Tempeh Tamale Pie

Some people have been asking me what would be a good meal to serve to introduce their family to a meatless meal. This would be a good recipe because it has a meaty texture and tons of flavor. If you have followed my blog for any length of time you know I am very fond of Mexican/Southwest food. This plant strong,Tempeh Tamale Pie satisfied my desire for Mexican food and gave us leftovers that were equally as scrumptious the next day. That’s a win-win in my book!

Tempeh Tamale PieThis amazing recipe comes from Mama Pea and you can see her original recipe here. I tweaked it to my personal likes and was very happy with the results. Please note that hubby Tom had to have two servings to fill him up. One was plenty for me with some romaine lettuce and salsa on the side. This is a great dish for kids! Here is a link to a post Mama Pea did about how to turn 5 Basic Vegan Recipes Into 25 Different Meals. If you are just starting out eating a whole foods plant based diet or are in a rut about what to cook – regardless of what food plan you follow, her post is inspiring and might just get you enthused about getting back in the kitchen.

Trader Joe's TempehIf you are like me you might be saying what the heck is tempeh? A few months ago I had no clue what it was or how to use it. According to About.com – Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a patty, similar to a very firm veggie burger. Many commercially prepared brands add other grains, such as barley, and also add spices and extra flavors. Although tempeh is made from soy, it has a unique taste and is mildly flavorful on it’s own, unlike tofu.

Trader Joe's TempehI have been buying my tempeh at Trader Joe’s but its also available at Whole Foods, health food stores and some grocery stores. You will find it in the refrigeration section along with the tofu products. I have used it in place of ground beef in chili, soup and casseroles. It’s super filling and takes on the flavors of what you put with it. I run it across a box type grater (aka a cheese grater) to give it texture before cooking with it.

Tempeh Tamale Pie

For the filling:

  • 1 medium onion or 1/2 of a large onion, chopped
  • One 8 oz. package tempeh, crumbled using a box grater to break it up into little bits.
  • 2 t. minced garlic
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 small can diced green chilies
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 t. apple cider or red wine vinegar
  • 1 t. maple syrup (optional – leave it out if you want it less sweet)
  • One 14 oz. can tomato sauce -if you use no salt added it would greatly reduce the sodium
  • One 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed – if you use no salt added it would greatly reduce the sodium

For the crust:

  • 2/3 c. cornmeal
  • 1/3 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. non-dairy or organic milk
  • 1 T. maple syrup
  • 2 T. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 c. frozen corn, defrosted and drained

For topping:

sliced olives, fresh chopped cilantro, lime wedges, avocado

To make this recipe gluten-free, make sure your tempeh is gluten-free and sub millet, chickpea, oat or brown rice flour for the wheat flour

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  1. Place a large skillet over medium high heat and spritz with cooking spray or a tablespoon of water. Add onion and sauté until softened and starting to brown, about 4 or 5 minutes.
  2. Crumble tempeh into the pan with the sautéed onion.
  3. Lightly brown tempeh, cooking for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. To the pan, add garlic, chili powder, cumin, green chilies, 1/2 t. salt, vinegar, 1 t. maple syrup, tomato sauce and beans.
  5. Allow bean mixture to simmer for a few minutes to meld flavors. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray or lightly coated with oil and set aside.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.
  7. In your liquid measuring cup, combine milk, maple syrup and applesauce.
  8. Add wet ingredients to the cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined.
  9. Gently fold in the defrosted corn.
  10. Spread corn mixture carefully and evenly over the top of the casserole dish.
  11. If using, top the casserole with shredded cheese.
  12. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cornmeal topping is cooked through.

Serve with desired toppings.

Yield: 6 Servings

Nutritional Information

Per Serving: 253.5 Calories, 4.3g Fat, 0mg Cholesterol, 683.4mg Sodium, 65.3mg Potassium, 43.1g Carbohydrates, 7.1g Fiber, 9.8g Protein, WWPP 6

Recipe adapted from Mama Pea @Peas and Thank You.

Nutmeg Notes

Are Tofu And Soybean Products Safe To Eat? This is a question that has been coming up a lot lately here on the blog. If you google the question you will find a variety of answers and pros and cons supporting both sides. It can be really confusing. I urge everyone to do their own research, read about it and talk with your doctor about your own personal health and decide together if eating soy is a smart choice for you.

I recently received this email from the Dr Fuhrman site that I subscribe to:

To Soy Or Not To Soy – That Is The Question:

Despite the abundance of scientific evidence demonstrating the benefits of whole soy foods, many people have been scared off from healthful foods like edamame by the anti-soy propaganda (lacking responsible scientific integrity) that continues to float around the internet.

It is true that the nutrient-depleted isolated soy in protein powders and processed foods is likely problematic. And of course, I recommend steering clear of genetically modified soy, as its safety, phytochemical value, and environmental impact remain questionable.

However, research has shown overwhelmingly that whole and minimally processed soy foods (such as edamame, tofu and tempeh) provide meaningful health benefits. The presence of isoflavones, a class of phytoestrogen, has sparked much of the controversy around soy. There were concerns that these plant estrogens could potentially promote hormonal cancers, such as breast and prostate cancers; however, those fears were unfounded. I have previously discussed the large body of evidence that convincingly suggests that whole and minimally processed soy foods protect against breast cancer. In addition, a 2009 meta-analysis of studies on soy and prostate cancer found that higher soy intake was associated with a 26% reduction in risk.1 In addition, it appears that isoflavones have a number of anti-cancer effects that are unrelated to their ability to bind the estrogen receptor. Accordingly, soy foods are not only associated with decreased risk of hormonal cancers, but also lung, stomach, and colorectal cancers.2-4 (For further discussion of soy foods and health, see the May 2012 member teleconference.)

Soy is not a magic pill or a poison; it is simply a bean.

One can’t argue with the data — the associations between minimally processed soy intake and reduced risk of cancers has been reported over and over again. There is real controversy here. However, one still should not eat lots of soy products, to the exclusion of other valuable foods. Variety is crucial for obtaining diversity in protective phytochemicals, and a variety of beans are health promoting, along with many other foods. So use good judgment, avoid processed foods, GMO foods and eat a variety of whole natural plant foods including beans such as black beans, chickpeas, lentils and enjoy some edamame, tofu and tempeh as well.


1. Hwang YW, Kim SY, Jee SH, et al: Soy food consumption and risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Nutr Cancer 2009;61:598-606.

2. Yang WS, Va P, Wong MY, et al: Soy intake is associated with lower lung cancer risk: results from a meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;94:1575-1583.

3. Kim J, Kang M, Lee JS, et al: Fermented and non-fermented soy food consumption and gastric cancer in Japanese and Korean populations: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Cancer Sci 2011;102:231-244.

4. Yan L, Spitznagel EL, Bosland MC: Soy consumption and colorectal cancer risk in humans: a meta-analysis. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2010;19:148-158.

Also on the Dr Fuhrman website someone asked him if textured soy protein was safe to eat – like what is found in Trader Joe’s soy chorizo for example. His answer was that he still considers it to be like junk food but he didn’t believe it was harmful if eaten only occasionally.

My Personal Choice

From what I have read recently there is credible scientific evidence showing that eating reasonable amounts of soy in a natural form with out lots of additives and preservatives is safe. It’s the soy protein isolates that are a problem and those are what is found in protein bars, protein powders, snack bars, processed soy burgers and other fake “meats” like soy hot dogs, soy ice cream and soy nuggets to mention a few. The problem is when the soy protein is isolated it creates a product that is a concentrated source of IGF-1 which stands for Insulin like Growth Factor 1, which has been found to promote the growth of cancer cells. Since learning this I have eliminated the isolated soy protein products from my diet

I have decided for me, that the whole soy bean in its natural state and non GMO, organic tofu, organic tempeh and even textured soy protein are safe to eat on an occasional basis as they don’t contain high amounts of IGF-1.  I find these soy products to be filling, fairly inexpensive, loaded with protein and they add variety to our menu.

It’s a personal decision and I urge everyone to research it and decide for themselves if they want to eat whole soy products or not. I hope you found this helpful!

Happy Healthy Trails!


Thanks for being here. Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question.

How about you – Soy or No Soy?

Do you find the recipe nutritional information and or weight watchers points helpful?

 I am trying to decide if I should keep calculating the nutritional information and the Weight Watchers Points for the recipes I post. It takes extra time to do it and if it’s not being used it could save me some work! Let me know.

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  1. Renee@Mykitchenadventures says:

    Good info Tami!

    I like to avoid GMO, but gosh, how do you know without companies being forced to disclose they have GMO ingredients in them? In a perfect world, we could avoid all processed foods and foods we do not make ourselves and foods that we grow ourselves, but this is not a perfect world. The push needs to be for growers and companies to be made to disclose that their products contain GMO ingredients. It’s a big task for sure.

    1. Renee@Mykitchenadventures says:

      it should say, “and we’d grow all our own food ourselves” 🙂

    2. Tami says:

      You make some good points Renee. It is frustrating and like you I want to know if I am eating GMO foods.

  2. Katy says:

    A balanced presentation of the soy debate. Good job Mom. 🙂

    1. Tami says:

      Thank you Katy. 🙂

  3. Roz@weightingfor50 says:

    Hi Tami,
    Thanks so much for this soy research! I read so many conflicting stories, it’s great to see this info.
    Have a GREAT weekend.

    1. Tami says:

      I’m glad you found it helpful Roz. The world of nutrition is confusing-everyone has their opinion and it’s difficult to know which way to go.

  4. Kim Holt says:

    Not sure what I think on the soy/no soy debate. I don’t follow weight watchers but I always look at the calories and carbs, fat, protein stuff. I understand if it is to much work though.

    1. Tami says:

      Thank you for letting me know you use the nutritional information Kim. 🙂

  5. Gail says:

    Keep the nutrition and WW points…they are VERY helpful!

    1. Tami says:

      Hi Gail – thank you for letting me know you want the nutritional information and the WW points.

  6. Cammy@TippyToeDiet says:

    I’ve gone back and forth on the soy issue and finally decided to just deal with it in moderation like everything else. 🙂

    Nutrition info is interesting, but by the time I make my substitutions or account for differences in brands, I have to recalculate it anyway.

    1. Tami says:

      Like you I usually have to recalculate the nutritional data after my tweaks! Moderation works Cammy! 🙂

  7. Jody - Fit at 55 says:

    I am with you on the soy info from what I have read – the whole stuff & not the isolates & such are most likely safe… but with age, I just try to limit per the info for older women…

    I love seeing your nutritional stats but used them more with the non vegan food.. 🙂 I just am too lazy to make the time consuming stuff.. you know me! I think you need to do what is best for you & if you need more you time then.. YOU it is! 🙂

    1. Tami says:

      Looks like people do use the nutritional information – so I guess I will keep providing it. I know you don’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen Jody but some of the plant based recipes are pretty easy! I try to share a balance of both quick and easy and more involved. I must say that the plant based diet does require more prep work since most things are made from scratch. 🙂 I do appreciate that you still read my blog and take time to comment. 🙂

  8. Dion I. Stevenson says:

    Some soyfoods are made from whole soybean ingredients that do not require a processing step to separate the oil from the bean. Most tofu, tempeh, miso, tamari, soymilks, soy yogurts, and soy frozen desserts (made from whole soybean soymilk) as well as whole soy nutrition bars are examples of these products. To find out more information about the processing method your favorite soyfood utilizes, please contact the manufacturer directly.

  9. Phillys says:

    Please keep nutrition and WW stats! I find them to be very helpful.

    1. Tami says:

      Phillys thank you for letting me know you want the nutritional information and the WW Points. 🙂

  10. Jackie says:

    What a delicious looking recipe! I avoid highly processed soy and limit my intake to edamame, tofu and tempeh.

    1. Tami says:

      Hi Jackie sounds like we are approaching the consumption of soy in the same manner. I will be making this Tempeh Tamale Pie again – I hope you give it a try!

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