The Food Matters Project: Chicken Tamale Casserole

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Whew, glad that is over.

Between our kitchen sink being broken for days and moving the blog to a new host – that was a long slog without being able to post a recipe. The good news is that now I have a great backlog of yummy dishes to share with you all so… Stay tuned!

Let’s start with this Chicken Tamale Casserole. This is my new favorite dish. I probably say that all the time but when you cook as much as I do, it’s not hard to have constant new favorites. But, this one is really good, in that comfort-food-feeling-but-not-bad-for-you kinda way. In the everyone-loves-it-including-your-2.5-year-old kinda way. In the, there-is-leftovers-for-lunch kinda way and when it’s all-gone-you-are-sad kinda way. Yep, like that.

I have been eyeing up Mark Bittman’s recipe for Skillet Tamales ever since I started cooking along with the Food Matters Project over 6 months ago (crazy right!). So much so, that I almost chose it for my host week (which happens to be next Monday the 13th!) but I figured that not everyone would want to turn their oven on for almost an hour in August so I just tabbed it and moved on.

Anyhoo – fast forward to Wild Card Week, which is today. Meaning that everyone of the Food Matters Project members is randomly picking a recipe of Bittman’s Food Matters cookbook and cooking their adaption, inspired dish or the actual dish itself (Should be pretty interesting out there this week!). Click here to check them all out. So, of course, I jumped at the opportunity to bust this out.

Bittman’s version is a bit more simple, uses beef and cooks in a cast iron skillet (great idea if you have one large enough). It’s good but I didn’t love it when I made it. But I loved the idea so much, I adapted it and came up with this recipe which is awesome!


  • If you want the filling to be just a little less corny (no pun intended), only use 2 corn cobs. Frozen corn would work just fine, you don’t even have to defrost it.
  • Canned, diced (unsalted) tomatoes are a great option if you don’t have ripe tomatoes available (or this isn’t in tomato season). Use two 14.5-ounce cans and drain well. In this case, I used a combo of 4 roma tomatoes and 1 14.5-ounce can because that is what I had.
  • The ancho chili powder gives this a little kick. If you like your food pretty mild, omit it and add an extra teaspoon of regular chili powder.
  • The cornmeal I used is finely ground, the same as in this recipe and this recipe.
  • If you have a really large cast-iron skillet, you can certainly cook and bake this whole dish in there. You will wind up with triangles and probably a taller casserole but the same cooking times should apply.
  • This is in my “freezer friendly” category. A great way to make this ahead of time is to make the filling, pop it into a casserole dish and freeze. Defrost the morning of serving and top with cornmeal mixture right before throwing in the oven.

5.0 from 1 reviews
The Food Matters Project: Chicken Tamale Casserole (Wild Card Week)
6 Points Plus Per Serving -- 8 Servings
Serves: 8
  • 1 cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 1.5 cups hot water
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder (set aside for later)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground chicken or turkey
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 8 roma or plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 ears corn on the cob, kernels removed
  • 1 14.5-ounce can or 1.5 cups beans (garbanzo, white, kidney or pinto are all great)
  • 1 4-ounce can diced mild green chiles
  • handful of fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
  1. Combine cornmeal, hot water and ½ teaspoon kosher salt in large bowl. Stir until well combined and set aside.
  2. Place garlic cloves in bowl of food processor. Process until finely chopped. Add quartered onion and repeat.
  3. Remove hard core of tomatoes (if present) and proceed to chop into small pieces. Don't make yourself crazy about this but try to keep them uniform.
  4. Slice kernels off corn cobs. I like to halve the cobs first because I find that the kernels spray less around the kitchen counter and I am a bit of a freak like that. Feel free to omit this step. P.S. Save the corn cobs for corn stock aka corn chowder!
  5. Pick cilantro leaves off stems and set aside.
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Heat large skillet (high sides) over medium high heat. Once hot, add olive oil.
  2. Add ground chicken, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Cook 7 to 10 minutes or until meat is cooked through and no pink is showing.
  3. Lower heat to medium, add garlic and onion. Cook 5 minutes until softened.
  4. Toss in chili powders, chopped tomatoes, corn, beans and chiles. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring to combine and remove from heat.
  5. Stir baking powder into cornmeal mixture until well combined.
  6. Grab a 9x12 casserole dish and spoon in chicken and corn mixture. Use a spatula to evenly spread out and flatten.
  7. Finish by evenly pouring cornmeal mixture over the top. Use a spatula to spread.
  8. Bake 45 to 60 minutes or until cornmeal is completely cooked and cracked. You should not see any wet spots. If so, leave it in and continue cooking, checking every 5 minutes until done. It took 60 minutes in my oven. Allow casserole to cool for 10 to 15 minutes, cut into 8 pieces, serve with cilantro leaves and Enjoy!


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    • EverydayMaven says

      Kellie – I think crumbled tofu or ground beef would be excellent. If you do the tofu, you may want to use more beans for texture :)

    • EverydayMaven says

      I am with you Norma. I will start making double batches of everything soon so the freezer is stocked for the Fall!

    • EverydayMaven says

      Yep! You just reminded me – I have been thinking about adding a category for my recipes that are naturally GF. Do you think that is useful or GF people just look for what they can make / modify? Thanks Alissa!

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