Tamale Casserole, Part Deux

As said before, I am an infamous flop cake maker. Yesterday proved no different. I got really excited about trying a new lemon cake recipe with a blackberry cream cheese frosting, in order to use up some lemons and very ripe blackberries. Unfortunately, the cake more or less turned into a giant doughnut, so I didn’t bother making the frosting. The taste was delicious, but by the looks of it, I’m not sure who else would bother trying it to find out!

So I disregarded the cake failure and moved on to making dinner. I made a tamale casserole a few months ago that didn’t go over so well with the kids, nor myself. I used masa for the crust last time, which ended up more sticky than preferred. This time around, I decided to try a cornmeal crust, so it would be closer to cornbread than tamale dough in consistency, but keep the corn taste so familiar with tamales.

The outcome wasn’t quite what I expected. Rather than cornbread-consistency, the “crust” more closely resembled polenta. Definitely no stickiness, but not exactly bread-like. Regardless, Craig said it was his favorite food ever. 12½ year old Vincent said he liked it a lot, too. 6 year old Silas ate the top layer of cheese, then attempted to pick out the black beans and corn, skipping the cornmeal-stuff around it.

Turns out the tamale casserole made good lunch leftovers today, too. At least for three of us. ;)

Tamale Casserole with Cornmeal, Black Beans, and Corn


For the filling:
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ a medium yellow onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ – 1 small jalapeño, diced
2 cups cooked black beans
1½ cups sweet corn (fresh or frozen)
1- 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
½ cup grated mozzarella
1 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. granulated garlic
¼ tsp. smoked paprika

For the topping:
2¼ cups water
1 cup milk
½ cup buttermilk
1½ cups cornmeal
1- 4 oz. can chopped green chilies, drained
2 tbsp. cane sugar
¾ tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
½ cup shredded mozzarella


Preheat the oven to 400° F. Lightly oil the sides (excluding the bottom) of a 9×13” baking dish.

Prepare the filling, first by heating the oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeño until the onion’s transluscent and the other three ingredients have softened. Mix in the beans, corn, and diced tomatoes. Add in the chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and paprika, stirring well to incorporate.

Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish, spreading it out evenly. Sprinkle the one cup of cheddar and half-cup of mozzarella over the top. Set aside.

Prepare the topping, beginning by heating the water and milk over medium-high heat in a large pot. When just below boiling, add in the cornmeal. Whisk constantly until the mixture becomes extremely thick and starts pulling away from the sides of the pot. This takes anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.

Once the mixture begins pulling from the sides, remove from the heat. Whisk in the sugar, chilies, salt, baking powder, and egg until everything is well incorporated.

Spread the cornmeal mixture over the top of the bean mixture, getting it as even as possible. Top with the remaining one cup of cheddar and half-cup of mozzarella.

Bake for 50 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the middle of the casserole should come out clean.

Allow the casserole to stand at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

About Julie Hashimoto-McCreery

28 year old food blogger and writer.

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