Tamale pie, although inspired by Mexican tamales, is a Western invention. We've traced it back a century in old Los Angeles cookbooks. At Sunset, we published our first tamale pie recipe in 1920. Dozens of versions, usually based on cornmeal, have followed.
So what else is there to say? Well, long after the fact, at least one Mexican chef we met in the Yucatán in 1980 generated her own concept of tamale pie. To serve a hotel full of guests, she layered authentic tamale ingredients ― lard-rich masa (corn) dough and chicken filling ― in a big pan to bake. Because the pie tasted like tamales and was easy to make, this recipe quickly became one of our favorites. But times demand this lighter touch.