Turkey Tamale Pie

Tamale pie was one of my grandmother’s specialties. Think of it as the shepherd’s pie of the Southwest. Grandma was not a fabulous cook (I think the recipe she used was found on the back of the box of corn meal), but her tamale pie was, for me, a special occasion any time she made it. Savory meat in a richly spiced sauce, colorful veggies, melted cheddar cheese, and my favorite part, a corn meal crust. And when she cooked it, the whole house smelled amazing.

Feeling a bit nostalgic, I wanted to make a tamale pie that would fit nicely into my healthy diet. I asked the Openfit culinary geniuses to create a lean version using turkey instead of ground beef and to reduce the sodium and cheese. The result tastes as comforting as the one I grew up eating, and in some ways it tastes even better. This new recipe upgrades the basic corn meal crust with the addition of cheese, corn kernels and spicy jalapeños. I hope you’ll like it as much as I do.

Tip: You can make this recipe using chopped up, roasted turkey. Follow steps #1-3 as directed, omitting ground turkey. Wait to add cooked turkey until step #4, after the sauce has thickened. 

5 from 1 vote

Turkey Tamale Pie

We created a lean version of the classic tamale pie – think of it as the shepherd's pie of the Southwest. It is as comforting as the original and in some ways it tastes even better.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword turkey tamale
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 11 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 31 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 290 kcal


  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 lb. raw 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 (15½-oz.) can diced tomatoes no salt added
  • 2 Tbsp. all-natural tomato paste no sugar added
  • 1 Tbsp. ground chili powder
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¾ tsp. sea salt or Himalayan salt divided use
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • cups water hot
  • 1 cup fine cornmeal
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (2 oz.)
  • 2 medium jalapenos seeds and veins removed (optional)
  • 1 cup frozen corn


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. Heat oil in a 10-inch cast iron (or ovenproof) skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add onion, bell pepper, and turkey; cook, stirring frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until turkey is cooked through.
  4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, and ¼ tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. Remove from heat. Coat sides of pan with spray.
  5. While turkey mixture is cooking, boil water in medium saucepan over high heat.
  6. Add cornmeal; cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until cornmeal has thickened. Remove from heat.
  7. Add remaining ½ tsp. salt, cheese, jalapenos (if desired), and corn; mix well. Spread evenly over turkey mixture.
  8. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until top is golden brown and turkey mixture is bubbling. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

The Nutrition Facts box below provides estimated nutritional information for this recipe

Nutrition Facts
Turkey Tamale Pie
Amount Per Serving (1 serving)
Calories 290 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 9g 14%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 49mg 16%
Sodium 334mg 14%
Total Carbohydrates 36g 12%
Dietary Fiber 4g 16%
Sugars 4g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Turkey Tamale Pie

Turkey Tamale Pie

Photos by Rebecca Swanner