Tamale Pie with Chicken Green Chiles and Cheese
Tamale Pie with Chicken Green Chiles and Cheese

Enjoy the flavors of tamales without all the work. Instead of individual tamales wrapped in corn husks, we made a cake! Use fried chicken and canned green chiles to make the recipe even easier.

In this recipe

  • What is tamale dough?
  • Masa Harina vs Masa
  • Freeze and reheat
  • to save time

For many years, Thanksgiving weekend was interrupted by our family gathering to prepare and freeze tamales for Christmas Eve.

We bought the dough from the “Tamale Lady” who sold it at her home in a nearby town. My brother-in-law slowly cooked a pork shoulder with chili, garlic, and onions to shred for the stuffing. It was a family effort; without a large crew of chefs (at least eight) it would be impossible to pull off such a feat.

Layers of cheese, canned green chiles, scallions, and shredded chicken from a rotisserie bird are tucked between two pastry sheets in a pan to make a pie. No more spreading and filling and folding and steaming! No, a cake isn’t quite as appealing as bags of corn husks filled with treasure, but it takes a lot less time. I take it!

What is tamale dough?

The ‘Tamale Lady’ who provided us with the dough ground her own soaked corn so it was still wet when ground. Then she mixed it with lard, the traditional ingredient in tamale batter.

Since few of us find corn kernels that have been soaked in slaked lime and grind them ourselves, I used masa harina (the readily available corn flour) in this recipe and reconstituted it with water to make the dough. You can also reconstitute masa harina with chicken broth if you want an even stronger flavor boost, but the batter is also made well with water.

Instead of lard, I used vegetable shortening, which is more readily available. I also added butter for extra flavor.

Masa harina is available at most supermarkets that carry Latin American groceries. This is the special flour used to make the dough for tortillas and tamales. It’s not the same as cornmeal or cornmeal. For masa harina, dried corn is first soaked in calcium hydroxide (slaked lime) and the tough shell of the kernels is removed. The kernels are then finely ground and dried again to make the flour (masa harina).

Masa and Masa Harina are not the same. Masa is the actual dough and masa harina is the flour from which it is made. To make corn tortillas you need to reconstitute masa harina by adding water to make a soft dough. Masa (dough) for tamales is reconstituted masa harina with fat added to lighten and add flavor so the tamales are not leaden.

How to freeze and reheat the cake

The cake can be frozen after baking. Let it cool, then remove it from the pan in wedges, rather than freezing the cake in the pan itself (so your pan doesn’t go out of order).

If you freeze the wedges in a container with a tight-fitting lid, you can pull out as many at a time as you like. They have a good shelf life of three months. Warm them up in the microwave.

Leftover cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days and reheated in the microwave.

This will save you time preparing this recipe

Working for hours on a dish has its perks, but finding ways to go easy on yourself when preparing dinner is also a nightly duty. I used a few shortcuts to make this an easy weeknight meal.

  • Use a roast chicken: You don’t need a whole chicken, but the leftovers can be used in soup or chicken salad for another meal.
  • Use canned chopped green chilies instead of roasting, peeling and chopping fresh ones.
  • Use grated cheese: I should probably buy shares in grated cheese companies.

Need more Tex-Mex dinner ideas?

  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Salsa Verde Chicken Enchiladas
  • Slow Cooker Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos
  • Red Chili Chicken Enchiladas
  • Pressure cooker pozole with green pork

Tamale pie with chicken, green chillies and cheese

preparation time
25 minutes

cooking time
50 minutes

total time
75 minutes

6 servings

For the cooked chicken needed for this recipe, use a rotisserie chicken or quickly poach some chicken breasts.


  • 3 cups Masa Harina

  • 2 3/4 cups hot water

  • 4 tablespoon (2 ounces) unsalted buttercut into thick slices at room temperature

  • 1 cup (approx 7 ounces) cold vegetable shortening

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher Salt

  • 2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 bunch spring onionsthinly sliced

  • 8th ounces (2 4-ounce cans) chopped green chiliesmild or spicy

  • vegetables oil spray (for the pan)

  • 1 Cup fresh or frozen corn grits

  • 1/2 Cup cut coriander leaves

  • 2 cups grated Monterey Jack Cheese

  • 2 cups shredded, boiled chicken

  • 1 Cup green salsahomemade or store-bought (for serving)

special equipment

  • blender


  1. Hydrate the Masa Harina:

    In a bowl, mix the masa harina and hot water to combine.

  2. make dough:

    In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment attached, on medium-high speed, beat butter, shortening, salt, and baking powder for 1 to 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.

    Reduce speed to low and add the reconstituted masa harina in three additions, beating after each addition until incorporated. Once all of the masa has been added, continue beating on medium-high speed for another minute.

    Leave the dough in the bowl and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

  3. Preheat the oven:

    Place a shelf in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F.

  4. Preparation of the filling:

    In a small pan over medium heat add the oil. When the oil is simmering, add the scallions and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in the chilies. Set aside 1/2 cup for the topping.

  5. Finishing the dough:

    Take the dough out of the fridge and beat for another minute. It should look like thick cake batter and spread easily. If it seems dry, gradually beat in a little more water, one tablespoon at a time.

    Remove blender from stand and use a silicone spatula to fold in reserved 1/2 cup chilli onion mixture, corn and 1/4 cup cilantro.

  6. Assemble the cake:

    Spray a 10-inch skillet with vegetable oil spray. Wet your hands with cold water to prevent the batter from sticking to them and press half of the batter into the bottom and sides of the pan. You can also use an offset spatula for this.

    Spread 1 cup of the grated cheese on the cake base. Top with the whole shredded chicken. Scatter the remaining chili-gravel mixture over the chicken. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup cilantro. Scatter the remaining 1 cup grated cheese on top.

    Scoop large spoonfuls of the remaining batter tightly together all over the cake. Use the back of the spoon or an offset spatula to lightly flatten the batter, leaving a few nooks and crannies to add some texture to the top.

  7. Bake a cake:

    Place the pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Place under the broiler for an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until browned in spots. Take out and let rest for about 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with green salsa, if desired.

nutritional information (per serving)
1126 calories
89g Fat
57g carbohydrates
28g protein
Previous articleChicken Schnitzel
Next articlePollo Campero-Style Air Fryer Fried Chicken
Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!