Beef Tamale Pie

PrimalTamale pie is simple fare, an unfussy but delicious casserole topped with a cornbread crust. The crust is an essential part of tamale pie. Without it, you’ve just got a skillet of ground beef and bell peppers. But cornbread just isn’t a tempting topping (especially when made from a box of Jiffy cornbread). So what’s a tamale pie lovin’ person to do?

A quick flip through Primal Cravings, a book filled with innovative, Primal-approved recipes, brings inspiration. A riff on the Primal Cravings biscuit recipe, this tamale pie topping is everything you want it to be. It has a soft, crumbly texture that soaks up the meaty flavor below. It has a slight sweetness like cornbread does, but doesn’t scream out “coconut!” like some coconut flour recipes do.

A spoonful of the warm, savory bread-like topping with the seasoned ground beef below will definitely satisfy your tamale pie cravings. It’s a classic, comforting casserole, the Primal way.

Servings: 4

Time in the Kitchen: 1 hour



  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (30 ml)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground meat (450 g)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (5 ml)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin (1.2 ml)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (1.2 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (2.5 ml)
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, chopped or 1 15-ounce/425 g can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water (120 ml)


  • 3/4 cup tapioca flour (80 g)
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour (60 g)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (10 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (2.5 ml)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (7.5 ml)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into small pieces (120 g)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup water (80 ml)


Preheat oven to 400 °F/204 °C.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and bell peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, 10 minutes. Season lightly with salt as it cooks.

Add ground meat and season generously with salt and pepper. Break up the meat as it cooks, until it’s in small pieces. As the meat cooks, add chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika and oregano. Don’t stir too much, let the meat and vegetables get nice and brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and water. Reduce heat slightly and simmer about 10 minutes until the liquid mostly evaporates and mixture resembles chili. Add salt to taste.


While the meat simmers, make the batter. In a large bowl, whisk together the tapioca flour, coconut flour, baking powder, salt and chili powder.

Add the pieces of butter. Use your hands to break up the butter and blend it into the flour until crumbly dough forms. Don’t blend the butter in too much, leave some pieces as large or slightly larger than peas.

Whisk together the egg and water and slowly pour it into the dough, gently kneading with your hands until the dough comes together.

Choose your baking vessel – an 8×8/2 quart baking dish works well, or an 8-inch pie plate or skillet, or 4 small ramekins or skillets.

Smooth the meat mixture out in the bottom of the baking dish. Roll the dough out and drape it over the meat. Or, just use your hands to flatten out several small balls the dough and press them on top of the meat.

Pie Dough

Wet your fingers and press and smooth out the dough so it completely covers the meat. Smooth out any cracks in the dough and make sure the dough has an even thickness all around.

Bake, uncovered, for 18 to 25 minutes, until the dough is lightly browned and doesn’t appear soft.


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