I’m not a vegetarian by any means. In fact, there are days when I’m absolutely craving a good piece of steak, and a rare one at that!

But Nate doesn’t eat beef (he doesn’t like the taste), and there are only so many ways to cook a piece of chicken or turkey. Not to mention I DETEST touching raw poultry. I’m totally paranoid about Salmonella and it takes me forever to cut it up and dispose of the infected knife/cutting board and then thoroughly cleanse every surface it might have touched.

So sometimes it’s easier, and spices things up, to just go vegetarian for a meal. I’ve been using a lot of beans lately because they’re just so simple to use (especially when you get them precooked in a can). Not to mention vegetarian sources of protein are much lower in fat than animal sources.

I had seen a recipe for Tamale pie that just had me totally craving something similar, and that’s when it hit me to sub Tempeh for the beef. Now in this case I more than made up for the fat I was saving by adding the cheese and cornbread topping, but that’s neither here nor there ;)

You can crumble it up to get it into similarly sized pieces as ground beef. I’m telling you, a man meat-lover will not even know that it has no meat!

This wasn’t a super spicy version and I think next time I’d add even more mexican spices (or maybe just use a packet of taco seasoning instead of the chili powder/cumin/salt!), but it was still mighty tasty.

I dare you to make this “meaty” meal and see how many people notice there’s no meat involved!

P.S. Please don’t judge this recipe by the photos. I had a hungry man on my hands when this came out of the oven and had to rush.

“Meat Lovers” Vegetarian Tamale Casserole

Print this recipe!

Serves 6-8

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, cut in half and then into thin slices
2 ribs of celery, diced
2- 8 oz. packages of Tempeh, crumbled
1 Tbsp chili powder (*alternatively use taco seasoning instead of chili powder, cumin, and salt)
1 tsp cumin
1- 19 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1- 8.75oz can corn, drained
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp tabasco (or more to taste)
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1- 10 oz. can enchilada sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
s+p to taste
1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream for garnish (optional)

Topping ingredients:
1- 8.5 oz. cornbread mix (such as Jiffy)
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1- 4.25 oz can diced green chiles
1- 8.75 oz can corn, drained

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over med-hi heat. Cook a few minutes until onions have started to soften. Add celery, Tempeh. Cook until Tempeh begins to brown, 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add spices and stir well. Stir in beans and next 6 ingredients. Cook until warmed through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove mixture from heat and spread into a 9×13 pan. Sprinkle cheese evenly on top.

Mix cornbread mix, milk and egg until smooth. Stir in chiles and corn. Put drops of cornbread mixture even over Tempeh mixture and then spread into a thin layer.

Bake casserole for 40 minutes or until top begins to turn golden around the edges.

Cool 5 minutes before serving.


  1. What a moist and delicious looking casserole Amy! Vegetable proteins are also a great way to expand our diets (availing ourselves of other nutrients) and ease the environmental cost of eating meat. I like that you used a combination of black beans and tempeh here… and the enchilada sauce sounds yummy! Have a great Passover weekend Amy!

    • I knew you’d like this one, Kelly ;) Thank you re: Passover…stinks that the week I can’t eat most carbs is the week that Nate is carbo-loading for the Boston Marathon! Ugh, hehe.

  2. I adore your header! :) So happy and fun. This tamale pie sounds like it would make any meat lover happy and any vegetarian happy. Win, win! I definitely need to make this for a healthy weeknight meal. Thank you for the recipe and for stopping by my blog as well!

  3. Oooh, this looks SO good! I’d probably sub back in the ground beef…making it totally unhealthy!

  4. My feelings on meat consumption aside. YUM. I’d much rather have cheese and cornbread fat than any other kind of fat! (well, except for maybe ice cream fat.) Love this!

  5. A hungry man waits for no one or pics! Great sounds alternative to using meat.

  6. Nicole@HeatOvenTo350

    This looks so hearty and good I wouldn’t have guessed at first there was no meat in it. I like to go meatless some days so I’ll have to put this on the list to make.

  7. Vegetarian tamale sounds good! I am also a meat-eater but love a good vegetarian meal as well :)

    • I think I might actually prefer vegetarian meals to meat ones on a regular basis! But I definitely couldn’t give up meat completely.

  8. You’re too funny…my roommate is the exact same way when it comes to handling raw poultry. I don’t know why, but it doesn’t bug me at all. Maybe it should a little more? haha. Anyways, this vegetarian casserole sounds delicious! Love black beans.

    • I think I’ve read so much about how easily bacteria can spread…and I’m a germaphobe to begin with :) Beans make it so much easier…but the main protein here is the Tempeh.

  9. Hey Amy! Do you think I could make this with tofu in the place of tempeh or do you think it would it be too watery? I just went to the store to get the ingredients but they didn’t have tempeh. I can go to the other store to get some, but I figured I’d ask in case you happen to have tried it.

    Can’t wait to eat it tonight!

    xo Katherine

    • Hey Katherine! Sorry I didn’t get to this earlier. Hmm, you could use tofu but I’d get the firmest possible one and make sure you “press” it to get all the moisture out. I used tempeh because, when crumbled, the texture is very similar to ground beef. Without tempeh I’d say maybe just use more beans rather than tofu. I think it won’t go with the chunky texture of the rest of the veggie mixture. But if you decide to try it, lemme know how it comes out!

      • Thanks for the speedy response, Amy! I decided I needed yogurt anyway, so I went to the store and got the tempeh. I’ve started cooking it and I can tell it’s going to be awesome.

        I have had the worst luck cooking with tofu. Even if I get firm tofu and I press the water out, if I bake it, it always turns out mushy. Let me know if you come across any good tofu recipes, and thanks for the encouragement to go ahead and get tempeh– I think it’ll be a lot better this way.

        I’ll report back! Thanks again.

  10. THIS WAS AMAZING. I am definitely making this again. I followed it pretty much exactly, but I didn’t have chili powder so I used a little cayenne and that made it pretty spicy, so I threw in one chopped avocado. It was awesome.

    This is such a great dish. Thank you, Amy!

    • YAY!!! So glad you liked it :) Next time I make it I’m gonna sub a pack of taco seasoning rather than empty out all my spice jars. But really the best part is the cornbread on top :)

  11. I made this again last night and it is seriously one of my favorite recipes now. I can’t get enough of it! I had left-over pulled pork from a bbq outing, so I used 1 package of tempeh and about a cup and a half of pork. I was frazzled and wasn’t paying attention to the recipe, so I actually put the corn in the casserole (instead of in the crust) and I forgot the can of tomato sauce. It was still delicious. I served it with guacamole, the tomato sauce, sour cream, and tortilla chips on the side and it was just fantastic. I love that it makes a lot, too. Can’t wait to pull out the left-overs tonight!

    xo Katherine

    • Hi Katherine! I’m so glad you’re enjoying this recipe so much!!! Oooh, I bet it was awesome with pulled pork in it. It’s definitely the kinda recipe you can play around with. I think what really makes it is the cornbread topping…mmmm :)

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