Vegetarian Tamale Pie with Lentil Ground Beef

We vegetarians love comfort food as much as anyone else. We just like it to be a little healthier (usually!). The other night it was cold and damp – the perfect time for tamale pie – so I made this easy version from my cookbook, Homestyle Favorites Made Meatless. (Yes, I love comfort food so much I wrote a whole cookbook full of it!) It was delicious, and the leftovers were even better heated up the next day.  Instead of using a packaged soy hamburger substitute, I used a healthier lentil/rice mixture that has the same texture as ground beef.

Tamale Pie with Lentil Ground Beef

First, make the ground “beef”. Combine 1/2 cup brown rice, 3/4 cup regular green or brown lentils, and 3 3/4 cups vegan beef flavored broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until rice is soft, about 45 minutes.


Lentil and Rice Mixture

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Shallot and Bell Pepper

Saute shallot and bell pepper in olive oil until soft.

Ground Beef and Peppers

Add the lentil/rice mixture to the shallot/bell pepper mixture and cook until warmed through.

All the Fixings!

Add chili powder, canned tomatoes, corn and black olives. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until everything is heated through and the liquid has been absorbed.

Cheesy Beef

Add cheese and stir until the cheese melts. I like to use a couple different kinds of cheese. Here I used a vegetarian pepper jack and regular cheddar.

Almost Ready to Bake

Spoon the mixture into a greased baking dish. You can use an 8 x 8 inch pan, but I wanted it to cook quickly, so I used a 9 x 13 inch pan. Chop up a tube of polenta and spread over the top.

Queso Fresco

I had a little bit of queso fresco cheese in the fridge, so I crumbled it and spread it over the polenta. Bake for 30 minutes or so or until hot and bubbly.

Tamale Pie

I served it topped with salsa and chopped avocado, with a side of fresh asparagus. Yumm, it was just spicy enough and the avocado gave it a creamy texture too. Even the meat eater in the house loved it – we fought over the leftovers the next day!

The recipe makes 4-6 hearty servings. You could easily stretch it out to 8 servings if you served it along with some rice. A green vegetable rounds out the meal nicely, and provides even more veggies.

The best thing about using lentil ground beef? You get a real beefy texture without all the fat of real ground beef. Plus, it’s a lot less expensive. If you are trying to cut down on your meat consumption, this is a good recipe to use because the chili powder, tomatoes, and cheese help “trick” your taste buds into thinking that you are really eating ground beef instead of lentils. On the other hand, if you love lentils like I do, this is another way to get them into your diet. It’s a win-win/

Here are all the ingredients.

1 medium shallot

1 medium bell pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp chili powder

1 (14 oz) can Mexican stewed tomatoes

1 cup frozen corn

1/4 cup sliced black olives

1 cup shredded cheese

1 (6 oz) tube polenta

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at and

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