Saturday, August 31, 2013

Slow Cooker Tamale Pie

I adore tamales.  But, the task of making them is about as much fun for me as getting a root canal.  They are time-consuming and messy and labor-intensive and tedious.  (Yes, I just threw a major run-on sentence at ya!)

So, when fate brought me together with making tamale pie in my slow cooker, I was super ecstatic.  I started the day planning to make a Mexican lasagna in the slow cooker - layers of seasoned beef, black beans, corn and cheese all tucked between flour tortillas.  But, when I went to grab the package of flour tortillas, I remembered that I had just used all but three of them whipping up some quick quesadillas for the kids before the school football game the other night.  So, I turned to the internet and some of my favorite recipe blogs for inspiration.  Thus, PLAN B was born. 

I keep masa harina (a finely-ground corn flour) on hand to thicken chili.  It is what is used to make up the "dough" portion of traditional tamales.  I kept with the beef, black beans and corn mixture that I initially had planned for the lasagna, but turned it all into a "tamale pie" that cooks wonderfully in the slow cooker.

One could easily change up the recipe to suit their tastes.  If you like things spicy, throw in some hot peppers.  You could substitute shredded chicken or pork for the beef.  Salsa could probably be used in place of the enchilada sauce.  And, store-bought taco seasoning may be a quick substitute in place of the spices called for in the recipe.

Yields 6 servings.



1/2 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano (I prefer Mexican oregano for this)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons canned, diced green chiles
1 cup water - divided
2 cups red enchilada sauce
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen corn
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
Non-stick spray


1 cup masa harina
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil


Shredded cheese, for topping
Additional cilantro, for topping
Sour cream, for topping
Lettuce and tomato, for topping


Prepare dough first.  Combine the masa harina, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in oil and chicken stock broth until a soft paste form.  Allow to rest on counter while the ground beef mixture is prepared.

Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat until cooked though.  Drain.  Add in 1/2 cup hot water, cumin, salt, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder and oregano.  Stir to combine.  Cook until the liquid has evaporated.

Add in the green chiles and enchilada sauce.  Stir in the black beans, corn, cilantro and fresh tomato.  Add in the additional 1/2 cup of water and stir.

Spray slow cooker insert with non-stick spray.  Pour beef mixture into the bottom of slow cooker.

Top with spoonfuls of the masa harina dough.  You do not want a solid layer of the dough.  You should drop the spoonfuls onto the filling mixture almost like you would dumplings into broth.

Cover and cook on low for about four hours.

During the last 30 minutes of cooking, sprinkle on about 1 cup of shredded cheese (I used a Colby-jack blend).  Cover and cook for the remaining 30 minutes.

Serve with sour cream, more cilantro and/or any taco-style toppings that you like.

Recipe adapted from Six Sisters' Stuff and The Cooking Bride.

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