Friday, August 26, 2011

Tempeh Tamale Pie


When I started to reduce my meat consumption, I didn’t immediately go to faux meat equivalents. Sure, I like a veggie hot dog now and again, but faux deli meat kind of frightens me. I also didn’t want to frighten Joe who had been turned off long ago by a girlfriend’s fake chicken riblets. Instead, we ate a lot of beans, and I gradually introduced tofu. We stuck with that plan for a good while. Then I started hearing about other options, namely tempeh and seitan, and I was intrigued so I picked some tempeh up at the store though I didn’t have any plans for it.

(browning the tempeh)

The vacuum sealed package was a little unsettling in its resemblance to the color and texture of our cats’ wet food. When I showed it to Joe, he gave me the I-don’t-like-it-but-I’m-going-to-trust-you face. When in doubt, I go with something ethnic-inspired, so Mama Pea’s tamale pie seemed like the perfect dish. Besides, she just published a book including this recipe, and I had seen it recommended on Twitter.


It was as great as promised. The tempeh and pinto bean filling had a great nutty flavor and texture. I had a bit of trouble spreading the cornbread mixture in my attempt to only use one pan. The original recipe calls for a 2 quart baking dish, but I did the whole thing in my cast iron. You can also easily make this vegan by omitting the cheese or using dairy-free cheese and sour cream. And sorry, Mama Pea, but black olives do not belong on any self-respecting Mexican casserole.


Tamale Pie
source: Peas and Thank You
Yields 4-6 servings


For the filling:

  • 1 medium onion or 1/2 of a large onion, chopped
  • One 8 oz. package tempeh, crumbled
  • 2 t. minced garlic
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 t. apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • 1 t. maple syrup
  • One 14 oz. can tomato sauce
  • One 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
For the crust:
  • 2/3 c. cornmeal
  • 1/3 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. non-dairy or organic milk
  • 1 T. maple syrup
  • 2 T. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 c. frozen corn, defrosted and drained
  • 1/3 c. non-dairy (i.e. Daiya) or organic cheddar cheese (optional)
For topping:
  • sliced olives and non-dairy or organic sour cream (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat and spritz with cooking spray or oil. Add onion and sauté until softened and starting to brown, about 4 or 5 minutes.
  • Crumble tempeh into the pan with the sautéed onion. I like to use a grater so that all the pieces are approximately the same size.
  • Lightly brown tempeh, cooking for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
  • To the pan, add garlic, chili powder, 1/2 t. salt, vinegar, 1 t. maple syrup, tomato sauce and beans.
  • Allow bean mixture to simmer for a few minutes to meld flavors.
  • In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In your liquid measuring cup, combine milk, maple syrup and applesauce.
  • Add wet ingredients to the cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined.
  • Gently fold in the defrosted corn.
  • Spread corn mixture carefully and evenly over the top of the casserole dish.
  • If using, top the casserole with shredded cheese.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cheese has melted and crust is set and starting to brown.
  • Serve with desired toppings.