Chicken Tamale Bake

I’ve been thinking about my kitchen bucket list. It’s not an official list. Just dreams and goals and obsessions with certain foods that I want to make in this green kitchen of mine.


Many of them are traditional home cooking like pie from scratch or roast chicken. (Seriously the only thing holding me back with roast chicken is wanting to minimize how much I handle scary raw chicken.)

Some foods I want to make to win over David’s heart and stomach like Philly cheesesteak.

Some are ridiculous treats like homemade donuts and cinnamon rolls.

A big category of foods are memory-soaked recipes from travels like Dutch pepernoten, Bolivian salteñas or sopa de maní, Mexican tortilla soup, and Chinese dumplings.


One item on my kitchen bucket list is tamales. Someday I will buy the corn husks and masa and boil or steam or do whatever I need to do to produce the little packets of deliciousness. Three main things are holding me back:

Complexity — I would have to figure out how to assemble the tamales so they don’t fall apart, stuff them, steam them, and maybe some other steps I don’t even know about.

Supplies/Ingredients — I would need to buy corn husks. This means a fairly painless but out of the way trip to a Mexican grocery store. Also, I think I would have to buy lard. I know there are probably worse things to eat, but I really feel like tub of lard should stay off my grocery list.

Memory — Eating delicious tamales in Mexico is a big part of my childhood memories. I don’t want to taint that with mediocre replications.


Because of my reservations, last week I chose to make the safer tamale pie. No corn husks or lard — just mix and bake, top with cheese and chicken, then bake some more.

The texture of this tamale pie is not super-close to tamales, but enough to remind me of the soft, moist texture. The enchilada sauce soaks through the corny cornbread to add some zip.


Chicken Tamale Pie
Adapted from Pinch of Yum

1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/2 T taco seasoning, divided
1 can (14 oz) creamed corn
1 box (8.5 oz) corn muffin mix
1 can (4 oz) green chiles, drained
1 can (10 oz) red enchilada sauce
1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
3/4 cup cheese a mozzerella, cheddar, and taco would all work

Preheat one to 400 degrees.
Combine first 6 ingredients in large bowl (milk through chiles, using 1/2 T taco seasoning). Stir just until moist.
Pour into greased baking dish or pie plate.
Bake for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, toss chicken with remaining tablespoon taco seasoning.
Remove dish when corn is done — just barely set and golden brown. Pierce entire surface liberally with fork then pour enchilada sauce over top. Top with chicken then sprinkle with cheese.
Bake another 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Remove from oven. Let stand 5 minutes.


Not exactly like tamales but close enough for a satisfying weeknight supper. Someday though, real tamales will be cooked in my kitchen!

What’s on your kitchen bucket list?


6 thoughts on “Chicken Tamale Bake

  1. PLEASE learn how to make saltenas! I would love to have them again sometime. Maybe dad can bring some back when he goes to Cochabamba in April. Your tamale pie looks delicious, and much easier to make than tamales.

  2. Wow, this looks incredibly delicious! I will definitely buy you guys some spices for the SALTENAS when I go to Bolivia. What joy to enjoy memory-filled foods. For me, one is salmon jerky. I am in Bethel when I have a piece. I also really love totillas made from fresh corn with a bit of cinnamon and sugar to make it sweet. Oh, I am in Chipas eating tzejeb. Several Japanese dishes top my charts, sukiyaki, any don-buri and plum-filled cakes. Then of course, can’t forget gallo pinto!

  3. By the way, Tomas told me recently that Saltenas are indeed a lot of work. But if “we” make them often enough it will get easier… can’t wait. Maybe “we” could start with empanadas. They are great too.

  4. Pingback: Key Lime Enchiladas | In The Mixing Bowl

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