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California Tamale Pie


Rancho Gordo Cooking Main Dishes Recipe for California Tamale Pie made with Rancho Gordo dried heirloom Cassoulet Beans or Royal Corona Beans and Oregano Indio

Before you leave a comment about the word tamale, yes, I know that in Spanish the word is tamal and the plural is tamales and there really isn't a word tamale. But I am writing this from the United States of America (as opposed to the United States of Mexico) and here, we do have this funny word. Most Southwestern and Southern tamales leave me cold but for ease, comfort and a good old time, there's nothing quite like a tamale pie.

Once you get the basic feeling for making these, you can use your refrigerator or freezer to improvise. Have some carrots? Add them! Frozen corn? Give it a try. We did, as you can see from the photo. Want to add bacon? It would be terrific. Prefer vegetarian? Knock yourself out! It's easy and fun. 

  • 1/2 pound of potatoes, skin on, cubed at about 1/2 inch
  • 2 tablespoons fat (lard, olive oil or chicken schmaltz)
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound Mexican chorizo (I used Fatted Calf)
  • 1/2 cup pureed tomatoes, canned is fine
  • 1 cup cooked white beans, like Cassoulet or Royal Coronas
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme, dried
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Oregano Indio
  • 2 chipotle in adobo chiles, minced, with some of the sauce
  • 1/2 cup of bean broth

For the cornmeal top:

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup grated jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk


  1. Boil the potatoes in water until just done, about 7 minutes. Drain and set aside. 
  2. In a large cast iron skillet over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic in the fat until soft. Add the chorizo and break up and cook until done, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, beans, cumin, thyme, oregano and chiles and mix well. Add the bean broth and reduce heat to low.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400F. In a bowl, mix all the cornmeal top ingredients. The batter will be thin, but don't worry.
  4. In the skillet, gently add the potatoes and mix. Pour the cornmeal mixture over the top, as evenly as possible. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until the cornmeal has set, about 10 to 15 minutes. After the top has set, you can add more cheese if you like. Take the skillet out of the oven and allow it to rest about 10 minutes. Serve out of the skillet.
Basic Instructions for Cooking Beans in The Rancho Gordo Manner


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