I try to make my life easier on days that I work my day job, by making quicker meals, or preparing as much before hand as possible. Casseroles are great for pre-prep, they can be put together in the morning, and thrown in the oven when you get home, leaving the normal prep time you’d have to have, to relax. Or if you’re like me, do other chores, because once I’ve sat down to relax, that’s the entirety of what gets done for the rest of the evening. Gotta keep that momentum going!

Unfortunately this morning, my plans of prep work for Tamale Casserole were sidelined by a lack of refried beans in the freezer. I usually do a double batch and freeze what isn’t needed – I’ll get 7 or 8 containers (approximately 2 cups) to use for future meals. Apparently, I had miscounted how many we had left.

So this morning, I started the slow cooker and off I went.

It’s time change week, everything is screwy.

Anyway, I got home (and holy man, did the house smell good!) and stirred the beans, ladled out a couple cups worth, used the immersion blender on them and threw them in with the meat/onion mixture. It’s not much work, really so dinner was done on time and yum! After dinner, I blended the rest of the beans and they’re on the counter cooling, before they hit the freeze.

Tamale Casserole

Easy to prepare with the taste of corn wrapped Mexican tamales.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Main, Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine: Mexican, Texmex
Keyword: casserole, ground beef, refried beans
Servings: 6 people
Author: Amy Garrett



  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • ½ onion diced fine
  • 2 cups salsa or one 16oz jar
  • 2 cups refried beans or one 15oz can; use our homemade recipe for best results (see notes)
  • ½ cup water if needed (most often when using canned refried beans)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 oz black olives chopped (optional)


  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 12 oz evaporated milk
  • 4 oz diced green chilis
  • 2 cup pepper jack or preferred cheese grated, divided (see instructions)
  • 1 tsp salt

Garnish (optional)

  • 1 jalapeno sliced


  • Preheat oven to 400°f / 204°c

Prepare the filling

  • Heat skillet to on medium heat. Cook ground beef and onions together until the onion is tender and beef is browned, about 10 minutes. Drain if needed.
  • Stir in salsa, refried beans, and seasonings. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 3-4 minutes, then stir in olives, if using. If mixture is very thick, add the ½ cup water. Reduce heat to low.

Make the crust

  • In a medium saucepan, combine cornmeal, evaporated milk, diced green chilis, ½ cup cheese and salt. Cook over medium heat, constantly stirring for 5-7 minutes until thickened to about the consistency of thin oatmeal.


  • Spoon filling into ungreased, 9x13" baking dish, then spoon crust mixture on top.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, remove from oven. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with jalepano (if using). Bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese in melted.
  • Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes. Serve with sour cream if desired.
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