Rip’s Tamale Pie


I grew up in a household of women who really couldn’t cook. Mostly because they didn’t really eat. My grandmother, the original health nut, ate like a bird and followed a diet designed by her a Chinese nutritionist, Dr. Dong, whom she regularly flew to San Francisco to see. He cured her arthritis, but he killed any hope of my having the quintessential cookie baking grandmother. Instead I was offered carob snacks and could graze off the alfalfa sprouts growing in the fridge.

My mother, despite her early attempts to be the perfect wife and mother, making us matching outfits and crocheting my baby blankets, steadfastly refused to learn to cook. When the microwave was invented, she was relieved from her kitchen duties once and for all. We were the first family on the block to have one, which I swear was a big as a regular oven. From then on I lived on a diet of Tab, Wheat Thins, and Stouffers’ Lasagna.

Given my early influences and clear genetic predisposition, it is almost miraculous that I went to culinary school and became a chef.

Despite their epicurean inadequacies, there is one thing that they could both make, and make well. So well in fact that generations have begged for this dish to be made for every family function. I have no idea where this recipe originated, but it has been refined and handed down in my family like a treasured heirloom.

Rip’s Tamale Pie

(feeds approx. 14)

2 pounds ground beef
8 XLNT Beef Tamales
3 14oz cans can petite dice tomatoes
2 14oz can fresh sweet corn
2 large onion diced
6 cloves garlic diced
4 c cheddar cheese
2 4oz can sliced black olives
2 tbsp cumin
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cook onions and garlic in olive oil until softened.
Add beef and cook through. Remove from heat.
Add corn & tomatoes. Stir to combine.
Season with cumin, salt and pepper.
Break up the tamales into small pieces. Mix in with meat and vegetables.
Mix in 1/2 of the cheese cheese.

Put in oiled casserole dish, top with remaining cheese and olives.

Let sit in fridge overnight – it’s amazing how much better it is if it
sits over night.

Bake for about 45 minutes at 350. Until cheese melts and casserole is
heated through.

Serve with warm corn tortillas.

You can also freeze the left overs and reheat in microwave.


Cook’s note:

XLNT Tamales are difficult to find outside of Southern California. They are amazingly good, but the recipe will not suffer if you use any brand of tamale, including fresh.

5 thoughts on “Rip’s Tamale Pie

  1. Hanna

    So glad to find this recipe as I remember something similar from the sixties. Do you use the 3 oz., 5 oz. or 8 oz. XLNT tamales?

      1. Hanna

        Since the recipe calls for 8 tamales, that would be 64 ounces or 4 pounds. Am I interpreting this correctly? I understand this recipe serves 14.

  2. iamsurly Post author

    Yup. That’s the right math. It really depends upon the serving portions. I’ve fed more than 14 at times with it on a buffet. It freezes really well if you have left overs.


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