Entrees, Savory

Braised Beef Tamale Pie with Ancho Chile Sauce


I don’t think this recipe qualifies as ‘baking,’ but I just couldn’t keep this to myself. It just wouldn’t be fair.

This might be one of my favorite things I’ve ever cooked, full stop. Hearty beef is slow cooked until it’s perfectly tender, then it’s tossed in an ancho chile sauce that I could honestly eat by the spoonful. Next it’s nestled in homemade masa and baked until the masa is slightly crisp on the edges but still soft and tender on the inside. It all works together so, so well, and I’m so excited to share it.

It’s fairly time consuming dish, but such a labor of love. And like any labor of love, it’s totally worth it in the end. I’m not saying you should attempt to make this on a weeknight after work or school, but I am saying it’s worth taking on as a fun and delicious weekend project.

The masa used for this recipe is from Serious Eats tamale pie. I highly recommend reading their instructions for making masa, for they go more in depth than I will in the recipe below.


When it comes time to assemble the pie, spread a generous layer of masa inside a greased 12 inch cast iron skillet. Push the masa up the sides of the pan, so that you essentially have a masa ‘crust’ that the filling will rest in. Make sure to reserve enough masa to cover the top of the pie after filling it!


After slow cooking the beef, shred it and toss it in the ancho chile sauce. Then, spread it evenly on top of the masa ‘crust.’


Top with remaining masa, and cook until lightly golden on top.


Serve with your favorite hot sauce, and wait for the compliments to roll in!

Braised Beef Tamale Pie with Ancho Chile Sauce


Braised Beef

  • 2 lbs top round or equivalent cut, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tbsp high heat oil, such as vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp course salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar


  • 3 cups masa flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Ancho Chile Sauce

  • 1 tbsp high heat oil, such as vegetable oil
  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 2 tbsp yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp water


Prepare the beef:

  • Pat beef dry with paper towels. Mix together salt, pepper, 1/2 tsp cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp chili powder. Spread the spice mix over the meat on all sides.
  • Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add vegetable oil. Add meat and cook on all sides until well browned, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove meat and set aside on a clean plate.
  • Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. While cooking, use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven. These crusty bits will provide so much flavor!
  • Stir in tomato paste and cook for about 1 minute. Add broth, apple cider vinegar, and remaining 1/4 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp chili powder and stir well.
  • Return the beef to the Dutch oven. Bring the liquid to a boil, and then reduce heat to low and let simmer for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Flip the beef about every 30 minutes, to prevent it from drying out on one side. Beef is ready when it is fork tender. Prepare the sauce and masa while beef is slow cooking.
  • Remove the beef from the pot and shred it using two forks. Return to the Dutch oven and stir in ancho chile sauce (recipe below). Keep warm until ready to assemble the pie.

Make the masa:

  • In a large bowl, stir together masa flour and broth.
  • Using a mixer, mix together shortening, salt, and baking powder on medium-high speed until whipped, about 1 minute.
  • Add masa mixture, about 1 1/2 cup at a time, until well combined. Masa mixture should be soft and spreadable.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until ready to assemble the pie.

Prepare the sauce:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Place ancho chile on a small baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 3 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool, remove stem and seeds, and chop. Set aside.
  • In a medium sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste until onion and garlic are fully coated. Whisk in chicken broth, sugar, salt, cumin, vinegar, and chili powder. Stir in chopped ancho chili.
  • Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Transfer sauce to a blender and add 2 tbsp of water. Blend until smooth. Set aside until beef is cooked and shredded. The sauce can be made a day in advance if desired.

Put it all together:

  • Preheat oven to 375F. Coat a 12 inch cast iron skillet with cooking spray or vegetable oil.
  • Spread enough masa over cast iron to completely cover the bottom, and to extend about 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the pan.
  • Spoon the ancho beef over the masa until evenly distributed.
  • Spread the rest of the masa over the beef until the filling is completely covered in masa. Press lightly the seal the edges and smooth the masa over the beef.
  • Bake for 45 minutes, or until masa is lightly golden on top.
  • Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

  • Masa recipe from Serious Eats.
  • As far as timing goes, I’d give yourself about 4 to 4 1/2 hours to prepare this dish, though lots of this time will just be spent waiting for the beef to cook. If you want to eat by 5:30, I’d recommend prepping the beef at 12:30 and have it simmering by 1:00. Then I’d recommend making the ancho sauce next, for it can sit aside until ready to use. I’d recommend making the masa about 1 hour and 15 minutes before ready to assemble the pie, so around 3:00. Then, the beef should be finished cooking by 4:30, and you can assemble and cook the pie and have it ready by 5:30!

4 thoughts on “Braised Beef Tamale Pie with Ancho Chile Sauce”

  1. I made the meat, masa dough and sauce today. I am going to assemble it tomorrow. The braise method was different from most i have done, but 4 hours in the dutch oven did the trick. Very tasty. I could not find dried Ancho chilies locally so I used a canned chipotle chili instead and the sauce turned out nice and spicy. Great recipe.


    1. Awesome, I’m sure the Chipotle chilis will be just as tasty with it! I’m glad the meat and everything has turned out well for you so far, I hope you love it when you put it all together tomorrow!


      1. Put it together and baked it yesterday for dinner with a friend. We all loved it. I saved some of the sauce to put on top of the pie when eating it. Next time I would double the sauce to have more for that purpose. It was great and makes for great leftovers at well. I am using masa a lot more in my cooking and really like the flavor. Storing the parts overnight worked great. I just took the parts our of the fidge, assembles and baked. it may have taken longer to bake as it was cold to start, but it baked up just fine.


      2. Awesome, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! That’s a great idea to pour more sauce over the top, I’ll have to try that next time! Thank you so much for sharing your experience with this recipe!


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