌶 Ingredient Notes
This recipe is prepared in two parts:
- Tamale Pie Filling
- Cornbread Topping
Tamale Pie Filling
Beans - Pinto, kidney, red, black or any variety of beans you prefer or have on hand. I like to include at least a couple different types. I used canned pinto and kidney beans (you can certainly cook dried beans, but for ease and convenience, I went with canned beans).
Bell Peppers - Red, orange, yellow, or green - your choice! I love the sweetness of red and orange peppers which add color and great flavor.
Onion - Yellow or sweet onions work best in this recipe. You could also use red onion.
Tomatoes - I used canned diced tomatoes. Canned or bottled whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, or even a chunky tomato sauce will work. If you have fresh tomatoes, remove the skins before adding to your filling.
Corn - Frozen, canned, or fresh. I used frozen sweet corn in the filling and in the cornbread topping. Sweet corn is perfect in this dish.
Seasonings - Chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt & pepper. You can also add chipotle or paprika if you want a smokey flavor. The spices I suggest are those that will add just the right Tex-Mex taste without overwhelming the tamale pie with too much heat. You can always kick it up if your prefer, but I like to keep it simple and not too hot, particularly for kids.
Oil - Olive oil, avocado oil, or any light cooking oil you prefer.
🍅 Tomato Tip
In tomato-based dishes like this tamale pie, or in chili, soups, stews, and pasta sauces, adding a small amount of maple syrup, agave nectar, vegan honey, or sugar will help cut some of the acidity of the tomatoes, giving the dish a richer, deeper flavor. In this recipe, I added one tablespoon of maple syrup in the tamale pie filling.
Corn meal - Use your favorite brand or type of corn meal. I prefer yellow (not white) corn meal because it is sweeter and adds a nice color to the cornbread.
Flour - All purpose. I prefer unbleached organic flour.
Baking powder - Fresher is better, as an opened package of baking powder will lose its rising power fairly fast.
Non-dairy milk - Any unsweetened plain plant-based milk is fine, except I would avoid coconut milk because it may alter the flavor of the cornbread. Personally, I like to use rice milk in my cornbread.
Non-dairy butter - your choice.
Maple syrup - I love maple syrup in cornbread. You can substitute it with agave nectar, vegan honey, or sugar.
Corn - Whole kernels of sweet corn add flavor, color, and texture to the cornbread. Keep it simple by using frozen corn, however, you can also use canned or fresh off the cob.
Jalapeños - Bottled or fresh, sliced. I really like using the ball-park nachos style pickled jalapeños. They're usually mild in flavor and add just the right amount of zing and color to the cornbread topping. If you use fresh, I suggest removing the seeds (they can be hot!).
Tamale Pie Filling
Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and diced onions.
Cook onions (stirring frequently) until semi-transparent.
Add diced bell peppers and cook until slightly softened.
Stir in spices, add a bit more oil, if needed.
Add diced tomatoes (plus a tablespoon of maple syrup if desired).
Add corn (frozen is fine, it will thaw and heat in the sauce).
Next, drain the beans and add to the filling. Stir until combined.
Remove skillet from heat. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 400°F/204°C Measure dry ingredients.
Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
Measure wet ingredients.
Combine wet ingredients in a bowl.
Pour wet ingredients into dry.
Stir until just combined (don't over-mix). Add corn and diced jalapeño.
🌶 Baking Tip
One of the great things about this recipe is you can cook and bake everything in one pan. A 10"-12" cast iron skillet is ideal for tamale pie, as it can go from stovetop to oven. If you don't have an oven-proof skillet, no worries. Simply transfer the filling into a large oven-proof baking dish and top with the cornbread batter (see below).
Spoon batter over the tamale pie filling. Lightly spread the batter out toward the edges.
Top with slices of jalapeño peppers (and some shredded vegan cheese if you like!)
Bake at 400°F for 25-30 minutes until cornbread is golden and the filling is bubbling around the edges. Test with a toothpick inserted a couple inches in the center. It should come out clean and dry. Place the tamale pie on a cooling rack and let it set for a few minutes before serving.
Yeehaw! Dinner's ready!
Yes, this vegan Texas tamale pie recipe can be made a few hours in advance of serving. Prepare and bake the dish according to the directions. Cool the pie for about 20 minutes, then cover with parchment paper and foil, then refrigerate. Reheat by placing the covered pie in a preheated 350° oven for 20 minutes or longer until hot. You can also re-heat individual slices in a microwave (be sure to use microwave safe containers). Store leftover tamale pie covered and refrigerated up to 3 days.
Tamale pie first originated in Texas in the early 1900's and became a popular dish to serve in high school cafeterias. Made with ground meat, cheese, chilis, and sometimes beans topped with cornbread or masa, it became an inexpensive way to feed families during difficult times.
If you are short on time or supplies, you can substitute the vegan tamale pie filling with any variety of canned vegan chili you like, including chili made with lentils, with or without beans, or with plant-based meat substitutes.
While this vegan Texas tamale pie can be a meal in itself, it also makes a great potluck or barbecue dish, since it can go right on the grill to stay warm (if it's in a cast iron skillet). As for sides to serve it with, I suggest lighter ones, such as:
Garden Fresh Gazpacho
Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup
Watermelon Mango Pico de Gallo
Southwestern Quinoa Salad
Watermelon Cucumber Salad
Special thanks to my wonderful niece Lauren (currently a Texas resident) for the inspiration and cute Texas-themed kitchen accessories. I had a blast making vegan tamale pies with you!
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ If you've enjoyed this recipe, please rate it in the comments below.
Thanks a bunch!🥕
Vegan Texas Tamale Pie
- 1 large skillet 10"-12" - cast iron or ovenproof, preferred
- 2 mixing bowls
- 1 baking dish large (9"x13") if you don't have an oven-proof skillet
Tamale Pie Filling
- 3 15 ounce beans 3 cans (drained) pinto, black, kidney, red beans - your choice
- 1 C sweet corn frozen, canned, or fresh
- 2 14.5 ounce diced tomatoes 2 cans (not drained)
- 1 medium onion yellow or sweet (diced)
- 1 C bell pepper any variety (diced)
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil olive oil, avocado oil, canola, or any light oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup optional but recommended
- 1 C corn meal yellow
- 1 C all purpose flour
- ¼ C maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 C non-dairy milk rice, oat, almond, cashew, soy, your choice
- ⅓ C vegan butter melted
- 1 vegan egg replacer equivalent of 1 egg using vegan egg replacer
- ⅓ C sweet corn frozen, canned, or fresh
- ¼ C jalapeño pepper diced
Tamale Pie Filling
- Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and diced onions.
- Cook onions (stirring frequently) until semi-transparent.
- Add diced bell peppers. Cook until slightly softened.
- Stir in spices, add a bit more oil, if needed.
- Add diced tomatoes (plus a tablespoon of maple syrup if desired).
- Add corn (frozen is fine, it will thaw and heat in the sauce).
- Drain beans and add to filling. Stir until combined.
- Remove skillet from heat. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400°F/204°C
- Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
- Combine wet ingredients in a bowl.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry. Mix until just combined. Add corn and diced jalapeño.
Assembling the Tamale Pie
- Spoon batter over the tamale pie filling. Lightly spread the batter out toward the edges. Top with slices of jalapeño peppers.
- Bake at 400°F for 25-30 minutes until cornbread is golden and the filling is bubbling around the edges. Test with a toothpick inserted a couple inches in the center. It should come out clean and dry. Cool for a few minutes before serving.
Baking TipOne of the great things about this recipe is you can cook and bake everything in one pan. A 10"- 12" cast iron skillet is ideal for tamale pie, as it can go from stovetop to oven. If you don't have an oven-proof skillet, no worries. Simply transfer the filling into a large oven-proof baking dish and top with the cornbread batter.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Don’t leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended