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Slow Cooker Tamale Pie

Slow Cooker Tamale Pie is everything you love about tamales but put together ‘bowl-style’ and made in much less time. You craving tamales but without the work? This Tamale Pie is the solution.

Have you ever had tamales before? I’ll admit it wasn’t something I was aware of as a midwest girl until I married my husband. His family brought me into the world of tamales and oh my word, tamale are amazing. 

My husband and I began making tamales as a tradition during the holidays because they really are so much work that I can’t imagine making them anytime other than a holiday.

That was until we decided to put together all the ingredients and make our own tamale bowls essentially with this Slow Cooker Tamale Pie. It is a brilliant solution when we are craving tamales but don’t want to put in the work. 

**Let’s be honest too. We are always craving tamales**

What are tamales?

So lets first start with the basics. Many years ago I myself didn’t know what tamales were so let us start with that.

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made with a corn dough (also called masa) and is wrapped around shredded meats, beans or cheese. You can even make dessert tamales. You then wrap a corn husk around to steam it all together. 

So that my friends is what tamales are. Now to make this dish simpler.

But if you’d like to make the traditional pork tamales check out the recipe here. 


What type of meat can I use in the tamale pie?

We personally used pork butt ourselves as it’s what we had one hand.  ANY meat that is shreddable after cooking works though.

Chicken – chicken is a fabulous alternative and is really easy to cook in the slow cooker. Just be careful as chicken can get dry FAST when cooked in the slow cooker. I’d personally recommend a meat thermometer and as soon as it reaches 165F in internal temperature stop the cooking.

Beef – generally a roast or brisket of some type  is the best solution for tamales. It’ll break down and become perfectly shredded but tender still. 

Bean – If you are vegetarian or know someone who is you can actually substitute the filling with pinto or black beans. You won’t have to cook the beans as long as the beef but a little mash of the beans and allow them to simmer in the sauce for a couple hours is a good route.

You have so many options on how you can pull this dish together. 


The masa mixture

Now the next step is the masa after you get your meat cooked and shredded. If you are familiar with tamales the masa topping for this slow cooker tamale pie is going to be a bit different than what you are use too. 

My husband and I actually prefer the masa to be a bit more drier than traditional to work with it when making traditional tamales. But I also realized that with this dish we’ll want to keep it along the same lines otherwise it would be difficult to properly cook the masa. 

So just wanted to give you a heads up on that. So while these are not traditional tamales this is the perfect solution for when you are just craving the flavor combo and don’t want to do very much work. 

Top with some hot sauce of your choice and you my friends are in business. 

Other recipes you may enjoy:

Slow Cooker Tamale Pie

Slow Cooker Tamale Pie is everything you love about tamales but put together 'bowl-style' and made in much less time. You craving tamales but without the work? This Tamale Pie is the solution.
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Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 45 mins
Course Dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8 servings


  • 3 pounds boston pork butt (or any other shreddable meat)
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 3/4 cup taco sauce
  • 1 small onion , finely diced
  • 8 ounces canned green chilies , finely diced

Masa Mixture


  • Salt and pepper the meat on all sides. Place in the crock pot.
  • Add diced onion, chilies, and garlic around the meat. Cover the meat in taco sauce. Cook on low for 4 hours (especially if pork as you do not want to overcook it).
  • The last 30 minutes, combine all ingredients to make the masa topping. Shred the meat and add it back into the crock pot with an additional cup of water. Top the meat with the masa mixture. Top the masa mixture with shredded cheese if desired (cogita or cheddar). Cover and allow to cook for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Serve with pica de galo, sour cream, lime or cilantro.
Tried this recipe? Mention @itsyummi or tag #itsyummirecipe!

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