The dark days of winter make me crave warm, hearty meals that stave off the cold. If it comes in casserole form and can feed a crowd, so much the better. As we head into the holiday season, I like to have some easy, crowd-pleasing recipes at the ready for when guests arrive. This one will keep everyone well fed and happy, with minimal effort on your part.
We’ve enjoyed various tamale pie recipes over the years, and while I’ve always tweaked the recipes to make them vegetarian (using veggie ground round of one kind or another), I’ve moved away from using those because of their tendency to be overly processed (and expensive).
I’ve tried a few different grains to replace the beef, but quinoa works beautifully here. It doesn’t continue to absorb moisture like a lot of grains do, which makes for great leftovers (a bonus, since this recipe makes two meals worth for our family). Being a whole grain, quinoa contributes a nice hit of fiber and protein, as do the black beans.
Feel free to add a bell pepper while sauteing the onions and garlic, if you have it. They’re almost never in season here, and I tend to hoard my frozen, homegrown ones for other favourite recipes, so I haven’t included it in the recipe.
I prefer finely ground cornmeal for the cornbread topping (white cornmeal is especially nice, and you could even use masa harina), but any reasonably fine cornmeal will do. I’ve replaced the egg with my favourite ground chia substitute, and soy is my preferred non-dairy milk for baking, but use whatever you have on hand.
I often add nutritional yeast when I’ve removed the meat and dairy from a recipe; it adds a savoury richness that can sometimes be missing once those things have been removed. If you buy a fortified brand, you will also get a good dose of vitamins D and B12. The Bragg’s (or any soy sauce) serves a similar purpose, adding an umami depth to the filling.
You can substitute 3 – 4 tablespoons of taco seasoning in place of the garlic, cumin and chili powder, if that’s what you have.
Quinoa Tamale Bake
A hearty vegan casserole with delicious Tex-Mex flavours.
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup quinoa (dry, uncooked)
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp plus one tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp plus one tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp plus one tsp mild chili powder
- 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp Bragg's liquid aminos (or other soy sauce)
- 1 1/2 cups black beans (or one 15 oz can, drained and rinsed)
- 750 ml diced or crushed canned tomatoes/sauce (or 28 oz can)
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup cornmeal (white or yellow) - finely ground
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 1/2 tbsp sugar (or less, or omit)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp ground chia (can use other egg replacers, though I think flax might be too strong a flavour)
- 3 tbsp water (for mixing with chia) (or use 3 tbsp of aquafaba in place of chia/water mixture - see note)
- 1 cup non-dairy milk
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted vegan butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat a large pan over medium heat, add olive oil. Add the onion and saute until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the quinoa, and stir to distribute evenly. Add the stock, give it a good stir, and let the mixture come to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 15 minutes.
While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the ingredients for the cornbread topping.
Stir the ground chia into the water. Set aside. Measure dry ingredients into a medium bowl, stir to combine. When chia has thickened, mix with the rest of the wet ingredients. Set aside until after the next step.
When the quinoa mixture is done, add the seasonings, corn, black beans, tomatoes, nutritional yeast, and Bragg's. Bring back up to a simmer, and let it bubble away for a few minutes over medium low heat to let the flavours combine. Taste for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, or spices if needed.
While the filling is simmering, finish making the topping. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir just until combined.
Spoon quinoa filling into a 9 x 13 pan; spread it out so you have a level surface. Pour the cornbread batter on top, and spread evenly.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes, or until tester comes out clean, and cornbread is lightly golden.
Serve with guacamole or mashed avocado, cilantro, and hot sauce (we like Valentina).
Aquafaba is the water that is usually discarded from a can of beans (or bean cooking water). It is an excellent egg substitute. If using canned beans in this recipe, feel free to replace the chia and water in the cornbread portion with 3 tablespoons of the water from your canned beans (is using black beans, this might change the colour of your topping slightly, but not the flavour).
We love this topped with a little mashed avocado (in place of the more typical sour cream), chopped cilantro, and a few dashes of hot sauce (Valentina is a great Mexican one – it’s mild, but flavourful).
This serves eight easily, and even more if you serve it with a side. It’s the perfect dish for a hungry crowd, even die-hard carnivores will love it!