Fake Tamale Casserole

Fake Tamale Casserole

Oh man, y’all are in for a treat!! This is a family favorite of mine. My mom invented this recipe in the early to mid 1990s and dubbed it “Fake Tamale” since it had hints of tamale flavor in it. Growing up, it was on the Mexican food rotation and continues to be a frequent request for birthday dinners and family dinners. Come to think of it, we had Fake Tamale Casserole for my birthday dinner last year! This recipe can feed a crowd especially when you add side dishes to it.

Based on my dietary needs, I made an alternate version for myself. It was pretty good! Mine has a different flair to it but overall, I was fairly satisfied with the outcome.

The Original Fake Tamale Casserole/Shay’s Way
1 ½ to 2 pounds ground beef (I used 2 pounds)
1 medium onion, diced (I used about 3/4 so I would have extra for my recipe but you can use a whole one)
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin
garlic salt and pepper to taste
dash red pepper
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 small carton sour cream (8 oz)
about 9-10 small corn tortillas (torn up)
about 3-4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 can enchilada sauce, divided
¼ c. milk

Brown meat and drain. Add onions and spices; set aside. Mix together the cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and milk; set aside.

In a 2-1/2 quart corning ware dish layer the following: 1/3 of the enchilada sauce, tear up 3 of the corn tortillas, 1/3 of the meat mixture, and then spread 1/3 of the soup mixture, and finally the cheese. Repeat all these layers 2 more times ending with the cheese.

Layer like this!
Ready to go!

Bake 325 for 1 hour uncovered or if you were really hungry like us, 350 for 45-50 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. I really think the lower temperature is the way to go on this one though. We like to serve Mexican rice and refried beans alongside this casserole.

So before I dive into my version, I need to explain how I created my “taco meat.” I don’t particularly care for meat substitutes and wanted to create a plant-version for myself. Here’s how I do it! Since I have several recipes coming up that will require this “meat,” I made quite a big batch. If you just want to make enough for this recipe, half the ingredients.

“Taco Meat”
2 cups cooked lentils
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup onion
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. chili powder
3 cloves minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

I started by heating by spraying my pan with olive oil cooking spray and letting it heat. Then I added all of the ingredients:

Then I mix everything up so it’s well combined and cook until it has a little bit of a drier texture, liked cooked taco meat. It should take about 10 minutes on medium-high heat.

The Really Fake Tamale Casserole/Shan’s Plan
2 cups of “taco meat” (or about 1/2 the pan if you are cooking straight from the recipe above without halving it)
½ cup onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. Cumin
About 8 corn tortillas, torn
About 2 cups torn spinach leaves
1 can enchilada sauce, divided

In a small casserole dish layer your sauce, torn tortillas, 1/2 your taco meat, and about a cup of the torn spinach leaves. Repeat and end with tortillas.

Now I will say that since I ended with the torn tortillas, they were a bit crunchy. Next time, I think I’ll end with whole tortillas (not torn) and drizzle salsa or more enchilada sauce on the top. I have also done a version where I thinly sliced zucchini and used it in lieu of the tortillas. That’s a good way to get in an extra veggie. I baked the casserole at 350 for about 20-30 minutes.


**I did not try this because I wanted to make this a healthy version for myself but you could always add vegan shredded cheese or nutritional yeast, cream of mushroom soup, almond milk, and vegan sour cream (follow Shay’s Way on mixing/layering). I also haven’t found a vegan cheese that I like yet so that’s also another reason I bypassed this step. There are also meat substitutes out there that would be acceptable to substitute instead of my plant-based “taco meat.” If you’re on the vegetarian/vegan spectrum, then use the recipe as a guide and adapt to your needs accordingly.

Several miscellaneous notes: Most people typically use Campbell’s for their cream of soup needs, however they are not gluten-free. Some even contain corn syrup so I’ve moved away from using that brand. I started using the Pacific brand as a gluten-free alternative and you really can’t even tell the difference. For enchilada sauce, the La Victoria brand is labeled as gluten-free. The Old El Paso brand is not. If you have a soy allergy and cannot use either brand (soybean oil), I would substitute the enchilada sauce altogether (unless you have a soy free brand you like to use) and use salsa. Corn allergy friends can use regular tortillas and I bet it would taste just as good.

Well anyways! I hope you and your family enjoy this special dish!

Beans and Rice,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *